Dwyer family meets UN officials


A UN special investigator wrote to the Bolivian authorities a year ago seeking an investigation into the shooting dead of Irishman Michael Dwyer and two other men in 2009 after the government there claimed they were involved in a plot to assassinate the president.

Michael Dwyer’s relatives today met UN officials attached to Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on ex-judicial killings in Geneva. They held a second meeting with Ireland’s permanent representation to the UN.

Police in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, claimed Mr Dwyer was one of three men they killed in a shoot-out at the Hotel Las Americas in the city on April 16th 2009 after they uncovered a right-wing plot against president Evo Morales.

The family believes the evidence shows Mr Dwyer was not involved in a shoot-out, as claimed by the Bolivian authorities, and that he had been asleep when he was killed.

They believe the Brazilian authorities have concocted the terrorism allegation and accuse them of stonewalling efforts to find out what happened.

Today they presented the findings of a postmortem conducted by State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, as well as an independent report by UK forensics expert, Keith Borer. Both indicate that Mr Dwyer was shot in the heart.

The Dwyers first made a submission to Mr Heyns in September 2010 and called on him to initiate an investigation.

The 24-year-old, from Ballinderry in Co Tipperary, had gone to Bolivia to train in the security business and took up work in personal security while there. He had been a recent graduate from NUI Galway and had also worked as a guard on the Shell Corrib gas refinery in Mayo.

The family have also lobbied EU officials for support for the international inquiry.

In a statement after yesterday’s meeting, the family said it recognised that the UN special rapporteur's office had a global remit and is dealing with a very significant case load.

“To have an opportunity to meet and put our case was a very useful and welcome opportunity,” they said.

“Significantly, we learned that the UN special rapporteur has already corresponded with the Bolivian authorities and - to this end - issued a 'letter of allegation’ on 9th August 2011.

“We now hope that - based on the information we provided today, including that of Dr Marie Cassidy and the report of the independent forensic expert, Keith Borer - the special rapporteur will be equipped to resume work on our case.”

The statement added that UN involvement in attempting to establish the circumstances of Mr Dwyer’s execution was vital.

“As a family, we can only knock on doors and assert pressure. We feel that today an important door has been opened and we hope for progress into establishing the reasons behind Michael's execution in April 2009.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore met with the family in September last year, the Department said in a statement.

Officials had also met  the Dwyer family on several occasions in Dublin.

“Ireland’s embassy in Buenos Aires, which is accredited to Bolivia, as well as Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the United Nations in Geneva, also continue to be engaged with regard to this case.”

“A number of representations have also been made to the Bolivian authorities, in which it has been indicated that we would be willing to participate in any way which might be helpful with an independent, international investigation into the death of Mr Dwyer on 16 April 2009.”

The Department said it remained in direct contact with the family regarding the case.

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin, who was minister for foreign affairs at the time of Mr Dwyer’s shooting, called for a full independent and external inquiry into the killing.

He urged the UN to support the request being made by the Dwyer family.

“The Bolivian government has serious questions to answer about the actions taken on the night Michael was killed and since.”

He said it was clear the Bolivian authorities had never co-operated fully with the family. They had denied a request he made that an international panel be appointed to investigate Mr Dwyer’s death.

“The Dwyer family have suffered a huge loss and their pain was made worse by the false allegations that were made immediately after Michael’s death and the continued refusal of the Bolivian government to deal with this case openly,” Mr Martin said.

Additional reporting: PA