Bolivia: "Friendly Settlement" in conscientious objection case

Bolivia and a Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector reached a "friendly settlement" following a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the Bolivian ombudsman. According to Report No 97/05, "Alfredo Díaz Bustos is a Jehovah's Witness whose right to conscientious objection has been violated by the State, directly affecting his freedom of conscience and religion, and that the State has failed to fulfill its obligation to respect and ensure the rights established in the American Convention, to which Bolivia is a party. The petitioner further alleges that the Bolivian State violated his client's right to equal protection before the law. The petitioner says Mr. Bustos was discriminated against as a Jehovah's Witness because the Bolivian National Defense Service Act provides unequal treatment for Roman Catholics and adherents of other faiths, because the former qualify for exemption from military service while the latter do not. Finally, the petitioner alleges that the Bolivian State has violated the alleged victim's right to judicial protection because the final judgment of the Constitutional Court established that matters concerning conscientious objection to compulsory military service cannot be submitted to the courts, so violations of the right to freedom of conscience and religion on grounds of conscientious objection to military service cannot be brought to justice."

It is interesting that this case was solved by "friendly settlement", and even more interesting are the terms of the settlement, as reported by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

AMICABLE SETTLEMENT

This document, which can become a public document upon certification of the signatures and seals, consists of the following agreement signed by the parties as contained in these clauses:

One. Parties

The parties to this agreement are:
Gonzalo Méndez Gutiérrez, Minister of National Defense, representing the Bolivian State, and
Alfredo Díaz Bustos, Bolivian citizen with identity card CI 3483469 LP of legal standing and domiciled in the City of La Paz.

Two. Background.

On December 30, 2003, after exhausting domestic remedies, Alfredo Díaz Bustos, under the auspices of the Ombudsman, lodged a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in which he accused the Bolivian State of refusing to recognize his status as a conscientious objector to compulsory military service, thereby violating his rights guaranteed in Articles 12, 24, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

On October 13, 2004, the IACHR issued Report No. 52/04 on Case 12.475 (petition P-14/04) Alfredo Díaz Bustos v. Bolivia, in which it declared the admissibility of the case for the purpose of determining, in its examination of the merits, whether the Bolivian State violated Articles 1(1), 2, 12, 13(1), 22, 23, 24, and 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Alfredo Díaz Bustos.

In June 2005 The Bolivian government inquired if the Ombudsman Alfredo Díaz Bustos would be willing to resolve the case with a friendly settlement. That initiative led to this agreement that will resolve the matter presented to the Inter-American Commission.

Three. Agreement.

I. The Bolivian State, represented by the Ministry of Defense, agrees:

  1. to give Alfredo Díaz Bustos his document of completed military service within thirty (30) working days after he submits all the required documentation to the Ministry of Defense;
  2. to present the service document free of charge, without requiring for its delivery payment of the military tax stipulated in the National Defense Service Act, or the payment of any other amount for any reason or considerations of any other nature, whether monetary or not;
  3. at the time of presentation of the service record, to issue a Ministerial Resolution stipulating that in the event of an armed conflict Alfredo Díaz Bustos, as a conscientious objector, shall not be sent to the battlefront nor called as an aide;
  4. in accordance with international human rights law, to include the right to conscientious objection to military service in the preliminary draft of the amended regulations for military law currently under consideration by the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces;
  5. together with the Deputy Ministry of Justice, to encourage congressional approval of military legislation that would include the right to conscientious objection to military service;
  6. upon signature of this document, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will immediately inform the IACHR of the agreement reached so that the Commission can recognize it and process Case 12.475 in accordance with the procedure for friendly settlement established in Articles 48.1.f and 49 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 41 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR.

II. For his part, Alfredo Díaz Bustos agrees:

  1. for internal administrative purposes of the Ministry of Defense, to present a statement sworn before a competent judge in accordance with Article 78 of the National Defense Service Act;
  2. once he has received the record of completed military service and the Ministerial Resolution is issued by the Ministry of Defense in the terms stipulated in Clause Three I of this document, to request through the Ombudsman that the IACHR assign Case 12.475 to the status of friendly settlement as provided in Articles 48.1.f and 49 of the Convention on Human Rights and Article 41 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR;
  3. once the record of completed military service and Ministerial Resolution of the Ministry of Defense are delivered to the interested party, he will renounce all costs and damages arising from the processing of the case and agree not to lodge a new administrative or legal action in a domestic or international jurisdiction concerning the same facts that gave rise to the petition to the IACHR, provided that the Bolivian State fully carries out all its agreements assumed in this document in Clause I a, b, c, and f.

Four. Compliance in good faith and acceptance.

The parties freely accept the agreed points for strict compliance in good faith, in token whereof they hereto affix their signatures in the City of La Paz on the fourth day of July, two thousand five.

Source: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report No 97/05, 27 October 2005 (in Spanish: Informe No 97/05)