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Bolivia / Human Rights: UN experts celebrate release of Mayor of Cochabamba

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GENEVA / LA PAZ (12 March 2020) - The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention welcomes the decision by a court in Cochabamba to end the detention of Mayor José María Leyes, who was deprived of his liberty following a trial replete with violations of due process guarantees, including judicial independence and the presumption of innocence.

The release of Mr. Leyes takes place only a few days after the group of experts communicated its Opinion No. 61/2019 to the Government of Bolivia, in which it declared his detention arbitrary and in violation of fundamental human rights.

In its opinion, the Working Group concluded that the pre-trial detention was intended to prevent Mr. Leyes from exercising his functions in the municipality of Cochabamba, thus denying his right to participate in public affairs.

In this regard, the experts found that “the judicial process was not carried out in an impartial and independent manner and the executive branch had unduly interfered with the judiciary, ensuring that Mr. Leyes was kept in pre-trial detention and therefore could not perform his functions as mayor”.

The Working Group's experts stressed that the release of Mr. Leyes is not the end of this matter, but marks a turning point in his case.

“The authorities must now conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the violation of Mr. Leyes’ rights, as well as adopt reforms so that cases like this do not recur,” they said, noting that “international law imposes an obligation to provide comprehensive reparation for human rights violations”.

The experts stressed that the release of Mr. Leyes, which is only a partial implementation of their recommendations, should also serve as an example of good practices to be followed by other countries in the region and the world.

“The release shows how a single judge in Bolivia gave practical effect to the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in putting an end to the arbitrary actions of other State authorities and by making direct references to the opinion of the Working Group. We applaud that as an example of good practice.

“The Working Group now urges all other public authorities, regardless of their position, to follow this example, and to ensure that the State's actions are in conformity with the human rights and international obligations it has undertaken,” said the experts.

ENDS

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Chair-Rapporteur), Leigh Toomey, Elina Steinerte, Seong-Phil Hong and Sètondji Roland Adjovi.

The UN Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Councils independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page Bolivia

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