Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Ecuador

Updates on the investigations into reprisals against human right defenders121

Impunity for the assassination of Mr. Andrés Arroyo Segura

By the end of 2006, no further information was available about the circumstances of the assassination of Mr. Andrés Arroyo Segura, a community leader and a member of the National Network of Popular Environmentalists for the Protection of Nature, Life and Dignity (Red Nacional de Ecologistas Populares, en Defensa de la Naturaleza, Vida y Dignidad – REDIVINA).

On June 20, 2005, Mr. Andrés Arroyo Segura's body had been found in the Baba River (province of Los Ríos), adjacent to the planned construction site of a dam that Mr. Arroyo Segura had opposed on grounds that it would have harmful consequences on the environment and the community life of the region. He had also taken part in several national meetings for environmental protection.

Lack of progress in the investigation into acts of harassment against several human rights defenders

By the end of 2006, the investigation initiated by the General Prosecutor to inquire into the acts of harassment against Mr. Blasco Peñaherrera Sola, a trade union leader, and Mr. Diego Guzmán Espinoza, a founding member of the Observatory of Ecuadorian Media (Observatorio de Medios de Ecuador) and programming director of the radio station Buscolíos.com, as well as director of the Radio Bolívar station, in 2005, remained at its preliminary stage whereas the perpetrators had not been identified.

On December 16, 2004, Mr. Peñaherrera Sola had been subjected to an assassination attempt.

Mr. Diego Guzmán Espinoza had been harassed and threatened with death in March 2005. Mr. Orlando Pérez Torres, a journalist working for the daily newspaper HOY, and several leaders of Radio Bolívar in Quito had also received death threats.

Lack of investigation into the harassment of the Jesuit Foundation Mariana de Jesús and FEDAEPS

By the end of 2006, no investigation had been launched into the acts of harassment committed in 2005 against the Jesuit Foundation Mariana de Jesús, which promotes the development of social programmes.

However, the decision of the Ministry of Social Affairs to "dissolve and eliminate" the Foundation was abandoned following the government change in October 2006.

Furthemore, by the end of 2006, the complaint filed by the Ecuadorian Foundation for Action, Studies and Social Participation (Fundación Ecuatoriana de Acción, Estudios y Participación Social – FEDAEPS), following an attempted burglary of its headquarters in Quito on September 13, 2005 had still not been examined.

Ill-treatment of APDH members122

On May 9, 2006, Mr. Fidel Narváez, a human rights observer for the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (Asemblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos – APDH), was beaten and insulted by police officers while monitoring a demonstration against the OXY petroleum company. Mr. Narváez was denouncing the violent repression of the protest live on the radio station La Luna, during the course of which the police threw teargas at the crowd and set their dogs on the demonstrators. Many participants were arrested.

Ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and judicial proceedings against Mr. Wilman Alfonso Jiménez Salazar123

On June 19, 2006, Mr. Wilman Alfonso Jiménez Salazar, a member of the human rights defenders protection programme of the Regional Foundation on Human Rights Counselling (Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos – INREDH) supported by the Dutch Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (HIVOS), also a member of the Orellana Human Rights Committee124 and of the Angel Shingre Network of Community Leaders (Red de Lideres Comunitarios Angel Shingre), was beaten and detained for four hours by the police. At the time of his arrest, he was observing the violent suppression of farmers occupying the premises of the oil company Coca-Payamino (Amazonian Province of Orellana) in protest against the harmful environmental repercussions of the company's activities. Mr. Jiménez Salazar was taken to the provincial civilian hospital before being transferred to the criminal investigation department of the police.

He was held in solitary confinement until the next day, when he was transferred to the military buildings of the Selva Napo Squad no. 19, in the province of Pastaza. When two representatives of the municipalities of Selva Napo and Orellana came to enquire about his situation, the commander of the "Amazonas" 4th division of the army reportedly told them that "human right defenders [incited] the population to rise against companies". Similarly, when Mr. Ángel Álvarez, a member of the Orellana Human Rights Network and of the INREDH-HIVOS human rights defenders protection programme, sought to denounce these events to the Orellana Ombudswoman, she reportedly declared that "human rights defenders [were] a nuisance".

Moreover, on June 21, 2006, Mr. Jiménez was denied access to a doctor although the District Prosecutor of Orellana had given his prior authorisation. He was also denied access to his lawyer.

Mr. Jiménez Salazar was released on July 6, 2006 after the Orellana Provincial Governor paid his bail following intense social mobilisation.

As the Military Court does not have jurisdiction over civilians, his case was referred to the Criminal Court of the city of Coca, which charged him with "terrorism" and "sabotage".

Similarly, Messrs. Diogles Zambrani, José Moreira, Diliberto Rodríguez and Ms. Cruz Moreira, also members of the INREDH human rights defenders protection programme who had observed the repression of farmers on June 19, 2006, were charged by the Military Court with "terrorism" and "sabotage". However, unlike Mr. Jiménez Salazar, their case was not referred to the Coca Criminal Court, and the charges against them seemed to have been dropped by the end of 2006.

As of the end of 2006, Mr. Jiménez still faced pending criminal proceedings.

Ongoing acts of harassment against several lawyers125

Messrs. Ermel Chávez Parra, Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, Alejandro Ponce Villacís and Luis Yanza, lawyers working on complaints lodged by the indigenous communities of Siona, Secoya, Cofán and Waorani against the Texaco oil company, now known as Chevron Corporation126, continued to be harassed in 2006. Mr. Ponce's car was notably forced open and searched in early November 2006.

As of the end of 2006, the Ecuadorian authorities had still not implemented the precautionary measures for their protection requested by the IACHR in December 2005 following the continuous harassment and intimidation (including death threats), burglaries and constant surveillance against these persons.

These new threats were reported to the IACHR.

Ongoing threats against the organisation "Ecological Action"127

In 2006, the organisation "Ecological Action" (Acción Ecológica) and its members continued to be subjected to repeated acts of harassment.

In February 2006 for instance, Mr. Modesto Peter Segura Quintero, a member of Ecological Action and chair of the Association of Traditional Fishermen for the Commercialisation of Bio-Aquatic Products from the Northern Mangroves (Asociación de Pescadores Artesanales y de Comercialización de Productos Bioacuáticos Manglares del Norte – APACOPBIN), received a phone call from relatives living in the Esmeraldas province, advising him not to come to Osmeldo, stating that a professional killer had been contracted by the Puro Congo company to kill him. This company had had to interrupt its activities for two weeks following a decision of the Ministry of the Environment, after APACOPBIN denounced its harmful impact on the mangroves' ecosystem.

In late October 2006, Messrs. José Proaño and Franklyn Jakentoala, Ecological Action members, attended the International Forum on Oil, Human Rights and Full Compensation (Foro Internacional de Petróleo, Derechos Humanos y Remediación Integral)128, held from October 20 to 22, 2006 in Coca, where they were photographed, threatened and briefly detained by the police.

Lastly, General Oswaldo Jarrín, then Defence Minister, initiated judicial proceedings against the organisation's director, Ms. Alexandra Almeida, for having accused the army of arbitrarily detaining Mr. Wilmán Jiménez129. The Pichincha Criminal Court subsequently ordered Ms. Almeida to appear before the Court. As of the end of 2006, the date of the next hearing in this case had not yet been scheduled.

In 2005, the offices of Ecological Action in Quito were searched and burgled, and three computer hard drives were stolen. This incident occurred as the organisation started to play a significant role in the change of the policies implemented by the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, in opposition to the fumigation of the Colombian border as part of the "Colombia Plan".

On July 5, 2005, Ms. Esperanza Martínez, a member of the organisation, had also received a death threat on her mobile phone. The organisation immediately reported this incident, in vain, to the Minister for Home Affairs and the Prosecutor. In addition, in September 2005, the home of Ms. Cecila Chérrez, Ecological Action president, was targeted by unidentified individuals who threw stones at her house, breaking the windows. These events were reported to the police. However, the investigation had produced no results as of the end of 2006.

Defamation campaign and reprisals against several defenders of indigenous peoples' rights130

In March and April 2006, several defenders of indigenous peoples' rights were subjected to reprisals by the authorities.

On March 18, 2006, Messrs. Humberto Cholango, president of the Confederation of the Quechua Peoples of Ecuador (Confederación de Pueblos de la Nacionalidad Kichwa del Ecuador – ECUARUNARI), and Luis Macas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador – CONAIE), were threatened by police officers, who told them that they would be arrested if they did not stop their support in favour of indigenous mobilisation.

On March 19, 2006, Ms. Anaité Vargas, executive director of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH), was followed by a vehicle of the national police Special Operations Group (Grupo de Operativos Especiales – GOE), as she was driving home in an APDH vehicle. The police car suddenly blocked the road and several officers in camouflage clothes surrounded her vehicle. The officers asked Ms. Vargas for her identity papers, and then told her that they wanted to "check [whether she was] Ecuadorian and [if she had] stolen [the] car". They subsequently returned her papers and left.

Two days earlier, APDH and the "Segundo Montes Mozo SJ" Human Rights Documentation Centre (Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos "Segundo Montes Mozo SJ" – CSMM) had issued a joint newsletter criticising the statements of the secretary of the Presidency. The latter had said that he "would investigate international NGOs financing indigenous mobilisation and expel them from the country". The Secretary General of Public Administration and the Minister of the Government had issued similar statements on March 16 and 20, 2006 respectively, during interviews to the press.

Moreover, on March 21, 2006, the government declared a state of emergency in the province of Cañar, following a series of protests by indigenous communities against the signature of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.

In this context, Mr. Pedro de la Cruz, president of the Federation of Indigenous, Black and Peasants' Organisations of Ecuador (Federación de Organizaciones Campesinas Indígenas y Negras de Ecuador – FENOCIN), and Mr. William Rodrigo Villalta, president of the Loja Farmers' Federation (Federación Campesina de Loja), were arrested while travelling by bus on April 2, 2006. A group of police and military officers stopped the vehicle to check passengers' identities and destinations. They then arrested the two men without giving any explanation. They were first detained in solitary confinement at the police station in Azogues, capital of the Cañar province, before being transferred, by night, to the headquarters of the 5th division of the ground forces in the Cuenca province.

They were released without charge on April 3, 2006.

Judicial proceedings against Mr. Carlos Zorilla131

On October 17, 2006, the home of Mr. Carlos Zorilla, founder of the NGO Ecological Defence and Preservation of Intag (Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag – DECOIN), was illegally searched by the police who claimed to have found a weapon and drugs. A police report was then filed with the Prosecutor in charge of drug trafficking – who, by the end of 2006, had opened no investigation – and with the Prosecutor for the regulation of trade formalities, who ordered the Pichincha Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against Mr. Zorilla for "arms possession". As of the end of 2006, the Court had still not ruled on this request.

On the same day, Mr. Carlos Zorilla was informed that criminal proceedings had been initiated and an arrest warrant issued against him for "qualified theft" and "grievous bodily harm". These proceedings were linked to a complaint filed on July 24, 2006, by Ms. Brooke Chaplin, an employee of the Ascendant Copper Corporation S.A. company, for facts dating back to July 13, 2006 in Quito. On that day, Intag inhabitants had organised a sit-in outside the Ministry of Energy and Mines and several demonstrators had decided to prevent Ms. Chaplin from campaigning in favour of her company before the Ministry. Yet, according to the testimonies of the people present on the scene, Mr. Carlos Zorilla was not among the demonstrators.

On November 16, 2006, the tenth judge of the Pichincha Criminal Court withdrew the arrest warrant against Mr. Zorilla for "qualified theft", on grounds of lack of evidence. However, Mr. Zorilla remained charged with "grievous bodily harm". In connection with these charges, a preliminary investigation was launched but yielded no results as Ms. Chaplin failed to appear before the Court.

As of the end of 2006, Mr. Zorilla remained free.

Break-in attempt in Ms. Guadalupe de Heredia's home132

On the night of October 23 to 24, 2006, a group of unidentified individuals attempted to burgle the home of Ms. Guadalupe de Heredia, a human rights activist and press attaché of the legal department representing indigenous communities that have taken the oil multinational ChevronTexaco to court. The perpetrators ran away when a guard, in charge of watching the neighbouring building, fired a warning shot in the air. On October 25, 2006, Ms. de Heredia lodged a complaint with the Public Prosecutor of Pichincha.

Prior to these events, Ms. de Heredia had taken part in the International Forum on Oil, Human Rights and Full Compensation, held from October 20 to 22, 2006 in Coca133. In the weeks preceding this meeting, Ms. de Heredia had given interviews to several radio stations, mentioning the holding of the Forum and denouncing human rights violations committed by ChevronTexaco in Ecuador.

Ms. de Heredia had already been threatened in April 2006, as a result of which a petition had been submitted to the IACHR on April 28, 2006, requesting precautionary measures.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

121. See Annual Report 2005.

122. See Open Letter to the Ecuadorian authorities, May 12, 2006.

123. See Urgent Appeals ECU 002/0606/OBS 082 and 082.1.

124. On May 5, 2006, the government declared a state of emergency in Orellana in order to protect oil plants.

125. See Annual Report 2005.

126. These complaints are in particular linked to the exploitation of their land for the extraction of oil by this company for 26 years.

127. See Annual Report 2005.

128. This forum gathers international NGOs fighting against pollution and human rights violations linked to oil exploitation.

129. See above.

130. See Urgent Appeal ECU 001/0406/OBS 041.

131. See Urgent Appeals ECU 003/1106/OBS 135 and 135.1.

132. See Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), November 30, 2006.

133. See above.


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