Blog: Torture Victim Protection Act
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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. The court rejected the defendants’ arguments that it should dismiss the case because the plaintiffs received some compensation and humanitarian assistance in Bolivia. The decision sets an important legal precedent because no federal appellate court had previously considered the defendants’ argument on exhaustion of remedies abroad.Continue Reading…
April 18, 2012
Posted by Susan Farbstein and Tyler Giannini
In a 9-0 decision authored by Justice Sotomayor, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the use of the term “individual” in the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) encompasses only natural persons. Consequently, the TVPA does not impose liability against organizations for acts of torture and extrajudicial killing. The full decision is available here.
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