IJM-trained volunteers in Bolivia helped bring 13 criminal convictions in the first quarter of 2023.
These rulings bring justice for 12 women and children survivors of sexual, physical or intimate partner violence or attempted femicide. Thanks to the combined efforts of these volunteers and local law enforcement, 13 aggressors are being held accountable, under national laws, for their crimes.
These sentences include one of the hardest cases we’ve ever taken,” said Jael Media, an IJM Bolivia Lawyer part of the pro-bono volunteers, referring to Fabricio’s* case.
Fabricio* was 13 years old when he met his aggressors through an online gaming platform and Facebook. Both perpetrators, adult men, used grooming tactics on the young boy: they befriended him online, worked toward gaining his trust, asked him to keep conversations secret, manipulated and deceived him to think this was a real romantic relationship and then they sexually abused him. The trauma Fabricio experienced was so strong that the boy tried to take his own life.
“These men had so much power that as a team, we sometimes feared that they would be acquitted. But on February 8, 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,” said Jael.
In Nov. 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 allowed authorities to arrest the man in less than 24 hours. The legal battle was long, and it took more than two years to reach a sentence, but finally, Feb. 6, 2023, he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years.
“Honestly, I felt more at peace,” Evelin shares as she retells the day her dad came back from court with the anticipated news.
“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.”
On March 2 2023, a 60-year-old man was convicted of sexual assault and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. This man repeatedly abused Ameli*, his partner’s granddaughter, starting when she was only 11 years old. Four years after the assaults began, justice was served.
After Ameli’s case concluded, our team found out she was not the only victim. Blanca*, Ameli’s 5-year-old cousin had also been assaulted for years by this man.
Blanca’s parents had reported the abuse, but for over five years the case had been stuck. In Dec. 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. The aggressor received an additional 15-year sentence for Blanca's assault.
A 2018 study showed that when survivors of violence were accompanied by two sponsors, for example the prosecutors’ office or a private lawyer, the case is more likely to move forward in the system and reach a sentence than when families walk alone. This is why IJM is investing in our pro-bono volunteer programs. Since 2018, IJM Bolivia and its trained volunteers have achieved 57 convictions.
“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 toward protecting the most vulnerable,” emphasized Alejandra Cámara, IJM Bolivia Country Director. “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,”
- Read IJM´s 2018 Performance Study of the Bolivian Public Justice System at IJM.org/Studies