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

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Synopsis

Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín is a federal lawsuit filed against Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the former President of Bolivia, and 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.

Status

On June 24, 2013, family members of those killed in the September and October 2003 massacres filed an amended complaint in the federal District Court in Florida with extensive new factual allegations showing that the Defendants had devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians months in advance of the violence. The plaintiffs now await an answer to the amended complaint from Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín. Depending on the schedule set by the court, they expect a response sometime in the fall of 2013.

Description

Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzain is a federal lawsuit filed against the former President of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and the former Minister of Defense, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, for their roles in the killing of civilians during popular protests against the Bolivian government in September and October 2003.

The suit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and Florida and Bolivian 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.  Even before Sánchez de Lozada took power, the two men had devised a plan to kill thousands of civilians to stop anticipated protest over controversial new economic policies. In September and October 2003, Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín ordered Bolivian security forces to use deadly force against unarmed civilians to suppress popular protests against government policies. In all, during those two months forces under their leadership killed 67 men, women, and children and injured more than 400, almost all from indigenous Aymara communities.

Each of the nine Plaintiffs is the survivor of one of the inpiduals 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.

The legal team includes CCR cooperating attorneys Judith Chomsky and Beth Stephens; David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, LLP; Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman; Steven Schulman, Michael Small, and Jeremy Bollinger from the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP; Tyler Giannini and Susan Farbstein from the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School; and Ira Kurzban and Geoffrey Hoffman from Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger & Tetzoli.

Timeline

On September 26, 2007, the two cases were filed, one in U.S. federal court in the District of Maryland against Sánchez de Lozada and the other in the Southern District of Florida against Sánchez Berzaín.

In May 2008, CCR's case against Sanchez de Lozada in the Maryland District Court was consolidated with the Sanchez Berzain case in the Southern District of Florida for pre-trial purposes. Subsequently, Plaintiffs amended their complaint in the Southern District of Florida to include charges against Sanchez de Lozada.
 
In June 2008, the Government of Bolivia waived any immunity that either of the Defendants might claim, and in October 2008, the U.S. government accepted that waiver.
 
On October 24, 2008, CCR argued in opposition of the Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss in the Southern District of Florida. On December 19, 2008, Defendants filed a Supplemental Memorandum in Support of the Joint Motion to Dismiss.
 
On November 9, 2009, the judge granted in part and denied in part the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. This decision ruled in Plaintiffs’ favor, allowing claims for crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killings, and wrongful death to move forward against the Defendants. The judgment reaffirmed that the U.S. courts can hear actions brought against those who commit human rights abuses and that foreign heads of state cannot act with impunity.
 
On December 9, 2009, the Defendants filed a Notice of Interlocutory Appeal, a Motion to Stay Pending Appeal, and a Motion for Certificate of Appealability with Judge Jordan.
 
In January 2010, Plaintiffs filed responses in opposition to Defendants’ motions, as well as filed a Motion to Certify Defendants’ Appeal as Frivolous, and in February 2010, Defendants filed responses in support of both of their motions.
 
On March 16, 2010, Judge Jordan granted the Defendants' motion to stay the case pending appeal.
 
Defendants filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on July 15, 2010.
 
On October 1, 2010, Defendants/Appellants filed their opening appellate brief. In their brief, they argued that the district court erred by denying a relevant part of the Defendants’ motion to dismiss.
 
On December 16, 2010, Plaintiffs/Appellees filed their brief, arguing that because the Bolivian government waived Defendants/Appellants’ immunity, there is no basis for their claim to immunity from the lawsuit. Additionally, Plaintiffs/Appellees asserted that they had claims for extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity actionable under the ATS, and those claims do not present a nonjusticiable political question and the resolution of ATS claims will not require the court to review any actions of decisions of other branches of government.
 
Defendants/Appellants filed their reply on February 3, 2011.
 
Oral argument took place on May 17, 2011 and on August 29, 2011, the 11th Circuit ruled in favor of the Defendants-Appellants, and Plaintiffs-Appellees subsequently filed a petition for rehearing and were denied.
 
On March 16, 2012, Plaintiffs and Defendants filed a Consent Motion to stay the case pending judgment by the Supreme Court in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., which was granted on April 3, 2012.
 
Plaintiffs and Defendants filed a Consent Motion to reopen the case on June 6, 2013, pursuant to the Court’s April 3, 2012 Order. The Consent Motion was granted on June 7, 2013. 
 
On June 24, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint 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.