Bolivia refers human rights violations from August protests to ICC
OSeveno, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Bolivia refers human rights violations from August protests to ICC

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) for the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced Wednesday that the interim government of Bolivia sent a referral to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, asking for an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by members of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) during protests in August.

MAS is led by former president Evo Morales, who resigned and fled to Mexico amid protests after his re-election last October. The Bolivian government alleges that MAS and other opposition organizations coordinated protests and blockades to harm the civilian population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Bolivia claims that MAS plotted to harm the civilian population by preventing access to

public health supplies and services with the direct consequence of causing the death of several people and anxiety in the rest of the population due to the possibility of dying without being able to be treated in public hospitals, or in conditions that allow them access to medical supplies, treatments, and, above all, medical oxygen.

Bolivia also asserts that the protests and blockades were intended to create “serious social upheaval” as a way to force the government to move up the presidential elections, which had been rescheduled after Morales’ resignation and pushed back to October 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Article 14(1) of the Rome Statute, states may request that the ICC Prosecutor investigate crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction. In this case, Bolivia seeks an investigation under Article 7(1)(k).

The OTP has discretion on whether or not to investigate this kind of referral and has yet to disclose whether or not it will do so.