Last Updated: Wednesday, 09 July 2014, 13:04 GMT

Dialogue crucial to boosting understanding of indigenous justice in Ecuador - UN expert

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 8 June 2010
Cite as UN News Service, Dialogue crucial to boosting understanding of indigenous justice in Ecuador - UN expert, 8 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c11f389a.html [accessed 10 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A United Nations independent human rights expert today called for dialogue in Ecuador in the wake of the controversy surrounding the punishment doled out to an accused man by a local indigenous group.

A man from the Cocha community accused of murder was subject to punishments ranging from carrying a heavy sack of dirt to a public whipping before being sentenced to death, according to media reports.

Ecuador does not allow for the death penalty, and the indigenous community has subsequently ordered the accused man to serve five years of community service instead.

James Anaya, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, stressed in a statement that it is "counterproductive for the construction of an intercultural and multinational State" such as Ecuador to characterize all forms of indigenous justice as "wild and as human rights violations."

He voiced deep concern over the polarizing atmosphere resulting from comments made by Government officials.

The statements "go beyond the reasonable and measured critique of a concrete case of indigenous justice implementation," Mr. Anaya said, adding that they risk encouraging racist and discriminatory views against all of Ecuador's indigenous peoples.

The country's 2008 constitution and various international pacts it has signed enshrine the rights of the indigenous, particularly their right to enjoy their own laws.

The constitution also recognizes the equality between indigenous and ordinary jurisdiction, recognizing the "undeniable reality of the existence and effective operation for hundreds of years of several indigenous systems" in the nation, the expert said.

He called on Ecuadorian society and authorities to appreciate the effective and peaceful application of ancestral justice systems in most cases, stressing the need to not confuse vigilante and riotous violence with genuine forms of indigenous justice.

"The key lies in dialogue based on the principles of tolerance and respect for human rights," Mr. Anaya said, calling for Ecuadorian authorities to step up efforts to bolster the capacity of both ordinary and indigenous justice to fight impunity and respect human rights.

Mr. Anaya serves as Special Rapporteur in an independent and unpaid capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva.

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