Scores of demonstrators were arbitrarily detained and ill-treated during mass protests against new legislation on the use of natural resources. Intimidation and threats against human rights defenders, including Indigenous and community leaders, were reported.
On 26 April, President Rafael Correa was re-elected for a further four-year term. He pledged to reduce inequality and poverty and improve conditions for Indigenous Peoples.
Mass demonstrations and blockades took place throughout the year in opposition to new legislation on the use of natural resources, in particular water, and a mining law passed in January which imposed new restrictions on the constitutional right of Indigenous Peoples to be consulted over matters affecting their rights.
In October, Ecuador ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders, particularly Indigenous and community leaders, were intimidated and harassed. Community leaders and human rights defenders were among the scores of protesters arbitrarily detained and ill-treated in the context of mass demonstrations against the new mining law.
- In January, human rights defender Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego was shot and seriously injured while being forced into a police car. He was detained without a warrant, accused of sabotaging public services during mass demonstrations against the mining law. He was held incommunicado for 18 days during which time he was beaten and threatened with death. He was later released and all charges were dropped.
- In January, three human rights defenders, Etelvina de Jesús Misacango Chuñir, Virginia Chuñir, and Yolanda Gutama, were detained and beaten by police officers in Molleturo, Azuay province. They were accused of blockading roads during protests against the mining law earlier that month. The three women were conditionally released the following day. On 22 April, Etelvina de Jesús Misacango Chuñir was attacked by four men outside her home in the town of Molleturo. The attack was believed to have been carried out in reprisal for her opposition to mining in the area.
- An NGO, Acción Ecológica, which had worked on environmental issues for over 20 years, had its legal status withdrawn between March and August. The move appeared to be an attempt to silence public criticism of the mining law.
In April, a Canadian law firm filed a claim against a Canadian mining company and the Toronto Stock Exchange on behalf of three people from the Intag area in Canton Cotacachi, Imbabura province. The woman and two men alleged that they had been assaulted in 2006 by private security guards acting for the company. One of the men also said that he had been subjected to threats and intimidation in several incidents in 2005, 2006 and 2007 by people allegedly linked to the company. They alleged that they were targeted because of their campaign against the opening of a copper mine in the area. The Toronto Stock Exchange was alleged to have facilitated the funding of the company despite being made aware of the potential harm to individuals. The case was pending before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice at the end of the year.
The ruling by the Provincial Court of Lago Agrio in a case brought by local communities in 1993 was deferred until 2010. The communities alleged that the oil company Chevron (formerly Texaco) was responsible for environmental damage during more than two decades of oil extraction.
The mandate of the Truth Commission, set up in May 2007 to investigate human rights violations committed since 1984, was extended. By the end of 2009, the Commission had heard 700 testimonies relating to cases of torture, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution and death in custody.
Cases of torture and extrajudicial executions remained unresolved. Victims and relatives seeking justice and redress were threatened and intimidated.
- Police officer Leidy Johanna Vélez Moreira and her family continued to be subjected to a campaign of intimidation by the police which began after she lodged a complaint about a police raid on her home in October 2007. The most recent incidents took place on 23 and 24 January 2009 when she and her partner were followed by police officers. The Vélez family has filed several complaints against the police, including one for the torture and killing of Leidy Johanna Vélez Moreira’s brothers, Yandry Javier Vélez Moreira and Juan Miguel Vélez Cedeño, in Montecristi, Manabí province, in December 2008.