MIAMI: A judge in the state of Florida has given a green light for a human rights abuses trial to move forward in the United States against Bolivian ex-president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.
Fort Lauderdale judge James Cohn, in a ruling dated Tuesday, said that plaintiffs may continue to seek compensation from the former president and his then-defense minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain, under a US law that protects torture victims.
The plaintiffs are eight Bolivians who live in Florida; they are seeking redress for the killing of their relatives in a military repression of civilians that left more than 60 people dead in their South American homeland in 2003.
The former president and his former defense minister fled the country and also are living in the United States.
Lawyers for the two argued that US courts had no jurisdiction since the events took place in Bolivia.
But Cohn said that "it does not appear that Bolivia will have the opportunity to specifically redress (the) defendants' alleged human rights violations within its own judicial system any time soon, if at all."
"It would be absurd to conclude that defendants could avoid liability for their alleged wrongs merely because the Bolivian government saw fit to render some humanitarian assistance to plaintiffs," Cohn added.
The US judge also addressed the role played by the accused in unfolding events.
"Not only did (the) defendants direct the violent military campaign that led to (the) plaintiffs' relatives' deaths, but they also repeatedly ignored pleas to find peaceful solutions to the protests in the face of a mounting civilian death toll," he wrote.
The Bolivian government has sought unsuccessfully to have Sanchez de Lozada extradited for trial at home. (AFP)