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June 17, 2016
Human Rights Case Against Former Bolivian President for Role in 2003 Massacre Cleared to Move Forward
Court of Appeals Rejects Defendants’ Attempt to Have Case Dismissed
Miami, FL –More than 12 years after government-planned massacres in Bolivia killed 58 unarmed civilians, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected an effort to scuttle a lawsuit against the former President of Bolivia and his Minister of Defense, both of whom are currently living in the United States. Instead, the appellate court sent the case back to the district court with a mandate to proceed to discovery.
In Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain, the families of eight Bolivians killed in the massacres filed suit against the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and his former Bolivian defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, charging they ordered extrajudicial killings. The lawsuit alleges that, months in advance of the violence, the two defendants devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians, and that they intentionally used deadly force against political protests in an effort to quash political opposition. In addition to the deaths, more than 400 civilians were injured when security forces fired on unarmed civilians.
In today’s unanimous decision, the appeals court held that a federal statute, the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), permits plaintiffs to sue in U.S. court for extrajudicial killing after they have exhausted the remedies available in their home country. Continue Reading…
March 10, 2015
Posted by Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein
After 11 long years of litigation, plaintiffs from Somalia learned yesterday that their $21 million judgment for damages for torture and war crimes would stand. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the appeal of the defendant, General Mohamed Ali Samantar, a former Somali Prime Minister and Minister of Defense who was implicated in the abuses. Samantar, who now lives in Virginia, can make no additional appeals.
Beyond the victory for the plaintiffs, counsel from the Center for Justice & Accountability noted this ruling is critically important because it preserves a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found egregious rights violations cannot be considered “official acts” shielded by sovereign immunity.
The ruling comes amidst ongoing debate about how the United States should treat high-ranking former foreign government officials who are accused of human rights abuses and are now living in the United States. The International Human Rights Clinic and its partners have been involved since 2007 in one such case, Mamani et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, which brings Alien Tort Statute claims against the former President and the former Defense Minister of Bolivia for their role in extrajudicial killings in 2003. Last Friday, the Mamani plaintiffs filed a brief with the Eleventh Circuit opposing the defendants’ appeal, which is considering the issues of exhaustion of remedies and command responsibility.
Like Samantar, the defendants in Mamani came to the United States after leaving power, and have remained in the country ever since.
November 22, 2011
Posted by Cara Solomon
As we wind down for Thanksgiving week, here are a few recommendations for bus/train/plane reading. We’ve enjoyed these blogs and Web sites over the past few months—and hope you will too.
The first is a series of in-depth interviews the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal is running on its Web site. In the first installment, James Tager, JD ’13, interviews Osama Siddique, an Associate Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, recent S.J.D. graduate from Harvard Law, and Pakistani legal scholar. The topic: Siddique’s recent scholarship on Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.
We’re also religiously checking the blogs by Ben Hoffman, JD ’11, and Marissa Vahlsing, JD ’11, who are helping to set up an office for EarthRights International (ERI) in Peru. Ben and Marissa were fixtures on HRP’s blue couch last year; this year, they’re working as Henigson fellows, focusing on indigenous land rights and the environment in the Amazon.
Ben’s latest post explores the protest by thousands of indigenous people in Bolivia over a proposed highway through their territory. Marissa most recently wrote about a trip into the Amazon to meet indigenous leaders in the Ucayali region of Peru. The leaders’ main concern: a proposed highway that would cut through some indigenous communities, and expose others to unwanted contact with the outside world.
If you have suggestions for what we should read, and/or encourage others to read, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
May 16, 2011
Appeals Court to Hear Arguments in Case Charging Former Bolivian President for Role in 2003 Massacre
May 16, 2011, Miami, FL —The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument tomorrow in Miami, Florida in Mamani v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain. The case brings claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) on behalf of ten Bolivian plaintiffs against the former Bolivian president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and Bolivian defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for their roles in a 2003 massacre that included targeted killings of unarmed civilians. Both defendants now live in the United States.
“The United States should not be a safe haven for individuals who commit serious human rights violations,” said Judith Brown Chomsky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who will argue the appeal on behalf of the plaintiffs. “The Alien Tort Statute is an important tool for fighting impunity, and allows our clients to seek justice for the deaths of their loved ones.”
The oral argument will be heard tomorrow morning, May 17, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. at the King Federal Justice Building, 99 Northeast Fourth Street, Miami, FL.
The district court previously ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor on the motion to dismiss, allowing claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity to proceed against both defendants. The defendants are contesting this ruling on appeal.
The oral argument will address three legal questions: (1) whether the defendants are entitled to immunity, despite an explicit waiver of immunity from the Bolivian government, which the U.S. government accepted; (2) whether the case presents a non-justiciable political question; and (3) whether the complaint, alleging intentional killings of peaceful civilians, states cognizable claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute.
April 4, 2011
Posted by Susan Farbstein
On May 17, the Eleventh Circuit will hear arguments in Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzain. The International Human Rights Clinic represents 10 Bolivian plaintiffs in this case against the former Bolivian president and defense minister for their roles in a 2003 massacre that included targeted killings of unarmed civilians. Back in November 2009, the district court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor on the motion to dismiss, allowing claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity to proceed against both defendants.
Three legal issues are presented by the appeal: (1) whether the defendants are entitled to immunity, despite an explicit waiver of immunity from the Bolivian government, which the U.S. government accepted, (2) whether the case presents a non-justiciable political question, and (3) whether the complaint, alleging intentional killings of peaceful civilians, states cognizable claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute.
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