Committee hears of Michael Dwyer’s mother’s struggle for answers

Oireachtas members to see what can be done to help family of 24-year-old killed in Bolivia

 

Members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence have committed themselves to supporting Caroline Dwyer, the mother seeking an explanation as to why Bolivian security forces shot dead her son Michael in April 2009.

Committee chairman Brendan Smith TD said on Thursday he would meet officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs to see what more could be done to advance Ms Dwyer’s cause.

On Thursday, she addressed the committee, telling of her almost eight-year long struggle to obtain from the Bolivian authorities a plausible explanation as to why they shot dead her 24-year-old son in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Struggling at times to hold her emotions in check, Ms Dwyer told the committee that Michael, who worked in security in Bolivia when he was killed, was apolitical.

“Michael was a loving soul, a caring brother and a great friend. He loved life. He loved fun. He loved to socialise,” she said.

“Our home has been quiet for the past almost eight years. The laughter he brought us has been silenced. I knew my son. He had no ulterior motives. We are not a political family. Michael was not political. He would have had no interest or knowledge of Bolivian politics and did not speak Spanish.”

Pleading for their lives

Mr Dwyer was shot dead in his hotel bedroom by Bolivian Special Police Forces. Immediately afterwards, the authorities gave a version of events that does not stack up: they said they had pursued Mr Dwyer, who engaged them in a 30-minute shootout, before being shot dead in his hotel bedroom.

However, witnesses, who say there was no pursuit or gunfight, heard people pleading for their lives as they were being shot. The State pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy, examined Mr Dwyer’s body in Ireland and her conclusion supported Ms Dwyer’s own assessment that her son had been “summarily executed” she said.

“The bullet when straight through his heart, and damaged his lung,” she said. “When he lay dead or dying, he was shot four more times in the back. He was in bed wearing nothing but his red boxers.”

The Bolivian government had sought to frustrate her efforts continually, she said. An agreement to interview most of 19 witnesses in July 2016 she made with the authorities, was cancelled at the last minute after she had arrived in the capital, La Paz, and just two people were put forward to meet her.

“After overnight interventions by the Irish government, we were met by deputy Bolivian officials who eventually produced two individuals for us to interview. However these individuals were apparently suffering a severe episode of amnesia and to each of my questions their response was frustratingly the same. They couldn’t remember a thing of their evidence gathering of the current most high-profile case ever to happen in Bolivia.

“Our journey was wasted, Bolivian promises broken,” said Ms Dwyer.

No complaint

The Bolivian government was also seeking to frustrate the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) which is asking questions of the authorities on Ms Dwyer’s behalf. This week, after months of procrastination, the government told the IACHR that Ms Dwyer had made no complaint about their conduct, a position that is not true.

Labour TD Alan Kelly has been supporting the Dwyer family’s efforts to find out what happened.

“Michael Dwyer was executed, murdered by a foreign government and Ireland needs to support this family,” he said. “Nearly eight years ago, a citizen of Ireland was taken out by the Bolivian government and executed and by God, we’re going to have to do something about it.”

He urged the committee to “embarrass” the Bolivian government, issue a declaration as to what had happened to Mr Dwyer and provide a forum for the airing of evidence that he had been murdered by the Bolivian government.

Committee members Maureen O’Sullivan, Seán Crowe and Senator Gabrielle McFadden all supported Ms Dwyer.