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Rights group alarmed by ouster of Bolivian judges

April 29, 2019
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2017 file photo, a supporter of Bolivia's President Evo Morales waves a party flag during a march supporting his re-election, despite a referendum ruling out his run for a fourth term, in La Paz, Bolivia. The prominent human rights group Human Rights Watch says Bolivia has undermined judicial independence by arbitrarily dismissing nearly 100 judges since 2017 and it’s asking the Organization of American States to address the issue. HRW says the judges haven’t been given any reason for the dismissals by a Magistrates Council dominated by Morales' allies. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File)

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A prominent human rights group said Monday that Bolivia has undermined judicial independence by arbitrarily dismissing nearly 100 judges since 2017 and it asked the Organization of American States to address the issue.

Human Rights Watch said the judges were not given any reason for the dismissals by a Magistrates Council dominated by allies of President Evo Morales.

It said even judges who supposedly had permanent positions have been ousted.

Government officials contacted by The Associated Press said they would have no comment before reading the report.

The New York-based organization noted that the OAS Democratic Charter calls for the “separation of powers and independence of the branches of government” and said several international treaties signed by Bolivia demand an independent and impartial judiciary.

Judges who can be replaced by officials “are much more vulnerable to pressure that the government can exercise,” said the organization’s Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco. “HRW has received credible complaints of pressure by senior government officials for judges to try opponents.”

He also cited a Constitutional Tribunal ruling declaring that Morales has a “human right” to run for re-election indefinitely despite a constitutional ban.

Vivanco said the dismissal of judges “should be a wake-up call for OAS member states,” and added, “When people in Bolivia can no longer expect judicial independence, then all their rights are at risk.”

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