Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Bolivia

Agression/Arbitrary arrest21

On 5th March 2002, Father Luis Portillo, Vice-President of the Tarija Human Rights Permanent Assembly (Asemblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos de Tarija – APDH-T), Mr. Cesar Leonardo Blanca Alvarez, a lawyer acting for the Centre for Legal Studies and Social Investigation (Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigación Social – CEJIS) and Mr. Damian Anagua, regional leader of the Landless Movement of Bolivia (Movimiento sin Tierra de Bolivia – MST-B), were on the Tarija premises of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria en Tarija – INRA-T), revising some documents on land reclamation. Accompanied by Mr. Angel Duran, President of the Landless Movement of Bolivia, 150 peasants, forced their way into the INRA-T premises with the aim of staging a hunger strike, as a sign of protest. Later the Departmental Director of INRA-T, Mr. René Cavero, arrived on the scene, accusing the members of the delegation of being accomplices of the peasants' action. Mr. Cavero brought in a group of heavily armed policemen, commanded by two police chiefs, who, with the support of the INRA-T authorities, threatened Mr. Blanco and Father Portillo, and began evacuating the peasants using violence. Mr. Anagua was arrested and very severely beaten up in the street by the police. When Mr. Blanco intervened, asking that his rights be respected, he was also hit, and arrested. They were both taken to the Tarija Technical Judicial Police Centre (PTJ) and threatened at gunpoint. At the PTJ, they received threats, until the arrival of the APDH-T Committee, who addressed the Director of the PTJ, Mr. Roman Retamoso, and the Prosecutor in charge of the operation, Mr. Eduardo Ortiz, demanding that the detainees be released and allowed to leave the police enclosure immediately. Many members of the Bolivia Human Rights Permanent Assembly (APDH-B) had already received threats in the past, because of their involvement in the fight against impunity, particularly in rural areas.22

Threats against an defender of the rights of the indigenous population23

On 23rd September 2002 the Concepcion office of the Chiquitana Indigenous Organisation (Organizacion Indigena Chiquitana – OICH) received a phone call from someone calling himself the President of the Civic Committee of the Concepcion Municipality, announcing that Mr. Leonardo Tamburini, a lawyer belonging to the Centre for Legal and Social Investigation Studies (Centro de Estudios Juridicos e Investigacion Social – CEJIS), an defender of the Chiquitanos Indigenous population, had three hours in which to leave the town. The threat was made at a time when the leaders of the indigenous organisations were meeting in the Concepcion area with the institutions supporting their land claims. Mr. Tamburini is a legal assessor in the Monte Verde Territory court case and on numerous occasions has been subjected to harassment due to his professional activity. On 15th September 2001 he was violently attacked, and was the victim of an attempted assassination.24 Despite the promises made by the authorities, the enquiry into the case has so far produced no result. At the end of 2002, CEJIS furthermore denounced a campaign, orchestrated by the media, aimed at discrediting the work of the NGOs, in particular those dealing with the rights of the indigenous populations. It also denounced the setting up of groups, supported by the authorities, who visit certain rural areas, intimidating the peasants so that they should give up their claims.

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

21. See Urgent appeal BOL 001/0302/OBS 017.

22. See BOL 001/0008/OBS 083 and BOL/001/0401/OBS 033.

23. See Urgent appeal BOL 002/0109/OBS 078.01.

24. See urgent appeal BOL 001/0109/OBS 078.


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