Bolivia security forces committed 'massacres': Investigators

A photo from Nov 13, 2019, showing riot police detaining men after clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of leftist Evo Morales' party in La Paz. PHOTO: AFP

LA PAZ (AFP) - An independent group appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Tuesday accused Bolivia's security forces of carrying out "massacres" and "summary executions" during social unrest around the disputed 2019 elections.

Bolivia descended into chaos after Mr Evo Morales stood for and won an unconstitutional fourth term as president in an election found to be fraudulent by the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Clashes broke out between rival supporters and opponents of Mr Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, and between security forces and protesters, leaving at least 37 people dead.

The worst of the violence came after Mr Morales resigned and fled the country, leaving his supporters clashing with the military and police.

The report was presented by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, which was set up by the IACHR, an autonomous organ within the OAS.

"The police and armed forces, separately and in joint operations, used excessive and disproportionate force, and did not adequately protect citizens from acts of violence," said the group's report.

"For their part, individuals promoted and carried out acts of violence and attacks on people, and public and private property."

The investigation centred on events from Sept 1 to Dec 31, 2019.

Leftist Morales resigned and fled the country on Nov 10, with conservative Jeanine Anez taking over as interim president two days later.

Two of the main events investigated were clashes in Sacaba, in the centre of the country, on Nov 15 and El Alto, on the outskirts of La Paz, four days later.

In each incident, 11 people died, with the investigatory group branding both as "massacres".

In Sacaba, the investigatory group was aided by Argentine forensics experts, which allowed them to "infer" that some of the dead were the victims of "summary executions".

The group said the social unrest "escalated and erupted into confrontations and violent aggressions" following "antagonistic speeches from recognised leaders".

At the presentation of the report, President Luis Arce, like Mr Morales a member of the MAS, announced that the victims would be compensated.

He blamed Ms Anez's interim government for "serious human rights violations, massacres and extrajudicial massacres", and said his government would take legal proceedings against them.

Ms Anez and several of her interim ministers have been in pre-trial detention since March as the government seeks to have them prosecuted for an alleged "coup".

She has accused Mr Arce's government of "political persecution".

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