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LA PAZ, BOLIVIA – IJM-trained volunteers celebrated 13 convictions in the first quarter of 2023. These rulings brought justice to 12 women and children survivors of sexual, physical or intimate partner violence, or attempted femicide. They also hold 13 aggressors accountable, under national laws, for their crimes.
One of the survivors, Fabricio*, was 13 years old when he met his perpetrators through an online gaming platform and Facebook. Both perpetrators used the same tactics: befriended him online, worked towards gaining his trust, asked him to keep conversations secret, manipulated and deceived him to think this was a real romantic relationship until they sexually abused him. The trauma Fabricio had from this experience was so strong that he tried to take his own life.
Jael Media, an IJM Bolivia Lawyer who was part of the volunteers, said:
“These men had so much power, that as a team, we sometimes feared that they would be acquitted. But on 8 February, both aggressors were found guilty of the crime of rape against a minor and sentenced to 30 years – the maximum sentence by law – without the right to appeal. These sentences include one of the hardest cases we’ve ever taken.”
In November 2020, a man pretending to be a police officer deceived, kidnapped and sexually assaulted Evelin*. As Evelin ran away from the man who had just raped her, she stopped to quickly jot down critical information that helped the suspect be arrested in less than 24 hours. The legal battle was long, and it took more than two years to reach a sentence. Finally, on 6 February 2023, he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. As Evelin retells the day her dad came back from court with the anticipated news, she said:
“Honestly, I felt more at peace. Before, I was worried he was going to run away from his house arrest. I was worried I would see him, or that he would find me. I felt relief.”
Ameli* & Blanca*
On 2 March 2023, a 60-year-old man was convicted on the account of sexual assault and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. This man repeatedly abused 11 year old Ameli*, his partner’s granddaughter. Four years after the assaults began, justice was served.
After Ameli’s case reached a sentence, our team found out that she was not the only victim. Blanca*, Ameli’s five year old cousin, had also been assaulted for years by this man. Blanca’s parents previously reported the abuse, but the case was stuck for over five years. In December 2022, they came to IJM-trained volunteers looking for support, knowing that if they didn’t walk alone, there was a higher chance of achieving justice for their daughter.
A 2018 study showed that when survivors of violence were accompanied by two sponsors (e.g. the prosecutors’ office or a private lawyer), the case was more likely to move forward in the system and reach a sentence. This is why IJM is investing in volunteer programs like AVES and PROBOS. After being mentored by our team and trained in IJM’s casework model, the volunteers represent women and children survivors of violence in court and provide them with legal and psychosocial support. Since 2018, IJM Bolivia and its trained volunteers have achieved 57 convictions.
Alejandra Cámara, IJM Bolivia Country Director shared:
“These 13 convictions are not just important for the survivors who received justice and their families, as they play a key role in their restoration journey. They are tangible signs that Bolivian courts are taking steps towards protecting the most vulnerable. They are ruling with justice and safeguarding children’s rights. Above all, they are sending a strong message that this type of violence will no longer be tolerated in Bolivia.”
*pseudonyms used to protect the identity of survivors.
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