Bolivia: Ombudsperson to challenge military service law with international authorities

Bolivia’s ombudsperson, Waldo Albarracín, said this Thursday that if the Senate does not change a draft law on compulsory military service approved by the Chamber of Deputies he will turn to international authorities to denounce the government for human rights violations.

Albarracín, who has observed a number of bureaucratic irregularities which attempt to ‘force through’ the approval of the draft law, declared that the rules constitute a flagrant violation of human rights and children’s rights, making children of 16, 17 and 18 years old fight for the flag, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He said that this law brings back the obligation of presenting a military service ID card in processing personal documents and to access work and education, which are fundamental rights.

Albarracín questioned the omission of a section on ‘conscientious objection’ which goes against an agreement made by the State of Bolivia before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to incorporate this aspect into national legislation relating to military service.

He said the opposition parliamentarians were only made aware of the document one hour before the debate in the Chamber, so they had no knowledge of its content.

Claiming he had been denied access to this draft law which was developed in military courts, he submitted comments in a letter to the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Edmundo Novillo, on Wednesday, for consideration to avoid rushing the bill through.

The inclusion of a section on conscientious objectors in article 32, which was proposed and defended by parliamentarian Elizabeth Salguero, was rejected. She argued that citizens have the right to decide with complete freedom, on religious, moral or ethical grounds, not to accept military education.

The law, which consists of 138 articles and three provisions, was submitted to the national Senate for approval in compliance with the constitution. After the Deputies’ approval, the lower Chamber’s president, Edmundo Novillo, said that there had been a free debate of different positions which had enriched understanding of the proposal.

Source: Los Tiempos: Defensor objeta Ley de Servicio Militar, 28 March 2008; translated by CRIN