Scores of cases of torture and ill-treatment by members of the security forces were reported. One person allegedly died under torture. Members of the security forces were sentenced for their part in two past cases of human rights violations. The authorities failed to resolve numerous outstanding human rights cases. In late January an armed conflict broke out between Ecuador and Peru over a long-standing border dispute (see Peru entry). As a result President Sixto Durán Ballén declared a national emergency and scores of Peruvian civilians in Ecuador were detained by the security forces. By July the last of these prisoners had been released. The State Prosecutor General informed Amnesty International that the Judicial Police remained under the overall control of the executive, and not the judiciary as initially conceived in 1992 (see Amnesty International Reports 1992 to 1995). He claimed the government had thereby lost an opportunity to tackle persistent human rights abuses by the police. Proposals for a sweeping reform of the Constitution were debated by the National Congress. The draft Constitution made provisions for the protection of human rights, including the creation of an Ombudsman. However, in November the reforms were rejected in a plebiscite. In separate incidents during November, three students were killed in Quito, the capital, by the police in circumstances which suggested the use of excessive force. Two of the victims died in the context of public protests against rises in the cost of transport and college fees. Dozens of Peruvian civilians were reportedly tortured or ill-treated by members of the Ecuadorian security forces in the context of the border conflict with Peru. For example, three Peruvian merchants – Estanislao Farro Suárez, Adriano Rueda Ortíz, and Andrés Rafael Sánchez Ortíz – who were arrested by members of the Ecuadorian army in January, alleged that they had had electric shocks applied to their fingertips during interrogation. In February, two Peruvian journalists, José Mariño Lanyi and Carlos Mauriola Martínez, were punched and beaten with sticks by eight men in a street in Quito. José Mariño Lanyi alleged that two of the assailants were members of the Ecuadorian military. A Peruvian vice-consul, José Eduardo González Mantilla, claimed that he was beaten, kicked and threatened with death by an Ecuadorian army patrol which stopped his car on the Pan-American Highway in March. Criminal suspects continued to be tortured and ill-treated, sometimes with fatal consequences. In February Vicente Muñoz Ruiz, a market stall-holder, was arrested and driven to a Judicial Police precinct in the city of Guayaquil. He was then taken by two policemen to a coastal inlet and submerged in the water with his hands tied behind his back. He died after failing to respond to resuscitation when he was lifted out of the water. Members of the police were detained pending the outcome of a judicial investigation. In August, four Colombian refugees living in Quito – Ramón Alirio Pérez Vargas, Martha Cecilia Sánchez, Chesman Cañón Trujillo and César Guillermo Díaz García – were detained for questioning in connection with a possible attack on the President of Colombia, Ernesto Samper, during his visit to Ecuador in September. All four, after having been released without charge, said they had been tortured in an Ecuadorian military establishment. In a written testimony Ramón Pérez stated that he was kicked, beaten, given electric shocks and forced to drink a mixture of water and quicklime. He also claimed that he had recognized a Colombian army officer and a member of a Colombian paramilitary group among his Ecuadorian torturers. In June the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the prison sentences imposed on seven police officers implicated in the death in 1988 of the brothers Carlos and Pedro Restrepo (see Amnesty International Reports 1992 to 1995). In December the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the sentences of between two and eight years imposed on three marines implicated in the 1985 "disappearance" and extrajudicial execution of teacher Consuelo Benavides (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Other members of the security forces and government officials implicated in the Benavides case and awaiting trial were expected to have proceedings against them shelved under a law allowing for cases to be closed 10 years after the commission of the crime. The authorities failed to resolve numerous outstanding cases of human rights abuse. For example, the Pichincha state prosecutor investigating 11 people accused of involvement in an armed attack on Ecuadorian forces patrolling the river Putumayo in 1993 stated that "those responsible for the torture [of the accused] are members of the Ecuadorian army." However, the prosecutor took no steps to bring those responsible for the torture to justice. By the end of the year seven of the 11 accused still awaited trial (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Other unresolved cases of reported human rights violations included "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions. Amnesty International called on the government to investigate reported cases of torture, including the death of Vicente Muñoz Ruiz. In February the organization asked President Durán Ballén to ensure that the security forces fully respected the human rights of Peruvians detained in the context of the conflict with Peru. The Foreign Ministry responded that orders had been given for human rights to be respected, but added that "isolated incidents had been carried out against some Peruvian citizens". In response, Amnesty International requested information on these "isolated incidents". The Foreign Ministry replied that no conclusive evidence had been found to substantiate allegations that the two Peruvian journalists and the vice-consul had been attacked by members of the Ecuadorian security forces. The authorities failed to reply to Amnesty International's appeals for an investigation into allegations that the three Peruvian merchants had been tortured. Amnesty International wrote in March to the authorities expressing concern that declarations made under torture by 11 suspects implicated in the Putumayo case could be used by the prosecution as evidence against them and asking the courts to adhere to international human rights standards prohibiting the use of such evidence. In July, four of the 11 suspects were absolved of all charges; the other seven were sent for trial. In September Amnesty International made public a letter to President Durán Ballén expressing concern that those implicated in the death of Consuelo Benavides in 1985 could escape punishment should the Supreme Court of Justice close the case. The State Prosecutor General responded that he had written to the president of the Supreme Court of Justice in May telling him that "If [the Benavides case] remains unresolved or the punishment is not implemented…it would serve to justify torture and murder as none other than forms of official terrorism."

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