Bolivia ex-president goes on trial <i>in absentia</i> on genocide charges

Bolivia ex-president goes on trial in absentia on genocide charges

[JURIST] The Bolivian Supreme Court of Justice [official website, in Spanish] on Monday opened the trial of former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada [TrialWatch profile] in connection with the deaths of 63 anti-government protesters [AI backgrounder] in October 2003. Sanchez de Lozada and 17 other former government officials face genocide charges related to incident, for which he faces 30 years in prison if convicted. Nine of the defendants were tried in absentia, including Sanchez de Lozada, who fled to the US after resigning from office in 2003. The Court issued arrest warrants [Latin American Herald Tribune report] for the missing defendants after declaring them to be in contempt of court. In November, Bolivian officials requested extradition [JURIST report] of Sanchez de Lozada and two other defendants from the US to face trial under a 1995 extradition treaty [text, PDF].

The 2003 riots [BBC report] occurred when military forces clashed with predominantly indigenous farmers, coca growers, students, and unionists who protested Sanchez de Lozada's attempts to open up the country to free trade with the US and to export gas and other natural resources. The protests were led by his former political rival and current Bolivian President Evo Morales [official profile; JURIST news archive].