Last Updated: Friday, 27 November 2015, 12:04 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Bolivia

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 22 March 2006
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Bolivia, 22 March 2006, available at: [accessed 27 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Ongoing harassment against CEJIS and its members9

Since 2003, the lawyers and members of the Centre for Legal Studies and Social Research (Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social – CEJIS) have been subjected to attacks and threats due to the legal support they provide to those fighting for the recognition of indigenous peoples' land rights.

Thus, on 5 January 2005, a group of over 30 people led by members of the Association of Agricultural and Forestry Producers (Asociación de Productores Agrícolas y Forestales – ASAGRI), including Mr. Ernesto Yarari Tirina, Mr. Arturo Vidal and Mr. Alberto Guiese, broke into the CEJIS offices in Riberalta, in Beni province. These heavily armed men threatened CEJIS members with death, plundered the offices, took material and computers, pulled out telephone lines and seized the mobile phones of those present to prevent them from calling for help. Then, they proceeded to burn all of this material and documents in the street, while yelling insults against the defenders of farmers and indigenous communities that claim their rights to land. They also threatened Mr. Cliver Rocha, head of CEJIS, who, due to the death threats and attacks to which he has been subjected in the past, had left Riberalta and was therefore not present in the premises. Following these events, Mr. Lucio Méndez Camargo, sub-prefect of Vaca Díez province, requested that CEJIS offices be closed until 13 January 2005.

On 7 January 2005, Mr. Arturo Vidal Tobias, ASAGRI president, made public a note in which he threatened the social organisations supporting the farmers and indigenous communities of Vaca Díez – specifically referring to CEJIS, the Dutch Service for Development and Cooperation (SNV), the Institute for Man, Agriculture and Ecology (Instituto para el Hombre, Agricultura y Ecología – IPHAE) and the Centre for Research and Promotion of Farmers (Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado – CIPCA) – and asked them to leave the region before the end of January 2005. Mr. Vidal Tobias also threatened to forcibly expel those living in private properties in accordance with agreements negotiated by the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional para la Reforma Agraria – INRA).

On 15 April 2005, a preventive detention order was issued against Mr. Ernesto Yarari Tirina by the second examining judge of civil and family affairs, following a criminal procedure initiated by CEJIS for "crime incitement, illegal entry, violation of the fundamental rights to work, threats, complicity in theft and destruction of documents". On 20 June 2005, Mr. Yarari was arrested by the judicial technical police (Policía Técnica Judicial – PTJ) and charged with theft and illegal entry into the CEJIS premises in Riberalta. By the end of 2005, he was still detained in the Riberalta prison.

In October 2005, Bolivia committed itself before IACHR to make effective the precautionary measures of protection, granted by IACHR on 11 March 2005 in favour of CEJIS members and the Miraflores indigenous community.

Judicial proceedings against and remand in custody of Mr. Francisco José Cortés Aguilar10

By the end of 2005, Mr. Francisco José Cortés Aguilar, leader of the Association of Rural Workers and Inhabitants (Asociación de Usuarios del Campo – ANUC-UR), in Arauca (Colombia), and a peasants' and indigenous peoples' rights defender, remained detained on remand, while his health deteriorated due to poor conditions of detention. Moreover, a number of irregularities continued to mar the proceedings to which he was subjected, and his lawyers remained victims of regular threats and harassment.

Accused of "belonging to the Colombian guerrilla and of drug trafficking", Mr. Cortés, who had gone into exile with his family to Bolivia in order to flee the threats from paramilitary organisations in Colombia, had been arrested on 10 April 2003 by the police in La Paz.

On 6 December 2004, after twenty months of remand in custody in the San Pedro de La Paz prison and in the Chonchocoro high security prison, where he had been placed in solitary confinement, the Fifth Criminal Court of La Paz had ordered his release on bail.

Even though his bail was paid thanks to international solidarity, the Prosecutor appealed against this decision on 10 January 2005 with the Supreme Court. Since then, while waiting for his judgement, Mr. Cortés was placed by order of the Court under house arrest in the Alto San Pedro neighbourhood of La Paz.

At the beginning of 2005, several Colombian citizens and a Peruvian national with refugee status of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) were forced to leave Bolivia after the Bolivian police threatened to arrest them if they did not denounce Mr. Francisco Cortés.

In August 2005, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that the detention of Mr. Francisco Cortés Aguilar was arbitrary and urged the Bolivian government to adopt the necessary measures to remedy this situation.11

On 16 November 2005, the National Refugee Commission of the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Comisión Nacional del Refugiado – CONARE) granted Mr. Cortés a political refugee status, thereby implicitly condemning his detention on remand.

However, by the end of 2005, proceedings against Mr. Cortés were still pending and he remained under house arrest.

Moreover, Mr. Cortés' lawyers, as well as members of the Colombian Campaign for the Release of Mr. Francisco Cortés, were victims of acts of intimidation and death threats, like Mrs. Sandra Gamboa, a member of the "José Alvear Restrepo" Lawyers' Collective (Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo" – CCAJAR), who was followed and filmed by the Bolivian intelligence services during her stay in La Paz, where she went in March-April 2005 to observe the conditions of detention of Mr. Cortés Aguilar.

Harassment and judicial proceedings against several MST members12

On 7 May 2005, groups of armed men working for property owners in the State of Santa Cruz attacked men, women and children of the Pueblos Unidos community of the Landless Workers' Movement (Movimiento Sin Tierra – MST). However, this assault was perceived as an attack by MST members themselves, and on 10 May 2005, the Prosecutor of Obispo Santiestevan province lodged a complaint with the judicial technical police of the town of Montero against, among others, Messrs. Silverio Sarsari, Silverio Vera, Ponciano Sullka Churqui, Juan Cala, Aurelio Arnez and José Mondaque, MST leaders, for "armed rebellion against the security and sovereignty of the State", "belonging to a criminal organisation", "criminal association", "kidnapping and privation of freedom" and "attempts against freedom of work".

On 11 May 2005, eleven landowners, including Mr. Rafael Paz Hurtado and Mr. Hermógenes Mamani Nogales, accused some MST members of allegedly violently expelling them from their lands with the Prosecutor of Santa Cruz. In particular, they formally accused Mr. Silverio Vera, Mr. Ponciano Sullka, Mr. Silverio Sarsari and eight other MST leaders of the region, of among others, "attempted murder" and "terrorist activities". They also accused Mr. Carlos Vigo and Mr. Julio Martel, members of Bibosi, a human rights NGO, of being MST accomplices.

On 22 June 2005, Mr. Ponciano Sullka Churqui was arrested at home and accused of having incited the seizure of lands through his participation in a programme of the Intégration de San Pedro radio station. Despite his health condition, Mr. Ponciano Sullka Churqui, who had just been operated for cancer, was refused any kind of medical treatment. He was detained on remand in the Montero prison.

Attack on a peasants' demonstration13

On 1 June 2005, the Unique Union Federation of Peasants' of Santa Cruz (Federación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Santa Cruz), the Regional Federation of Women Peasants of Santa Cruz "Bartolina Sisa" (Federación Departamental de Mujeres Campesinas de Santa Cruz "Bartolina Sisa"), the Union Federation of Colonisers of Santa Cruz (Federación Sindical de Colonizadores de Santa Cruz) and members of the Coordination of Indigenous Peoples (Coordinadora de Pueblos Étnicos) of Santa Cruz, decided to organise a peaceful march to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in order to denounce the attempted murders and assaults against peasants and indigenous peoples in the region, and to urge Parliament to nationalise hydrocarbons. Upon their arrival to Santa Cruz, they were attacked by members of the "Youth Union Cruceñista", led by Mr. Jorge Holberg, who insulted and hit them, seriously injuring over 20 men and women.

Harassment and threats against several APDHB members14

In 2005, Mr. Adalberto Rojas, president of the Santa Cruz section of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights in Bolivia (Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos – APDHB), was harassed, threatened and insulted by people linked to the Santa Cruz Civil Committee, the town's neighbourhood association. He was also subjected to several defamation campaigns in the media and by provincial authorities due to his activities as a human rights defender.

Furthermore, on 27 August 2005, while the trial against the Bolivian armed forces before IACHR started,15 Mr. Sacha Llorenti, APDHB national president, received a death threat because of his activities in favour of the fight against impunity.

In 2003, APDBH members and its headquarters had already been subjected to harassment.

Violent repression of a demonstration16

On 29 September 2005, the police forcibly dispersed a protest march organised by civil society, in particular APDHB and the Association of Family Members Killed for the Defence of Gas (Asociación de Familiares Caídos por la Defensa del Gas). The protesters marched in the direction of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz where they planned to request that legal papers be served to Mr. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, former President of the Republic of Bolivia, and his collaborators Mr. Carlos Sánchez Berzaín and Mr. Jorge Berindoague, summoning them to testify in an investigation against them into the massacre of over 65 persons who had demonstrated against the privatisation and export of hydrocarbons in October 2003. They also demanded to lift the veil of military secrecy during the trial. The law enforcement agents sprayed the protesters with tear gas.

Break-in at OJM headquarters17

On 8 November 2005, the headquarters of the Legal office for Women (Oficina Jurídica de la Mujer – OJM), in Cochabamba, were broken into. Mrs. Julieta Montaño, OJM director, lodged a complaint. OJM is a developmental NGO founded in 1984, and specialising in the legal aspects of defending women's rights.

Assassination of Mr. Medrin Colque Mollo18

On 20 December 2005, Mr. Medrin Colque Mollo, a peasant leader, was assassinated by the police in the Hacienda d'El Paila in the State of Santa Cruz. By the end of 2005, those responsible for this murder had still not been identified.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website ( was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

9. See 2004 Annual Report, Urgent Appeals BOL 001/0303/OBS 014.1 and 014.2 and Conclusions of the international fact-finding mission of the Observatory sent to Bolivia from 19 to 27 September 2004 and from 30 July to 7 August 2005.

10. See Press Release, 17 January 2005, Colombia Special Appeal July-August 2005, Open Letter to the Bolivian Authorities, 29 November 2005 and Conclusions of the aforementioned international fact-finding mission.

11. See United Nations Document, Opinion 12/2005 (Bolivia).

12. See Conclusions of the aforementioned international fact-finding mission.

13. Idem.

14. See Annual Report 2003 and Conclusions of the aforementioned international fact-finding mission.

15. APDHB lodged a complaint against the Bolivian State with the IACHR for human rights violations during the troubles of 12 and 13 February 2003. Indeed, on 13 February 2003, four military had shot in the direction of the San Francisco building in La Paz, killing a nurse, Mrs. Ana Colque, and the building's porter, and injuring the doctor Mrs. Carla Espinoza. These four military were accused of "murder" (Article 251), "serious injuries" (Article 279) and "extremely serious injuries" (Article 271). These crimes are liable with up to 10 years' imprisonment.

16. See Press Release, 4 October 2005.

17. See Conclusions of the aforementioned international fact-finding mission.

18. Idem.

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