Dwyer family to pursue international case against Bolivia

Decision by human rights commission to examine killing of Michael Dwyer seen as breakthrough

The family of Irishman Michael Dwyer who was shot dead by police South America in 2009 have said they will exercise their right to take a full case against Bolivia at the the The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights .

His mother, Caroline Dwyer, met Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on Tuesday evening, a day after the ninth anniversary of his death at the hands of a police unit in the hotel in which he was staying in Bolivia.

The decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human rights to admit the family’s petition has been seen by the family as a huge breakthrough for their long campaign to hold the Bolivian authorities accountable for the killing of the young Tipperary man, who was 24 when he was shot dead by an elite police unit during an early-morning raid.

The family now has now four months to furnish additional evidence and to decide if they wish to enter a mediation process with the Bolivian government, headed by President Evo Morales, or to bring a full case before the court.


Mr Coveney supports the family’s campaign for a full international inquiry into the circumstances of his death. Mr Dwyer’s mother, Caroline, said the Tánaiste fully supports their decision to pursue a full case, rather than the process of mediation. It would be the first case involving an Irish victim handled by the Washington-based institution, which serves as a human rights watchdog for North and South America.

Caroline Dwyer also met Labour Party TD Alan Kelly last night. Mr Kelly, who represents Tipperary, argued that the Government should become more active in the case.

“The decision to accept the petition is a very significant step, the most important milestone in the nine-year battle. The family will not accept anything except a full inquiry and full truth,” said Mr Kelly.

“I am calling on the Tánaiste to fully support the family with consular assistance and translation services. Michael Dwyer’s murder was a state execution for political reason.

Mr Dwyer, the eldest of four children, had worked in security in Ireland before travelling to South America. His mother, Caroline, has spearheaded the campaign to seek justice for her son, hold the Bolivian authorities to account, and to correct the reporting on Michael’s actions that night, and the reasons he was in the hotel.

She said there is ample evidence to show that Michael was unarmed, including video footage taken immediately in the aftermath of the raid.

“It was a brutal cold-blooded murder, there is no other way of saying it,” she said. “Michael was the first victim and his family have been the next victims after that.”

In its petition the Dwyer family 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 Morales and foment separatist tensions in the east of the South American country. Mr Dwyer, 24, told his family he had gone to Bolivia to do a bodyguard training course.

President Morales reacted angrily to the Commission’s decision to admit the case against his government. 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”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America