Annual Report: Bolivia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Bolivia 2011

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Head of state and government: Evo Morales Ayma
Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population: 10 million
Life expectancy: 66.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 65/56 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 90.7 per cent

Institutional developments in the justice system gave rise to serious concerns. Key trials for past human rights violations and investigations into allegations of violence by the security forces and by private individuals progressed slowly.


Lack of consultation and agreement on political reforms increased political tensions. Some Indigenous groups and trades unions initiated protests. In May, the Bolivian Trades Union Confederation (Central Obrera Boliviana) called a strike over pay and pension reforms. In June, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (Confederación de Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia) began a protest march in the town of Trinidad, Beni department, against elements of the proposed autonomy law and the lack of progress in land allocation. A negotiated resolution was reached in July. Tensions between the local and national authorities arose in Potosí department in July and August following a 19-day strike by campesino (peasant farmer) organizations, the local civic committee and some local government authorities over land and environmental and infrastructure issues. In December, President Evo Morales rescinded plans to end government subsidies on petrol and diesel after a sharp increase in prices provoked mass protests.

High-ranking government officials publicly questioned the legitimacy of NGOs and social movements expressing dissent to government policies and actions.

In February Bolivia's human rights record was assessed under the UN's Universal Periodic Review. A number of states raised concerns around the independence of the judiciary, impunity and access to justice, the rights of women, and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

Ambitious deadlines for passing new legislation and a lack of procedural transparency hampered meaningful consultation over the far-reaching reforms.

A new Human Rights Ombudsman took office in May, amid concerns that objective criteria had not been taken into consideration in the first round of selection.

A law passed in February empowered the President to designate by decree interim judges to vacant posts in the Supreme and Constitutional Courts. These temporary mandates were extended following delays in the selection and election of new judges. The tenure of judges already sitting in these Courts, appointed by previous administrations, was due to end once this process was completed.

Interim judges in the Constitutional Court were mandated to deal exclusively with the backlog of cases lodged prior to February 2009. As a result, the Court could not exercise constitutional oversight of new legislation. There were a number of concerns about the compatibility of new legislation with international human rights standards. These included the retroactive effect of the anti-corruption law, heavy criminal penalties established in the anti-racism law and, in the judiciary law, the "litigant's defence" role which exercises a supervisory function while depending on the executive.

Police and security forces

There were continuing concerns over human rights violations during security operations and in police and military establishments.