June 8, 2010
Bolivia’s national congress today passed legislation that officially codifies the application of “original” or “communal” justice in indigenous communities. The measure was approved in an early morning session of the Cámara de Diputados with strong support from President Morales’s Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party. According to some reports, however, the law was approved with little debate and in the absence of legislators from Bolivia’s opposition parties.
Passage of the law comes only two weeks after four police officers were attacked by individuals claiming to uphold the principles of “indigenous justice.” Critics of the law, including Elizabeth Reyes of the Unidad Nacional party, argue that similar attacks are likely to occur in the future because the law does not sufficiently address when and where the application of “indigenous justice” would be permissible. Supporters contend the bill includes adequate provisions outlining when community justice could be applied.
The law will now move to the Senate for approval where it is expected to pass and MAS officials have stated their belief that the measure will be approved by President Morales by the end of this week.