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Bolivian bishops denounce lynchings

Catholic World News - September 24, 2010

The bishops of Bolivia have issued a statement denouncing the widespread phenomenon of lynchings in the South American nation. European media have reported that eight lynchings take place in Bolivia every week.

Last week, three men suspected of murder were tortured and buried alive by residents of a village near the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba.

“For some time these crimes have been occurring, but in recent years they have increased in number and the characteristics of the violence have become more brutal and inhumane, being justified with untenable arguments,” the bishops said. “What is even more worrisome is the fact that the authorities responsible for law enforcement and defense of the rights of citizens, cannot adequately prevent or punish the perpetrators of such acts.”

Many analysts have attributed the rise in lynchings to President Evo Morales’s recognition of “community justice”-- a revival of the justice system which predates European colonization-- in indigenous communities. Others, however, have stated that such lynchings are a perversion of community justice.

“It is important to note that these cases are also due to a misunderstanding of so-called ‘community justice,’ perhaps fueled by ambiguity in the existing legislation, which does not regulate the scope of applications and responsibilities and which offers protection to many of the perpetrators of these crimes,” the bishops said.

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