Blog: Sanchez Berzain
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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…
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 arguments 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.Continue Reading…
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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