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Bolivian Citizens' Human Rights Suit Can Proceed

NOVEMBER 13, 2009—Claims against the former Bolivian President and Defense Minister for crimes against humanity and extrajudicial killings are viable, ruled Judge Adalberto Jordan of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida on Nov. 9, 2009.

Cases against former President Gonzalo Daniel Sanchez de Lozada Sanchez Bustamante (Mamani, et al. v. Sanchez de Lozada) and former Defense Minister Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzaín (Mamani, et al. v. Sanchez Berzaín) were brought by Bolivian citizens on behalf of relatives killed by Bolivian armed forces in 2003.

The plaintiffs accuse Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzaín of ordering the Bolivian army to attack and kill unarmed civilians. They seek compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute.

Lozada and Berzaín fled to the United States in 2003 and refused to return to Bolivia to stand trial. In 2007, individual cases were filed against them, which were later consolidated into one.

The November 9 ruling was issued on the defendants' joint motion to dismiss, which Judge Jordan denied in part and granted in part. Arguing in opposition of the motion to dismiss were the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting constitutional and human rights; the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School; the law firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Deplow, Harris & Hoffman; and the law firm of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinter and Tetzeli.

University of Minnesota Law School Associate Professor Jennie Green, a senior staff attorney at CCR before coming to Minnesota, was a member of the legal team working with the plaintiffs.