Deciding body (English)
Deciding body (Original)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
- Constitutional Court
- The term “plurinational” is an inclusive term that refers to the multiple ethnicities that conform the State of Bolivia. It does not imply that Bolivia is a Federal State but a “plural State”.
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Outcome of the decision
Mr. O, who is on pretrial detention under the charge of sexual assault, filed a petition requesting a judicial hearing for the assessment of the suspension of his pretrial detention according to Circular 11/2020. Circular 11/2020 regulates the prison decongestion in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with the purpose of guaranteeing the inmates’ right to health. Mr. O argued that his rights to health and life were being put at risk due to the high incidence of COVID-19 inside prison. Because his petition was not solved in 24 hours (the time limit foreseen by law), Mr. O. filed a ‘liberty action’. The 1st instance judge upheld the action. The case went before the Constitutional Court, who revoked the first decision and, therefore, declared that the liberty action had no grounds to proceed.
Facts of the case
- On May 25, 2020, Mr. O filed a petition requesting the Juez Técnico de Sentencia Penal Décimo de Santa Cruz - Criminal Technical Judge N.10 of Santa Cruz- to assess in a hearing the possibility of his pretrial detention’s suspension according to Circular 11/2020.
- Circular 11/2020 foresees the possibility of pretrial detention’s suspension to pregnant women, single parents and, in general, inmates belonging to a vulnerable group-. Its purpose is to alleviate prison overcrowding during the COVID-19 pandemic and, therefore, guarantee the inmates’ rights.
- On May 27th, Mr. O’s request had not been addressed. He filed a liberty action for his rights to petition, due process, health, access to justice and to a speedy trial to be protected.
- On May 28th, the Technical Judge rejected the Petitioner’s request finding that Mr. O had not proved to belong to a vulnerable group to be eligible for the benefit.
- That same day the Juez de Garantías -Guarantee Judge- before whom Mr. O’s case went, decided to uphold Mr. O’s petition, ordering the Technical Judge to set a day for the hearing and reasoning that eligibility for the benefit should be decided within the hearing, not before it, so no extra documentation needed to be provided.
- The case got to be reviewed by the Plurinational Constitutional Court, who found that the Petitioner was not denied access to justice, nor his health was put at a higher risk. Therefore, the Court rejected the Petitioner’s request and revoked the first instance decision.
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
The Court found that Petitioner’s rights were not violated and, therefore, the liberty action did not proceed. In the first place, Mr. O’s right to petition was not violated, because his petition only went before the Technical Judge on May 28th, so the term foreseen by law for its resolution (24 hours) had started to count that day. Therefore, the first decision was taken timely.
In the second place, the petitioner did not provide the needed information on why his health was at a higher risk inside prison due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor did he provide any information meant to prove that he to belongs to one of the vulnerability groups mentioned by the Circular 11/2020. The Court reasoned that it is not enough to file requests, it is also necessary to justify why that request would proceed. For the above reasons, the Court decided to reject the Petitioner’s claim and, therefore, revoke the first instance decision.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Plurinational Constitutional Court rejected the Petitioner’s claim and revoked the 1st instance decision.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Prisoners’ rights
- Right to bodily integrity
- Right to life in connection to health; Right to due process; Right to petition
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
- Right to life, bodily and psychological integrity, Art. 15, Constitución Política del Estado (CPE). Nat. Cons. State
- Right to issue requests before the authorities. Art. 24. Art. National Constitution of the State
- Right to due process, Art. Art. 115. National Constitution of the State
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
General principle applied
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
Although this principle is not explicitly referred as such, the Court uses it to explain why the first instance judge is right: the Circular 11/2020 rules that the pretrial detention suspension request must be accompanied with the necessary documentation for the judge to consider if the detainee is eligible for the benefit. Because the request did not come with this documentation, the request could not proceed. The judge did not deny a right but subjected to the rule of law.