Bolivia’s restrictions on the work of nongovernmental organizations violate human rights defenders’ and civil society groups’ right to freedom of association, according to a leading advocacy group:
On August 5, 2015, Human Rights Watch submitted an amicus brief to the Bolivian Constitutional Court, in a case brought by the Bolivian Ombudsman challenging the constitutionality of a 2013 law and presidential decree that grant the government broad powers to dissolve nongovernmental organizations.
Under the decree, any government office may ask the Autonomy Ministry, which is charged with strengthening autonomous local governments and indigenous communities in the country, to revoke an organization’s permit to operate if the group carries out activities different from those listed in its bylaws or if the organization’s representative is criminally sanctioned for activities that “undermine security or public order.” The Plurinational Assembly, the national legislature, may also request revocation of permit in cases of “necessity or public interest.”
The Ombudsman’s submission specifically challenged the constitutionality of a provision in the Law of Legal Entities that provides that nongovernmental organizations and foundations must specify in their bylaws “their contribution to economic and social development,” and another in the presidential decree that provides that organizations can be dissolved if they “fail to comply with [official] policies and rules.”
“The way Bolivia’s law and decree on nongovernmental groups is written invites arbitrary, politically motivated decisions that undermine their right to freedom of association,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Bolivia should immediately repeal these restrictions to ensure that human rights defenders can do their job freely, which is critical in any democratic society.”