Human Rights Watch denounces “the death of protesters, threats to journalists and a problematic decree”
Police during the marches in Bolivia. / Photo: infobae.com
LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza
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Leer en español: La violencia en Bolivia no cesa
Bolivia remains mired in a political crisis since the failed presidential elections that left former President Evo Morales as winner. While the resignation of the indigenous leader was expected to diminish the wave of violence that the country has taken, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced the controversial measures taken by the interim government, headed by Jeanine Áñez.
In a statement published on November 19, HRW explains that due to a decree of November 15, 2019, military forces are now empowered to make excessive use of force. The controversial decree exempts military officers acting in "legitimate defense or state of necessity" from any criminal responsibility . On the same day the decree was issued, in the middle of a demonstration in the Chapare province, nine people died and another 122 were injured. So far, according to El Tiempo, the crisis has left 30 people dead.
“Since Jeanine Áñez assumed the interim presidency, the government has adopted and announced alarming measures that violate fundamental human rights standards. The decree contributes to impunity for military abuses in the context of public demonstration control operations. The government also announced that it would judge journalists for “sedition” and senior ex-officials, ”says the NGO.
The concern and denunciation of HRW are not only based on the excesses that the military forces have carried out, but also on the harassment against journalists. The situation would be promoting censorship and restricting press freedom. The communication minister, Roxana Lizárraga, declared on November 14 that the government will implement "the relevant actions", such as deportation, against journalists causing sedition.
Additionally, the decree goes against the Basic Principles of the UN on the Use of Force and Firearms by Officials Responsible for Enforcing the Law, as HRW notes. “The basic principles impose the legal obligation that public security officials, when carrying out their task, resort to the greatest extent possible to use non-lethal force, before resorting to firearms during violent protests. When the use of firearms is unavoidable, public safety officials must exercise restraint and act in proportion to the severity of the risk they face. The legitimate objective must be achieved by minimizing damage and injury and preserving human life. According to the UN Basic Principles, the deliberate lethal use of firearms is allowed only when it is 'strictly unavoidable to protect a life',” explains the NGO.
Read also: Crisis in Bolivia: was there really a coup?
And the new elections?
On November 20, Áñez announced the filing of a bill to initiate the process and call for new elections. The project, which will be studied by the Parliament, whose majority is the opposition, seeks to hold new elections by 2020. However, the date for citizens to elect their new president remains unclear.
Cumpliendo nuestro compromiso con el país, hemos presentado la "Ley de Convocatoria a Elecciones Generales" 2020.— Jeanine Añez Chavez (@JeanineAnez) 21 de noviembre de 2019
The OAS, shortly before the announcement of the interim president, had asked the Bolivian government to "urgently" call for elections. Through its Twitter account, the OAS reported that 26 countries asked the authorities to stop the wave of violence by defining a new appointment at the polls.
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#OEAenBolivia— OEA (@OEA_oficial) 20 de noviembre de 2019
Consejo Permanente de la #OEA aprobó resolución sobre la situación en #Bolivia que llama a convocar urgentemente a elecciones; urge el inmediato cese de la violencia; y llama a autoridades a garantizar respeto y protección de los DDHH
In her statement, the president reminded citizens that it is the Parliament or the Legislative Assembly that is responsible for electing a new Supreme Electoral Tribunal. El Tiempo explains that the members of the TSE are being prosecuted and some are serving pretrial detention, for allegedly committing fraud on October 20.
According to Áñez, it will be the TSE that defines the date on which the new elections are held. In addition, the justice minister said that before calling elections, the results of the day of October 20 should be canceled. However, Bolivian law does not allow annulment of elections, which would imply a change in this law.