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UN Special Rapporteur denounces anti-indigenous actions in Bolivia

18 September 2008

GENEVA – The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr. James Anaya, condemns the recent wave of violence in the Departments of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija, in Bolivia, which has placed indigenous communities and individuals, and the institutions that work in their defense, at risk:

“I condemn the ongoing acts of violence perpetrated against indigenous and rural people as well as the threats made against their representatives”. The Special Rapporteur expresses concern that these attacks are occurring in the context of a systematic policy adopted by officials from the mentioned regional Departments to counter initiatives carried out by the Government of Bolivia to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples. This violence has to date resulted in dozens of deaths, hundreds of injured, and in an undetermined number of disappeared.

“I am particularly concerned about the assassinations committed on 11 September 2008 in Porvenir, Department of Pando, when paramilitary groups ambushed and killed members of the Rural Workers Union of Pando (Federación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Pando) and students at the Filadelphia Teachers Training College (Normal de Maestros de Filadelfia), the majority of whom are indigenous”.

The Special Rapporteur notes with concern that this series of attacks has also resulted in the occupation and destruction of a number of the offices of indigenous and rural organizations including those of the Indigenous Peoples Confederation of Bolivia (Confederación del Pueblos Indígenas de Bolivia), the Coordinator of Ethnic Communities of Santa Cruz (Coordinadora de Pueblos Étnicos de Santa Cruz), the Center of Juridical Studies and Social Investigations (Centro de Estudios Jurídicos e Investigaciones Sociales), and the Center of the Investigation and Promotion of the Rural Farmer (Centro de Investigación y Promoción del Campesinado). A number of Government-run and independent broadcasting stations have also been destroyed.

The Special Rapporteur urgently calls for an end to the violence and urges State authorities to take all necessary measures, in accordance with international human rights standards, to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the affected indigenous and rural groups. Additionally, he urges the State to investigate these human rights violations and bring those responsible to justice, while ensuring that similar acts are not repeated. The Special Rapporteur also calls upon all actors involved to engage in a dialogue based on tolerance and respect for human rights.

Both the previous Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, and the current Special Rapporteur, Professor James Anaya, have expressed concern of discriminatory and racist acts against the indigenous peoples of Bolivia, through press statements of 10 April 2008 and 2 June 2008, respectively.

Versión en español

For media requests, please contact: indigenous@ohchr.org.