GENEVA (23 October 2019) – UN human rights experts* expressed dismay at the violent response of Ecuadorian security forces to protests this month against the Government’s austerity measures.
At least eight people were reported dead, 1,340 injured and 1,192 detained, including minors, pregnant women, the elderly, people with disabilities and journalists, during protests following the enactment of a decree eliminating fuel subsidies and a decree instituting a state of emergency.
“We remain concerned that the state of emergency was implemented in anticipation of the protests, and call into question whether the Government had reason to classify the situation as a public emergency which, in the words of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ‘threatens the life of the nation’ the experts said. “In addition, certain restrictions imposed during the state of emergency, such as the curfew, seemed to exacerbate tensions and violence, which calls into question their necessity”.
“The high number of those injured could be a clear indication that the use of force was excessive and in violation of the requirements of necessity and proportionality,” the experts said. They called on the Government to investigate all uses of force that occurred during the protest as well as all deaths which might amount to unlawful deprivation of life.
The experts said they had also received information indicating that there were incidents of censorship and disruption of Internet services and social networks during the protests. “Access to information and communication services during protests is crucial for the enjoyment of several rights, particularly the freedom of expression and the opportunity for protesters to have their demands and grievances heard”, the experts said.
“We are dismayed by the response of the security forces as violence should never be used to quash people’s social and political demands. In particular, we are concerned about the militarisation of indigenous territories as this might violate the right to self-determination and in turn generate more human rights abuses.”
The experts welcomed the agreement between the Government and indigenous organisations. Furthermore, the experts commend the Government’s decision to host a mission by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is looking into the allegations of human rights violations from 20 October to 8 November.
They call on all parties to collaborate with the OHCHR mission and to engage in prompt, effective, transparent, independent, and impartial investigations into all human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the protests.
They also stressed the importance of establishing a permanent channel of dialogue with those potentially affected by austerity measures, recalling the Government’s obligation to implement the right of indigenous peoples to consultation and free, prior and informed consent.
(*) The experts: Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye (USA),Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;Mr. Clement NyaletsossiVoule (Togo),Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; MsVictoria Tauli-Corpuz (The Philippines),Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples;Ms. Agnes Callamard (France),Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Ireland),Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorismandMr. José Antonio GuevaraBermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.