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Statement : |

Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, on the referral by Bolivia regarding the situation in its own territory


On 4 September 2020, I received a referral from the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia ("Bolivia") regarding the situation in its own territory, in accordance with its prerogatives as a State Party to the Rome Statute (the "Statute").

Pursuant to article 14(1) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or the "Court"), the referring State requests the Prosecutor to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed on the territory of Bolivia, with the view to determining whether one or more persons should be charged with the commission of such crimes. In its referral, the Government of Bolivia alleges that, during August 2020, members of political party Movimiento al Socialismo and associated organisations engaged in a course of conduct pursuant to an organisational policy to attack the Bolivian population by coordinating blockades at various points throughout the country that connected different cities in order to prevent the free passage of convoys, transport and communications.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Bolivia submits that among the goals of this blockade was "to prevent them [the civilian population in those cities] from accessing public health supplies and services with the direct consequence of causing the death of several people and anxiety in the rest of the population due to the possibility of dying without being able to be treated in public hospitals, or in conditions that allow them to access to medical supplies, treatments and, above all, medical oxygen". The Government of Bolivia states that this conduct was deliberately committed to cause "serious suffering in the physical integrity and physical mental health of the population, as a means to force a serious social upheaval that would induce the authorities to take a decision … setting the date of suffrage for the presidential elections". The referral submits that these actions constitute other inhumane acts intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health under article 7(1)(k) of the Statute.

The referral is accompanied by supporting documents with further details about the relevant circumstances under which such crimes are alleged to have occurred as well as a letter of accreditation from the Constitutional President of the State, H.E. Mrs. Jeanine Áñez Chávez. Pursuant to Regulation 45 of the Regulations of the Court, I have informed the ICC Presidency of this referral to enable the assignment of the situation to a Pre-Trial Chamber.

A State Party referral does not automatically lead to the opening of an investigation. Should my Office, however, ultimately determine that the situation referred warrants an investigation in accordance with the statutory criteria, as a result of this referral, the Statute does not require seeking authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court in order to proceed with an investigation. The receipt of a referral may expedite the process of opening an investigation only to the extent that judicial review of my decision would not be required under the Statute.

Specifically, under article 53(1) of the Statute, my Office must consider issues of jurisdiction, admissibility and the interests of justice in making this determination. As noted in the Office's Policy Paper on Preliminary Examinations, these factors are applied to all situations, irrespective of whether the preliminary examination was initiated on the basis of information on crimes submitted pursuant to article 15 of the Statute, by a referral from a State Party (or a group of States Parties) or the United Nations Security Council, or by a declaration accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court, pursuant to article 12(3) of the Statute. In all circumstances, my Office independently evaluates and analyses the information available.

In the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate, my Office gives consideration to all submissions and views conveyed to it during the course of each preliminary examination, including any observation by the competent national authorities concerning any relevant investigation and prosecution at the national level.

Referral submitted by the Government of Bolivia

This is the eleventh referral received by my Office since the Rome Statute came into force on 1 July 2002. Previously, State Party referral have been received by my Office from the Governments of Uganda (2004), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2004), the Central African Republic (2004 and 2014), Mali (2012), the Union of the Comoros (2013), the Gabonese Republic (2016), the State of Palestine (2018), the Group of six States Parties (Argentine Republic, Canada, the Republic of Colombia, the Republic of Chile, the Republic of Paraguay and the Republic of Peru) concerning the situation in Venezuela (2018), and from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (2020).

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC's jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi Bangladesh/Myanmar and Afghanistan (subject to a pending article 18 deferral request). The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Colombia; Guinea; Iraq/UK; the Philippines; Nigeria; Ukraine; and Venezuela (I and II), while the situation in Palestine is pending a judicial ruling.

For further details on "preliminary examinations" and "situations and cases" before the Court, click here, and here.

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Source : Office of the Prosecutor