The Bolivian Supreme Court of Justice on Aug. 30 convicted seven officials—five military officers and two former cabinet ministers—of committing genocide. The military officials received sentences of 10–15 years while the former cabinet ministers received three-year sentences for complicity in the crime. The convicted leaders are not permitted an appeal. One commander of the army, Juan Veliz Herrera, pleaded innocence, and suggested he was being persecuted for having different political views than the current government. Trials for the genocide began in 2009, when the court began proceedings against former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (in absentia) for the deaths of 63 protesters in the “Black October” incidents of 2003. He faces 30 years in prison if convicted. A further 17 former government officials face genocide charges related to “Black October.”
Bolivian officials have requested extradition of Sánchez de Lozada and two other defendants from the US to face trial under a 1995 extradition treaty. A defense lawyer for victims’ families made another plea for extradition after this week’s convictions. However, the US has consistently refused to extradite Sánchez de Lozada, and his lawyers assert he resides in the US legally and that the prosecutions are political. The 2003 violence occurred when military forces clashed with predominantly indigenous farmers, students and unionists who protested Sánchez de Lozada’s attempts to export gas and other natural resources. The protests were led by his former political rival and current Bolivian President Evo Morales.
From Jurist, Aug. 31. Used with permission.
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