Bolivia: Adalberto Rojas-human rights defender | Letter

Re: Adalberto Rojas-human rights defender

To: President of Bolivia – Sr. Evo Morales

From: Diana m. Davidson CM, LLb, Bed(elem)

Date: 2007-03-13

I write to bring to your attention the danger in which Adalberto Rojas, President of the Asamblea Permanente por los Derechos Humanos, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, his family and the members of his staff and their families find themselves. As you may know they work in defence of human rights of peasants, indigenous peoples and other members of the Santa Cruz de la Sierra community who face discrimination. Their work is covered under the protection of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is, of course, incorporated into the constitution of Bolivia in Article 6(V).

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) of which I am a member is an organization composed of lawyers and some retired Canadian Judges who are concerned about the safety of human rights defenders, lawyers and Judges around the world, in all countries and under all forms of government.

In particular LRWC together with such affiliated NGOs as Amnesty International is concerned that all nations abide by the United Nations Declaration on Human rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly on December 9th 1998. Lawyers Rights Watch has consultative status with the United Nations and so has an ever greater responsibility to bring to the attention of the Governors of a country when a breach of Human Rights has occurred.

The members of the Asamblea Permanente por los Drechos Humanos in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and their families are increasing threatened and harassed in connection with their work. Specifically this harassment. The threats have been ongoing since 2003, but have recently increased significantly.

On December 7 2006 a group of approximately eight people who identified themselves as members of the Union Juvenil Cruce Aista, the Youth Union of Santa Cruz racially insulted Adalberto Rojas and four members of the APDH in a street close to their office in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. One member of the group approached Adalberto Rojas, pushed him and shouted “we know what time you atart and finish. We are going to kill you, you will not make it through the night” together with foul language and then began kicking Adalberto Rojas.

All of this was reported to Police and police protection was requested and provided at the entrance to the APDH office. January 7th 2007, protection by the police was cut off citing financial reasons. Several members of APDH had been living at the office due to their well grounded fears for their lives. By January 7th they no longer had police protection.

On January 21st 2007 several members of the Pro Santa Cruz Civic committee, an elected committee in favour of regional autonomy entered the ADPH office, threatening staff and claiming that they would come back with weapons and shoot at the building. Adalberto Rojas has been forced to leave his home, fearing for his own safety and that of his family. This has become an intolerable situation in which certain groups are acting in a vigilante manner and threatening worse to come.

We are very concerned for the safety of Adalberto Rojas and the other members of APDH and their families. We are also alarmed at the heightened level of extreme lawlessness that these acts illustrate. We ask that you intervene to ensure that:

1. all the members and their families are protected

2. that their be a full and impartial investigation into the attacks and threats, with the results made public 3. that those responsible be brought to justice with the result that the protections provided under the Bolivian Constitution,and under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties and those Human Rights workers that seek to protect and promote those rights, specifically, in this situation, the members and family of the APDH.

I thank you for your kind attention to these serious matters. As you, especially, will appreciate in such situations it is critically important to protect the victims of the attack while at the same time unrelentingly looking for the perpetrators so that lawlessness and disrespect for the safety of those whose views differ from ones’ own doesn’t escalate into waves of terror and loss of safety for everyone.