Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada / Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez Berzaín

At a Glance

Current Status 

The case was stayed on August 19, 2014 pending defendants' interlocutory appeal of the district court's May 2014 decision to allow our claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act to move forward.  CCR and co-counsel filed our brief to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on March 6, 2015, and oral argument was held on June 11, 2015.

Date Filed: 

September 19, 2007

Co-Counsel 

David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP
Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman LLP
Steven Schulman, Jeremy Bollinger, Jonathan Slowik, and Mariya Hutson of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Susan Farbstein, Thomas Becker, and Tyler Giannini of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School
Ira Kurzban and Geoffrey Hoffman of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger & Tetzoli

Client 

Eloy Rojas Mamani
Etelvina Ramos Mamani
Sonia Espejo Villalobos
Hernan Apaza Cutipa
Juan Patricio Quispe Mamani
Teofilo Baltazar Cerro
Juana Valencia De Carvajal
Hermogenes Bernabe Callizaya
Gonzalo Mamani Aguilar
Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe

Case Description 

Mamani et al v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín is a federal lawsuit brought against the former president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and the former Minister of Defense, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for their respective roles in planning and ordering security forces in Bolivia to use deadly military force against unarmed civilians to suppress popular protests against government policies. In all, security forces under their leadership slaughtered 58 citizens and injured more than 400, almost all from indigenous Aymara communities. The suit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and Florida law, charges Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín with extrajudicial killings, crimes against humanity, and wrongful death for their roles in the massacre of unarmed civilians, including children. 

Each of the nine plaintiffs is the survivor of one of the individuals killed by forces under Sánchez de Lozada's and Sánchez Berzaín's command. Among the nine plaintiffs are Eloy Rojas Mamani and Etelvina Ramos Mamani, whose 8-year-old daughter was killed in her mother's bedroom when a single shot was fired through the window; Teofilo Baltazar Cerro, whose pregnant wife was killed after a bullet was fired through the wall of a house, killing her and her unborn child; Felicidad Rosa Huanca Quispe, whose 69-year-old father was shot and killed along a roadside; and Gonzalo Mamani Aguilar, whose father was shot and killed.

 

Case Timeline

May 14, 2015
Former president Sánchez de Lozada is deposed
May 14, 2015
Former president Sánchez de Lozada is deposed

In a deposition, former president Sánchez de Lozada answers questions about his actions for the first time.

August 2014 - June 2015

Case stayed pending second interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit

August 2014 - June 2015

Case stayed pending second interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit

Judge Cohn grants the defendants' motion for certification for interlocutory appeal and stays the case on August 19, 2014. The Eleventh Circuit grants the defendants' petition for a second interlocutory appeal. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín file their brief to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on January 14, 2015. CCR and co-counsel file our brief on behalf of our clients on March 6, 2015.  Military law scholars and international human rights law professors file amicus briefs on March 13, 2015. Oral argument is held on June 11, 2015.

September 2013 - May 2014
Plaintiffs' TVPA claims survive second motion to dismiss
September 2013 - May 2014
Plaintiffs' TVPA claims survive second motion to dismiss

Defendants file a motion to dismiss the complaint on September 19, 2013. We file our opposition to the motion to dismiss on December 18, 2013 and defendants file their reply in support of the motion to dismiss on January 27, 2014. On May 20, 2014, Judge James Cohn dismisses our claims under the Alien Tort Statute but holds that our claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) can proceed because they sufficiently allege facts that “plausibly suggest that these killings were deliberate” and that defendants are responsible for the killings. Judge Cohn also rules that humanitarian assistance to the plaintiffs from the Bolivian government does not bar the TVPA claims.

June 2013

Case reopens and CCR and co-counsel file amended complaint with new allegations

June 2013

Case reopens and CCR and co-counsel file amended complaint with new allegations

Following the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel, both sides file a consent motion to reopen the case on June 6, 2013. As the tenth anniversary of government-planned massacres in Bolivia approaches, we file an amended complaint on behalf of our clients with extensive new factual allegations linking the defendants to the killings, including evidence that the defendants had devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians months in advance of the violence.

The new complaint alleges that the defendants calculated it would take thousands of civilian deaths to stop anticipated protests over a controversial economic policy. They refused to consider dialogue, traditional police practices, or other less violent alternatives to massive lethal force against the protestors. The defendants specifically relied on military forces, including special forces, to target innocent civilians as part of their campaign of repression. New details also show how the defendants were intimately involved in carrying out the planned violence, including participating in the operations against the civilian population. Notwithstanding these facts, Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín have enjoyed safe harbor in the United States for nearly a decade.

2011

Eleventh Circuit reverses decision on motion to dismiss and remands case back to district court 

2011

Eleventh Circuit reverses decision on motion to dismiss and remands case back to district court 

On July 15, 2010, Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín file an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that they are entitled to immunity, that the case presents a non-justiciable political question, and that the claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity are not actionable under the ATS. 

Oral argument regarding the appeal takes place on May 17, 2011, and on August 29, 2011, the appellate court rejects the immunity and political question arguments, but dismisses the complaint for failure to state a claim under the ATS. CCR and co-counsel file a petition for rehearing on behlaf of our clients, which is denied. On remand to the district court, both sides file a consent motion to stay the case pending judgment by the Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., which is granted.

2010

Case is stayed pending interlocutory appeal

2010

Case is stayed pending interlocutory appeal

Following the district court's ruling that the our claims were viable and could proceed, defendants file a notice of interlocutory appeal and a motion to stay pending appeal. On March 16, 2010, Judge Jordan grants the defendants' motion to stay the case pending appeal. The Eleventh Circuit then grants the defendants' petition for an interlocutory appeal.

2008 - 2009

CCR and co-counsel prevail on defendants' motion to dismiss

2008 - 2009

CCR and co-counsel prevail on defendants' motion to dismiss

After briefing and oral argument on the defendants' motion to dismiss the case, in November 2009, the district court rules in the our favor, allowing claims for crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killings, and wrongful death to move forward against the defendants. The decision reaffirms that U.S. courts can hear actions brought against those who commit human rights abuses and that foreign heads of state cannot act with impunity.

June 2008

Bolivian government waives immunity for defendants

June 2008

Bolivian government waives immunity for defendants

In June 2008, the government of Bolivia waives any immunity that either of the defendants might claim, and in October 2008, the U.S. government accepts that waiver.
September 2007

Surviving family members of massacre victims file complaints against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín

September 2007

Surviving family members of massacre victims file complaints against Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín

In 2007, two complaints are filed in federal court, one in the District of Maryland against Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the former President of Bolivia, and the other in the Southern District of Florida against Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, the former Minister of Defense, charging both men for their roles in planning and ordering extrajudicial killings of civilians between September and October of 2003 in an effort to repress protests over their controversial economic policies. In 2008, the case against Sánchez de Lozada is consolidated with the Sánchez Berzaín case in the Southern District of Florida for pre-trial purposes, and plaintiffs file an amended complaint to include the charges against both officials.