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Human Rights Watch welcomes the opportunity to discuss human rights in Bolivia during its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which addressed a range of concerns, including restrictions on the work of human rights defenders, impunity for human rights violations, excessive pretrial detention, and limitations to children’s and women’s rights.

Human Rights Watch remains concerned about a March 2013 law regulating the work of civil society groups and its regulatory decree, which gave authorities overly broad powers to interfere with these groups’ activities, undermining the right to free association and the ability of human rights defenders to work independently. These provisions authorize officials to dissolve civil society organizations on grounds that invite arbitrary, politically motivated decisions, and restrict the right of organizations to freely determine their own statutes.

The government of Bolivia accepted several UPR recommendations to strengthen the capacity and the independence of the judiciary, as well as to review the legal grounds and practice of pre-trial detention. The government has recently launched a judicial reform process, which we hope will contribute to strengthening judicial independence in the country. However, outstanding key reforms include the need to ensure that criminal acts constituting serious human rights violations are not prosecuted under the military justice system and the adoption of measures to combat the widespread use of pre-trial detention, which undermines defendants’ rights and contributes to prison overcrowding.

Human Rights Watch deeply regrets that Bolivia rejected many recommendations to eradicate child labor and to respect ILO Convention 138. The Code on Children and Adolescents, adopted in July 2014, gave Bolivia the unfortunate distinction of being the first country in the world to legalize employment for children as young as 10. This legislation undermines the ILO Convention 138 regarding the minimum age of employment, which Bolivia ratified in 1997.

Human Rights Watch recognizes the importance of the Law on violence against women, but regrets its slow implementation. Women and girls in Bolivia still face high risk of gender-based violence.

Human Rights Watch is encouraged to see that states called on Bolivia to adopt measures to address the concerns outlined in this presentation. Bolivia’s participation in the UPR would have benefitted if it had made stronger commitments to the recommendations received, which could lead to better respect of basic human rights guaranteed in international treaties ratified by Bolivia. 

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