Michael Dwyer case: Petition against Bolivia is deemed admissible

Human rights body signals the country has a case to answer over killing of the Irish man

Michael Dwyer was shot dead in Bolivia in 2009. Photograph: PA Wire

Michael Dwyer was shot dead in Bolivia in 2009. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has deemed admissible a petition filed against Bolivia by the family of Irishman Michael Dwyer over his death at the hands of police there in 2009.

The decision is a significant milestone in the Dwyer family’s long campaign to have an independent international investigation into what they say was the Tipperary man’s wrongful death at the hands of Bolivian security forces.

“It is an important step in securing recognition that Michael’s killing was unlawful and unjustified,” said a family statement acknowledging the commission’s decision.

In its petition, the Dwyers presented evidence they say proves their son was summarily executed alongside two other men in a raid by an elite police unit on the hotel where he was staying in the city of Santa Cruz on April 16th, 2009.

The Bolivian government claims Mr Dwyer was part of a terrorist group that planned to assassinate President Evo Morales and foment separatist tensions in the east of the South American country. Mr Dwyer (24) told his family he went to Bolivia to do a bodyguard training course.

By accepting the petition, the IACHR, which is part of the Organisation of American States, has signalled the Bolivian authorities have a case to answer over the possible violation of Mr Dwyer’s right to life.

Denied terrorism

Also included in the petition are two men who were with Mr Dwyer in Bolivia and arrested in the police raid. They claim they were subsequently tortured.

Both men were released and left Bolivia in 2015 after a plea-bargain deal in which they admitted complicity in armed insurrection in return for immediate release.

The men denied any involvement in terrorism after their return to Europe.

Mr Morales reacted angrily to the IACHR’s decision. On his Twitter account, he said by doing so it would become “a defender of terrorism and the separatism that wanted to divide the country”. Bolivia has 90 days to respond to the IACHR.

The commission can sanction the country for human rights violations if it is unhappy with its response to the evidence gathered against it. The government in La Paz has always insisted that no outside investigation of Mr Dwyer’s death could take place until the conclusion of a trial of several dozen men authorities accuse of being involved in the alleged plot against Mr Morales.

But six years after the court in Santa Cruz started hearing evidence, and almost nine years since the police raid in which Mr Dwyer was killed, the trial shows no sign of concluding.

In accepting the petition, the IACHR dismissed the Bolivian government’s justification for delaying an investigation. It said the lack of an investigation, and eventual punishment of the perpetrators if the extra-judicial killing of Mr Dwyer is proved, could violate articles of the American Convention on Human Rights, of which Bolivia is a signatory.

The Dwyer family is due to meet Tánaiste Simon Coveney on Tuesday, the day after the ninth anniversary of the police raid. The Irish Government supports the family’s calls for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Dwyer’s death.