IACHR Releases Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Bolivia

March 14, 2024

Social Cohesion: The Challenge to Consolidate Democracy in Bolivia

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has published the report Social Cohesion: The Challenge to Consolidate Democracy in Bolivia. The report assesses the situation of human rights in the country, based on observations conducted during the IACHR's on site visit of March 27–31, 2023. It also addresses pending structural issues, as well as significant progress made since the IACHR's previous visit (conducted in 2006) and the remaining challenges.

Since 2006, Bolivia has undergone a series of major social changes in response to historical claims. These changes were included in the State's Political Constitution of 2009, which took many measures to recognize human rights with perspectives based on decolonization, depatriarchalization, and the enforcement of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.

The new constitutional framework embodies significant progress to reduce inequality for groups that have traditionally been far removed from State attention. However, efforts to implement this new vision of the State have encountered challenges that prevent the full enforcement of constitutionally recognized rights.

Pending challenges identified by the Commission include the adoption of effective measures to enforce the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples—including indigenous peasant courts—and the rights of Afro-Bolivians. The IACHR also noted challenges to enforce women's right to a life that is free from violence and challenges for the full exercise of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, and gender-diverse and intersex persons. The Commission further noted the need to focus State attention on the environmental impact of extractive activities and the need to protect access to water, health, employment, and education, among other rights.

The report notes that historical institutional weaknesses persist, upheld by deep-rooted political polarization. The IACHR stresses that this social context promotes conflict, encourages the escalation of violence, and more generally creates conditions for human rights violations in Bolivia, as well as affecting democratic institutions, the rule of law, and freedom of expression in the country.

The report looks at the historical challenges faced by the justice system, which have led Bolivians—diverse as the country's population is—to deeply mistrust judicial institutions. The criminal justice system, in particular, is widely seen as a tool in the service of the prevailing political interests, whatever political party or movement is in power at any given time. The IACHR notes that efforts to consolidate progress in the field of human rights will be at risk if the justice system continues to be subjected to the serious challenges it is currently facing.

The report includes observations and recommendations to address pending challenges concerning human rights. The IACHR offers its technical cooperation and follow up regarding these recommendations to help the State to take the required action. The IACHR notes the openness of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to international scrutiny and appreciates the invitation to conduct this visit to the cities of Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Sucre. The Commission also thanks Bolivian authorities for their logistics support and for respecting the delegation's mandate. Finally, the IACHR is grateful to civil society organizations, activists, human rights defenders, persons who are deprived of liberty, and victims of rights violations who submitted their reports, accounts, and testimony.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 053/24

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