(This report covers the period January-December 1997)
Human rights defenders were subjected to threats and attacks. At least one person was allegedly the victim of an extrajudicial execution. Scores of peasants were detained for short periods. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees were reported.
In March Congress adopted Law 1768, removing the death penalty for the crimes of parricide, murder, treason and other crimes against the security of the state under the Penal Code and the Code of Penal Procedure, and providing instead for a penalty of 30 years' imprisonment without parole. This brought the penal laws into line with the Constitution, which does not provide for the death penalty.
In August former General Hugo Banzer of the Acción Democrática Nacionalista (adn), Nationalistic Democratic Action, took office as President at the head of a coalition government, succeeding Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada of the Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (mnr), National Revolutionary Movement, following general elections in June. General Hugo Banzer had previously led a de facto government from 1971 to 1978.
In March the UN Human Rights Committee examined Bolivia's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In its recommendations the Committee urged Bolivia to investigate allegations of human rights violations, in order to bring to justice perpetrators of past and present human rights abuses.
The authorities continued to implement policies to eradicate coca-leaf crops agreed with the usa. There were confrontations between coca-leaf growers and combined police forces including the Unidad Móvil de Patrullaje Rural (umopar), Mobile Rural Patrol Unit, in El Chapare area, Cochabamba Department
Human rights defenders were the victims of threats and harassment. In January Waldo Albarracín, President of the non-governmental human rights organization Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos, Permanent Human Rights Assembly, was abducted and tortured in La Paz by members of the police. He was blindfolded, beaten about the head, ears and testicles for several hours and threatened with death. He was subsequently taken to the headquarters of the Policía Técnica Judicial, Judicial Police, and placed in detention. He was taken to hospital on account of his injuries and later presented with an arrest warrant but not taken into custody. Waldo Albarracín had called for an investigation into deaths that occurred during a clash between miners and police in Potosí Department, in December 1996 (see Amnesty International Report 1997). He and his family were subjected to further threats and harassment during the year. The outcome of a parliamentary investigation into the attack on him had not been considered by the Chamber of Deputies by the end of the year.
In February Juan del Granado, President of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, received anonymous telephone threats. He had publicly condemned the attack on Waldo Albarracín
At least one person was allegedly the victim of an extrajudicial execution. According to reports, combined police forces of umopar, the Ecological Police and the Dirección de Reconversión de la Coca (direco), a government agency in charge of supervising coca-leaf eradication, were involved in an operation to eradicate coca-leaf crops in El Chapare region, Cochabamba Department. Alberta Orellana García, mother of seven children, was killed in Bajo Mariscal Sucre in April. She was reportedly on her knees begging the police not to eradicate her crop when she was shot dead by a member of umopar
Following her death, there were disturbances in which peasants attacked the direco offices in the town of Eterazama and the police responded by firing on the crowd, allegedly indiscriminately, and by throwing tear-gas canisters. Six people were killed, including a member of umopar. Freddy Rojas, a 22-month-old boy, died from tear-gas inhalation. More than 100 people were arrested and detained for short periods. Most of them were reportedly beaten, including Avelino Espinosa, leader of the Villa Tunari Peasants Federation, who was severely beaten by umopar agents while being tied up. No investigation was initiated following a report on the incident by the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies
There was no clarification by the authorities of numerous cases of human rights violations committed between 1989 and 1993. The victims were political prisoners accused of participating in armed uprisings (see previous Amnesty International Reports)
In February Amnesty International wrote to President Sánchez de Lozada about the attack on Waldo Albarracín. In April the organization wrote to the President of the Chamber of Deputies asking for information about the investigation into the attack, but received no reply. In May Amnesty International published a report, Bolivia: Undermining human rights work, in which it urged the Chamber of Deputies to give prompt and serious consideration to the findings of the investigation into the attack on Waldo Albarracín
In March Amnesty International submitted its concerns on human rights violations in Bolivia to the UN Human Rights Committee.
Amnesty International wrote to the President in April expressing concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in El Chapare region and the events in Bajo Mariscal Sucre and Eterazama. The organization urged thorough and independent investigations. No substantive response was received from the authorities during the year.
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