Despite the reforms adopted by the Bolivian Government to end discrimination against indigenous people and other vulnerable groups, most of them continue to suffer from extreme poverty and exclusion, the top United Nations human rights official has warned.
Wrapping up her first visit to the country, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told reporters on Tuesday that Bolivia's constitution represents “a historic step forward” that sends a clear message to other nations on the continent and beyond.
“The soundest nation-building is one that takes into full account and promotes the rights of all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity, culture, sex, age, class or language,” she added.
She noted recent advances such as the adoption of a law against racism and discrimination, describing it as a “landmark development,” while cautioning that “the prohibition of dissemination of racist ideas, if not adequately regulated, may affect the right to freedom of expression.”
Ms. Pillay also voiced concern at the lack of access to justice, especially in rural communities, and at “the wide-ranging impunity that exists, not only for cases of past human rights violations but also for more recent cases.”
She noted that “in the fight against impunity for all crimes, including corruption, presumption of innocence, due process and fair trial are the crucial principles that need to be respected.”
A number of social programmes adopted by the Government were commended, including those aimed at alleviating poverty and exclusion, as well as a number of bills being debated by lawmakers to address long standing issues such as violence against women and children, indigenous rights and the rights of the most vulnerable, as well as torture.
Stressing that “any process involving profound transformation is more solidly built and long lasting if it is conducted with the full participation of all sectors of society,” the High Commissioner encouraged the Legislative Assembly to ensure transparency and adequate time for public dialogue and analysis on all draft legislation.
Ms. Pillay's five-day visit included talks with President Evo Morales, the Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Transparency, and Finance, as well as other key government officials and representatives of the National Assembly and the Judiciary.
Among other people she met with were the Ombudsman, indigenous representatives and authorities, and representatives of the Afro-Bolivian community, as well as victims of torture.