Daily Archives: March 27, 2013

Bolivia and the long arm of international justice

Bjorn Arp writes for Los Tiempos:

The long arm of international justice

Los TIemposPresident Morales is worried about the consequences of his acts of abuse of power and violation of human rights that can have in international tribunals. And does not lack reason, history shows us that Governments, prosecutors and judges who do not respect the independence of the other State powers, violate laws and international conventions, at some point they have had to answer before the justice in their countries, or in the absence of this, the international courts.

This was the case with Cambodia, Panama, Peru, Bosnia, Liberia and other countries.

That’s one of the reasons that President Morales recently announced that he wants to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

But as the President got used to talk about topics that are unknown [to him], it is necessary to clarify that it is not possible to get out of the IACHR, unless your intention is to denounce the Charter of the Organization of American States, whose Chapter XV creates the IACHR, and abandon the OAS. If what you want is to avoid the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court, then Bolivia, as it has his traveling companion, the driver of the Bolivarian revolution Maduro, in Venezuela, would have to denounce the American Convention on human rights. In any case, whichever was his decision, President Morales should be more precise and serious when talking about these important issues for Bolivians.

In addition, President Morales or his advisors should know that although he would denounce the constitutive agreement of the OAS, the IACHR and the Court will have full competition to consider prior to the complaint cases, and if this is the case, establish the responsibilities of the Government, prosecutors and judges involved in human rights violations.

Today there are numerous petitions against the Bolivian Government, and there is a clear awareness, by the international human rights community, of the government’s worrisome action which has dismantled the judiciary to control it, not only to arrest political opponents, but also to bring forth profitable acts of corruption, extortion and blackmail.

Numerous reports of arbitrary detentions without trial, extrajudicial crimes, extortion, violations of freedom of expression and constitutional violations and some such as the TIPNIS or threats and illegal proceedings against Julieta Montaño and other prestigious advocates of human rights in Bolivia, have been presented to the Commission and to various bodies of the United Nations.

Finally, it is the issue that probably worries the most to the Government, the possible unconstitutional reelection of Morales and Garcia, who would constitute a serious violation of the rule of law in the country, the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the American Convention on human rights, as it has been demonstrated by the demand interposed before the IACHR against President Ortega of Nicaragua.

In the light of these facts, it would be wiser for the Bolivian authorities to reflect and start to respect the rules of the game of democracy than trying to wriggle out of the long arm of international justice that, sooner or later, will sit them on the accused bench.

The author is a professor at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Madrid, visiting professor at American University in Washington DC and partner of the law firm of Aparicio, Arp, Schamis and Associates in Washington, DC.