Human Rights in the Americas. Review of 2019 - Ecuador [AMR 01/1353/2020]


Despite formal promises, President Moreno had yet to put in place policies to regulate extractive industries that protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Concerns remained regarding the lack of appropriate protection mechanisms to safeguard the lives and physical safety of human rights defenders and to ensure effective investigations into threats and attacks against them, particularly those working to defend Indigenous People’s rights, the territory and the environment.

Repression of dissent

On 3 October, protests erupted in multiple cities in response to austerity measures announced by President Moreno. Hours later, the President declared a state of emergency throughout the country, authorizing the use of the armed forces and the National Police for public security operations. The President revoked these austerity measures on 14 October after days of violent repression of social discontent and evidence of excessive use of force by the security forces against protesters. According to the Ombudsman’s Office, during the 10 days the measures were in place, 1,192 people were detained, eight people were killed and 1,340 were injured.[1] More than 70% of the detainees were released immediately and charges were pressed against the remaining.

On 31 December the Organic Law on Tax Simplification and Progressivity was published in the Official Gazette. The law sets out the government’s tax plans in the context of broader economic changes that will be analysed in 2020.

A delegation of the IACHR visited the country between 28 and 30 October to observe the human rights situation after the protests. Also, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a mission to Ecuador from 21 October to 8 November after which the High Commissioner called for independent, impartial and transparent investigations into allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed in Ecuador during the protests.

Human rights defenders

On 11 April, digital rights defender, Ola Bini, was detained by police after the Minister of the Interior, María Paula Romo, accused him of “cooperating with attempts to destabilize the government”. He was released after 70 days in pre-trial detention following a court order that acknowledged his detention was arbitrary and violated international law. Ola Bini was later charged with the crime of “unauthorized access to an information system” and was awaiting trial at the end of the year.[2]

The authorities had yet to design and implement a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, including a protocol for the investigation of crimes committed against them. By the end of the year, no one had been brought to justice in connection with threats and attacks against Amazonian Women Collective Members Patricia Gualinga, Nema Grefa, Salomé Aranda and Margoth Escobar.[3]

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In July the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples issued a report on her visit to the country and recommended that Ecuador ensure no new concessions were granted to extractive industries without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples affected. She also recommended that any concessions already granted that were not in line with the Constitution and with international standards be reviewed and, if necessary, cancelled.

In October the Sarayaku People filed an action in local courts to demand the full implementation of a 2008 ruling by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights that they must be consulted.

Migrants and refugees

Concerns remained about the hardening of requirements for Venezuelan refugees seeking international protection in Ecuador. In January, the President publicly blamed Venezuelan immigrants for cases of gender-based violence and femicides. After the statement, the city of Ibarra registered several xenophobic attacks against Venezuelan nationals.

Violence against women and girls

In September a proposed bill to modify the Criminal Code to decriminalize abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities and rape was rejected by the National Assembly, thereby continuing to put the lives of pregnant women and girls at risk.

[1] Ecuador: OAS member states must demand that Ecuador investigate violent repression during the state of emergency (News story 15 October)

[2] Ecuador: Human rights violations in criminal proceedings against Ola Bini (AMR 28/0871/2019)

[3] Ecuador: “They will not stop us": Justice and protection for Amazonian women defenders of the land, territory and environment (AMR 28/0039/2019)