UN Committee lashes out at Bolivia’s judiciary for lack of independence

Merco Press [Español: El Diario]:

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) Friday published a series of findings which hit authorities from the Plurinational State of Bolivia as well as from countries in other continents (including Sweden).

The CAT’s report highlights positive aspects of each country’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, together with many issues concerning the Committee regarding shortcomings.

In Bolivia’s case, the Committee was concerned about the insufficient progress in the investigation of the alleged torture, ill-treatment, and excessive use of force during the 2019-2020 crisis and called on current officials to investigate all these acts, and prosecute and punish all perpetrators. The CAT also highlighted the lack of independence and autonomy of the Judiciary and the Public Prosecutor’s Office and urged the Government to undertake an urgent reform in that regard.

The Geneva-based body also said in its third report on Bolivia that said lack of independence has consequences in “criminal proceedings against political opponents” through the criminal offenses of sedition and terrorism. The document also suggested judicial authorities be appointed on the basis of merit, in order to which the country needs to “carry out an urgent reform to its justice system.“

Bolivia should review the current mechanisms whereby judges and prosecutors are selected or removed, the document also said, as it highlighted judicial cases involving charges of sedition and terrorism were ”based on extremely vague concepts.“ There are at least a dozen people in Bolivia under preventive detention for the crimes of sedition, conspiracy and terrorism in the case of the alleged 2019 coup d’état, particularly former President Jeanine Áñez.

The Committee has also asked Bolivia to review its anti-terrorist legislation, particularly the criminal offenses of sedition and terrorism, ”in order to guarantee that they are in accordance with the principle of legality and international human rights standards.”

Several international organizations such as the UN and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have denounced the use of judicial prosecution in Bolivia as an instrument of persecution of political opponents, which is commonly known as lawfare.

Back in August, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), which investigated the serious human rights violations committed between September and December 2019, noted a recurrent lack of independence in the administration of justice in Bolivia, a structural problem that stems from way before those times.

The Bolivian Government has submitted a judiciary reform plan which so far has failed to be welcome among experts in the field.

Besides Bolivia, other countries featured in Friday’s report are Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Nigeria, Serbia And Sweden.


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