Steven Schulman Quoted in Law360 on Bolivian Torture Case

Steven Schulman, pro bono partner at Akin Gump, was quoted in the Law360 story “11th Circ. Greenlights Torture Claims Against Ex-Bolivian Prez,” regarding a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that family members of civilians killed in attacks in Bolivia can pursue Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) claims against a former Bolivian president and defense minister. The court said ruling otherwise would require rewriting the statute.

The plaintiffs, the article reports, sued Bolivia’s former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and ex-minister of defense, Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzain, in 2007 under the TVPA and the Alien Tort Statute, alleging they authorized the military to treat unarmed civilians as enemy combatants who could be shot and killed on sight. In September and October 2003, authorities killed 58 people and injured more than 400, according to the complaint.

A District Court judge initially dismissed the TVPA claims, saying the plaintiffs had not exhausted all available remedies under Bolivian law, but he also ruled the defendants were not entitled to immunity and that the state law claims for wrongful death were timely.

Schulman, who represents the victims’ families, said this is the first time a federal court has ruled on this specific issue regarding exhaustion of local remedies. “It's a huge win for us to finally be cleared to go ahead with this case after nearly nine years of litigation,” he said.