Saturday, December 20, 2014

Human Rights Watch urges military justice reform in Bolivia

On December 15, Human Rights Watch wrote to Bolivian President Evo Morales recommending action on a range of issues. Here is what HRW had to say about Military Criminal Code reform:
In December 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that Bolivia’s Military Criminal Code was incompatible with international human rights standards regarding judicial independence and the right to judicial protection, and urged legislators to reform it. At the time of writing, however, the code has not been modified.
Under the Military Criminal Code, “all the crimes committed by members of the Armed Forces in the line of duty, either inside or outside the headquarters, military camps and zones” are to be prosecuted and tried by the military justice system. This includes alleged human rights violations committed by members of the military.
Under international norms, allegations of human rights abuses should not be tried by military courts. The Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons specifically states that, “[p]ersons alleged to be responsible for the acts constituting the offense of forced disappearance of persons may be tried only in the competent jurisdictions of ordinary law in each state, to the exclusion of all other special jurisdictions, particularly military jurisdictions.”
Similarly, treaty monitoring bodies have repeatedly stated that military courts are not suitable to prosecute and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for example, has held that “when the State permits investigations to be conducted by the entities with possible involvement, independence and impartiality are clearly compromised.” And the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that pursuant to article 8 of the American Convention “military criminal jurisdiction is not the competent jurisdiction to investigate and, if applicable, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations.” For its part, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the states’ obligations under the ICCPR, has called on states parties to subject military personnel alleged to have committed human rights violations to civilian jurisdiction. [Footnotes omitted.]

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