Ecuador - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in REPUBLIC OF ECUADOR

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Head of state and government: Alfredo Palacio
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Social unrest continued. There were reports that the security forces used excessive force against demonstrators. Infant and maternal mortality rates remained high and domestic violence continued to be a concern. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment and prison conditions remained harsh. Nearly 100 killings were reported on the Colombian border.

Background

Rafael Correa was elected President in November on a platform of constitutional, economic and social reform. He was due to take office in January 2007.

Former President Lucio Gutiérrez was acquitted of charges including corruption and undermining the security of the state and released.

Three magistrates of the new Supreme Court, appointed during the interim government of Alfredo Palacio, were dismissed in November following allegations of corruption.

Protests

Social unrest and protests against economic policies and the impact of extractive companies on the livelihood of communities continued throughout the year. Scores of demonstrators were reportedly injured and there were allegations of excessive use of force by the police and military.

During 2006 several provinces were placed under a state of emergency for periods of at least 60 days in response to the unrest. Under emergency legislation, freedoms of expression, movement and association were suspended and the security forces were empowered to search homes without judicial warrants.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders, community leaders and environmentalists who criticized government policies and the impact of extractive companies continued to be threatened and intimidated. Some faced unsubstantiated charges against them.

The legal team representing Indigenous communities suing a multinational oil company for failing to clean up the pollution caused by drilling in Sucumbíos province from 1964 to 1992, was repeatedly threatened. No investigation was opened and no victim received protection, despite precautionary measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Right to health

Infant and maternal mortality remained high. Poor women and children continued to be denied access to maternity and infant health services free of charge, as guaranteed under 1994 legislation. The government reportedly failed to ensure that clear and accessible information reached poor women.

Women's human rights

Domestic violence remained a concern. The number of complaints filed in the 30 women and family police stations reportedly increased in 2006. According to the Women's Defence Office, this was partly due to the promotion of the 1995 Law Against Violence Against Women And The Family, and improved training for law enforcement officials in responding to violence against women.

Torture and ill-treatment

In February the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expressed concern that ill-treatment and torture to extract confessions or punish suspects were common in police stations.

Police and military officers charged with human rights violations continued to be tried by police or military courts which were neither independent nor impartial. In the vast majority of cases, those responsible for violations were not held to account.

At the end of the year, 20 police officers sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 16 years for the enforced disappearance of Elías López Pita in 2000 remained at liberty.

Prison conditions

From April to June emergency legislation was imposed in the overcrowded prison system following security problems inside prisons and a strike by prison personnel demanding improved funding. The government announced an investment of US$8million in infrastructure to improve prison conditions.

In September the Constitutional Court confirmed its 2003 ruling that an article of the Code of Penal Procedure which denied suspects detained while awaiting sentencing the right to be conditionally released was unconstitutional. Reportedly between 5,000 and 7,000 inmates out of a total prison population of 14,000 were waiting to be sentenced.

Rights of ethnic minorities

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous people expressed concern at the limited access of Indigenous peoples to health and education, and the negative impact of extractive activities on their environment and living conditions. The Special Rapporteur raised concerns at the failure to fulfil constitutional guarantees to Indigenous peoples to be consulted on extractive projects in their territories. There were allegations of human rights violations involving armed forces personnel employed to guarantee the security of extractive companies.

Killings on the Colombia border

Reports of incursions by Colombian military and armed groups in Ecuadorian territory continued. Since the implementation in 2000 of the US-backed military aid package known as Plan Colombia, human rights organizations have documented over 700 killings, nearly 100 of them in 2006, in Sucumbíos province. In many cases the victims including civilian men, women and children were alleged to be criminal suspects; some showed signs of torture. According to witnesses, police and military officers were implicated in some of the killings. The vast majority of cases were not reported by the relatives of the victims or investigated by the authorities for fear of reprisals. There were reports of threats against witnesses, prosecutors, police officers, governors and other local officials.

AI country reports/visits

Visit

An AI delegation visited Ecuador in October.