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June 24, 2013
New Allegations of Government Planning in 2003 Bolivian Massacre
Months before violence, defendants calculated it would take thousands of deaths to stop protests
June 24, 2013, Miami, FL — As the tenth anniversary of government-planned massacres in Bolivia approaches, family members of those killed filed an amended complaint (English or Spanish) in Florida today with extensive new allegations that the Defendants, former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and former Defense Minister Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, had devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians months in advance of the violence. The complaint seeks damages against the Defendants for their involvement in extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity.
Since the case was originally filed in U.S. courts in 2007, seven former Bolivian officials, including high-ranking military leaders and members of the Cabinet, have been convicted for their participation in the violence of 2003. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín, however, have found a safe harbor from justice in the United States for nearly a decade.
The new complaint alleges that the Defendants calculated it would take thousands of civilian deaths to stop anticipated protests over a controversial economic policy. They refused to consider dialogue, traditional police practices, or other less violent alternatives to massive lethal force against the protestors. The Defendants specifically relied on military forces, including special forces, to target innocent civilians as part of their campaign of oppression, plaintiffs say. New details also show how the Defendants were intimately involved in carrying out the planned violence, including participating in the operations against the civilian population.
“The United States should not be a safe haven for perpetrators of violent attacks on unarmed civilians,” said Beth Stephens of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents the Plaintiffs. “That’s all the more true when the facts show that the Defendants had a direct involvement in the attacks.”
The government’s violent response to expressions of popular discontent left dozens dead and hundreds injured in September and October 2003. Among the Plaintiffs is Etelvina Ramos Mamani, who watched her eight-year old daughter Marlene die in her arms, after Marlene was targeted by a military sharpshooter as the child stood at a window in their home. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín had given orders to treat Marlene’s town and the civilians in it as a military target.Continue Reading…
June 20, 2013
Posted by Bonnie Docherty
In May 1998, a US C-130 transport plane touched down at Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia, and I stepped onto the tarmac wearing a flak jacket and Kevlar helmet. I had come for a week to embed with US peacekeepers and report on their mission for the Middlesex News, a daily paper outside of Boston.
The war in Bosnia was officially over, but the country was still in transition. I interviewed refugees as they returned to their village of Rijeka for the first time after the conflict. Foundations and concrete staircases leading nowhere were all that remained of most homes. One elderly couple talked to me as they ate lunch in their “kitchen,” a tile floor with no walls.
In another town, a 72-year-old woman pulled three bullet shells from behind a tea cup in a glass cabinet. Displaying them one by one, she said, “This is the bullet with which they killed my dog. This one somebody tried to kill me with. And with this, they tried to kill me again. They are souvenirs for good memory.” Like many people I spoke with, her husband warned that the country was still a tinder box that could erupt if the peacekeepers pulled out.
This spring, almost 15 years after my last mission to the Balkans, I disembarked from a Lufthansa plane at the Sarajevo airport wearing the same LL Bean fleece pullover, but with no need for the flak jacket. I came as a human rights practitioner with three students from the International Human Rights Clinic.
On the surface, the situation in Bosnia had changed significantly. People had rebuilt their homes and lives. The peacekeepers were long gone. Fighting was no longer an imminent threat. Nevertheless, as I soon learned, memories remained vivid and many wounds were still raw.
My clinical team and I went to Bosnia to investigate the blurry line between soldiers and civilians during the war. Specifically, we wanted to find out how individuals had viewed their own roles in the hostilities. This research is part of a larger project initiated by the Center for Civilians in Conflict. It seeks to inform interpretations of who is entitled to protection under international humanitarian law by examining perceptions of participation on the ground.Continue Reading…
June 7, 2013
Posted by Tyler Giannini, Deborah Popowski and Fernando Delgado
We send our warmest congratulations to Jim Cavallaro on his election yesterday to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Having worked closely with Jim for years on human rights in the Americas, including before the Inter-American Commission, we know firsthand the dedication, legal skill, and thoughtfulness Jim will bring to the post. We look forward to watching him do great things at the Commission in the years to come.
June 4, 2013
Posted by Cara Solomon
Just in case we missed you at HRP’s annual commencement party last week, this is what we wanted to say:
GOOD LUCK! And thank you. Thank you for working with us, challenging us, strengthening us, and occasionally giving us hugs. We are better for your having been here.
And now, for your amusement and embarrassment, here’s a random sampling of photographs a couple of us took at the party.Continue Reading…
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