The European Union (EU) assured this Sunday that Bolivia’s judicial system has “structural deficiencies”, after former temporary president Jeanine Áñez was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the “coup d’état II” case.
A spokesman for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said in a statement that according to the preliminary observations of the mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bolivia, the trial “did not fully respect the due process rights of Mrs. Áñez.”
In this sense, he underlined that the OHCHR indicated that the criminal definition of “breach of duty”, the crime for which Áñez was convicted, is “excessively broad and ambiguous.”
“There were also problems with the excessive and non-exceptional use of preventive detention, access to witness evidence and the virtual and hybrid format of the hearings,” the EU recalled.
Likewise, the spokesperson specified that the OHCHR pointed out that holding trials in absentia should be avoided and that the participation of “numerous accusers” had affected the procedural balance.
“These findings are symptomatic of the structural deficiencies of the Bolivian justice system, as reported by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, in May 2022, as well as by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, whose recommendations the Government undertook to implement”, declared the Borrell’s spokesperson.
Áñez has been in preventive detention for more than a year and must face other processes that are taking place against her in the ordinary Justice.
The Mission in Bolivia of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OACNUDH) indicated six significant aspects that have affected the judicial process of the ‘Coup d’etat II’ caseamong which is “excessive use” of preventive detention of the accused.
The OHCHR, which was an observer of the case to verify the correct development of the judicial procedure in which the former Bolivian president has been sentenced Jeanine Áñez to ten years in prison, according to the framework of the norms and standards of international justice, indicated six points that “require a comprehensive response in the Human Rights approach”.
On one side, the UN office highlighted “the excessive and not exceptional use” of preventive detention as a precautionary measureand has argued that it is “a structural challenge” in the country. “In the judicial process in question, an accumulation of preventive detentions for the same acts under different crimes was observed.”, said the OHCHR in a statement.
The High Commissioner’s Mission also observed that the criminal definition of “failure to fulfill duties” in the resolution against Áñez “it is incompatible with the principle of legality contained in various human rights treaties, as it is excessively broad and ambiguous”, and has urged Bolivia to change it so that it is based “on an individualized determination”.
The United Nations also criticized the virtual and hybrid format of the hearings, as it would have had an impact on the principle of physical access for the public and the media. He also underlined that, “generally”, trials in the absence of the accused should be avoidedsince it would generate an impact on the right to defense.
Áñez -in preventive detention since March 2021- was sentenced to ten years in prison for her role in the political crisis of November 2019, when then-president Morales was forced to leave office due to pressure from the opposition and part of the Armed Forces, which did not recognize the electoral results after the Organization of American States (OAS) detected possible irregularities. A few days later, Áñez, then a senator, proclaimed herself president.