New York, NY (February 28, 2013): Crowley Fellow Aya Fujimura-Fanselow and four Fordham students – third year law students Zohra Ahmed, Stephanie DiFazio, Zachary Hudson and Jeffrey Severson – members of the 2012 Crowley Program in International Human Rights, recently traveled to Bolivia to conduct human rights advocacy and meet with lawyers, members of NGOs and detainees. This was their second visit to Bolivia after their May 2012 trip when the Crowley Scholars conducted over one hundred interviews over two weeks in cities and towns across Bolivia to gather information about the human rights issues associated with pretrial detention laws and practices there. The group learned that while Bolivian law limits the use of pretrial detention, a range of factors, including misapplication of the law, concerns about citizen security, lack of human and other resources, as well as corruption, lead to the excessive and arbitrary use of pretrial detention. The resulting severe violations impact detainees, their families and society at large.
On their January trip, the team engaged in a wide-ranging array of activities. At the invitation of the Bolivian Bar Association, they presented findings from their upcoming report in Sucre, the judicial capital of Bolivia. Following the presentation, Crowley Fellow Aya Fujimura-Fanselow conducted a nationally broadcast radio interview on the issue of pretrial detention. In La Paz, the group participated in a roundtable discussion, organized by Fundación Construir, one of the Crowley project’s partner organizations, with a group of NGOs. At the roundtable, in addition to presenting report findings, the Crowley team gathered feedback on the three advocacy materials that they had created over the course of the last several months: a “know your rights” guide for detainees, a chart outlining the criminal procedural process, and a script for a radio program which uses direct quotations from detainees that were interviewed in May to provide listeners, including policymakers, with an understanding of their lives in pretrial detention.
Finally, the group visited Qalauma, a juvenile detention facility that has been in operation for about eighteen months and is based on a rehabilitative model. This visit took place at a particularly timely moment, as there had been a mutiny the evening prior when some of the juveniles were transferred to San Pedro prison in La Paz, which the inmates resisted. Finally, the group met an artist, Luciano Calderon, who expressed a strong interest in the project and is now planning to create an art piece in collaboration with the juvenile detainees at Qalauma.
The Crowley Program’s report on pretrial detention, which will include a section with recommendations, will be published in Spring 2013 and will be translated into Spanish. It will be disseminated to a wide range of stakeholders.