The Irish Times view: remembering Michael Dwyer, 10 years after his death
The Government and the EU should demand that Bolivia facilitates an international investigation in his killing
The Dwyer family has gathered an impressive body of material, both forensic and from eyewitnesses, that has destroyed the credibility of the account given by the Bolivian authorities of the police raid that resulted in Michael Dwyer’s death. File photograph: PA Wire
Though it is 10 years ago today since Michael Dwyer was killed by police in Bolivia, the circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery. But thanks to the persistent efforts of his family, one thing can be said for certain: the official version of what happened in the Las Americas hotel in Santa Cruz as originally put forward by Bolivia’s president Evo Morales and his powerful vice-president Álvaro García Linera has been shown to be demonstrably false.
The Dwyer family has gathered an impressive body of material, both forensic and from eyewitnesses, that has destroyed the credibility of the account given by the Bolivian authorities of the police raid that resulted in Michael Dwyer’s death and the events that led up to it. Instead the weight of evidence points to him having been summarily executed.
Too often this fact has been obscured by debate about what Dwyer was doing in Bolivia and the company he kept there. But these are secondary considerations in the face of evidence that the security forces, who had ample opportunity to arrest him, instead shot Dwyer point-blank in the heart and then tried to cover this up with a claim he died in a shoot-out.
The Dwyers passed their evidence to the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions. After review it deemed there was sufficient evidence to conclude this was indeed an extra-judicial killing. The rapporteur subsequently issued letters of allegation to the Bolivian authorities, the highest level of complaint available to it.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the western hemisphere’s leading human rights watchdog, has also reviewed the evidence gathered by the Dwyers and decided the Bolivian state has a case to answer. The government of Morales responded by criticising the integrity of the commission.
Instead La Paz continues to hide behind a trial that grew out of the police raid. It says it cannot facilitate an independent international investigation – a commitment made during Morales’s 2015 visit to Ireland – until this judicial process concludes. But the so-called Terrorism Case No.1 long ago descended into farce, shows little sign of reaching a conclusion and now amounts to little more than a show trial which for a decade has neutralised the once-strong political opposition to Morales in Santa Cruz.
Irish authorities and the EU should demand that Bolivia facilitates an international investigation despite the continuing proceedings in Santa Cruz. The Government should also signal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights its strong support for the Dwyers in their quest for justice. That could help accelerate their petition’s transit through the commission’s overburdened machinery. After ten long years, Michael Dwyer and his family deserve nothing less.