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GENEVA November 18, 2019 – After the deaths of at least five protestors in Sacaba, Cochabamba, in Bolivia on Friday – reportedly mostly as a result of live ammunition fired by the security forces – the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged the authorities to ensure that security forces comply with international norms and standards on the use of force and guarantee the right to life and physical integrity of protesters.
“We have reports that at least 17 people have now died in the context of the protests, including 14 over the past six days alone,” Bachelet said. “While the earlier deaths were mostly the result of violent confrontations between rival protestors, the most recent ones appear to be the result of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force by the police and army.”
“This is an extremely dangerous development as, far from quelling the violence, it is likely to make it much worse,” the UN Human Rights Chief added. “I am really concerned that the situation in Bolivia could spin out of control if the authorities do not handle it sensitively and in accordance with international norms and standards governing the use of force, and with full respect for human rights. The country is split and people on both sides of the political divide are extremely angry. In a situation like this, repressive actions by the authorities will simply stoke that anger even further and are likely to jeopardise any possible avenue for dialogue.”
Bachelet said she is also concerned that in addition to the deaths and hundreds of injuries, the situation is being inflamed by widespread arrests and detentions with over 600 people detained since 21 October, many of them during the past few days.
The High Commissioner called on the authorities to make data available on the number of people arrested, injured and killed during protests, and called for prompt, impartial, transparent and throughout investigations into them to ensure full accountability. She also urged the Bolivian authorities to refrain from employing the army in law-enforcement operations, including during protests.
“This situation is not going to be resolved by force and repression,” Bachelet said. “All sectors have the right to make their voice heard – this is the basis for democracy. I urge all actors, including protestors, to renounce violence in order to pave the way towards a peaceful solution to the current crisis.”