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Ecuador’s Human Rights Record Under Review

UN Rights Body Should Press Ecuador to Address Police Abuses, Free Speech

Next year, Ecuador will come before the United Nations Human Rights Council for scrutiny of its human rights record, a process known as the Universal Periodic Review. Ecuador should be asked to explain why it has failed to implement key recommendations accepted during its previous review in 2012, such as reining in its police force, and protecting freedom of speech and association.

Every UN member country is subject to a periodic review by other countries, to evaluate compliance with international human rights standards. Countries take into consideration information provided by UN bodies, civil society, and the evaluated government, and make a series of recommendations to address concerns. A country under review may accept or reject recommendations, and has four years to implement those it accepts.

Protesters carry flags and banners while marching in Quito, Ecuador on August 12, 2015.  © 2015 Reuters

In 2012, Ecuador said its National Police would “respect all human rights.” Yet abuses by Ecuadorian security forces against protesters and bystanders continued and have gone unpunished. 

Ecuador committed to ensuring that its people could “exercise the right to peaceful assembly and protest.” Yet prosecutors have filed disproportionate charges against protesters accused of allegedly committing violent acts – charges such as sabotage, terrorism, and rebellion. 

Ecuador accepted recommendations to protect free speech. Yet in 2013, President Rafael Correa signed a communications law granting his government broad powers to punish independent media outlets, and his administration has repeatedly used it to ensure favorable coverage. 

Ecuador said it would protect freedom of assembly. Yet in 2013, the president adopted a decree granting his government broad powers to intervene in the operation of nongovernmental organizations. The government has deployed the decree to dissolve an environmental group and the country’s largest and oldest teacher’s union.  

These are just some of the concerns raised by Human Rights Watch in a submission filed earlier this month, urging states to consider Ecuador’s poor human rights record and breaches of the promises it made last time. 

The next review is an opportunity for the Human Rights Council to hold the Ecuadorian government accountable for ignoring key commitments it made four years ago. UN member states should press for results and a demonstrable commitment to the basic rights that the Ecuadorian government is undermining.

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