IACHR Condemns Serious Violence in Ecuador

November 11, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the multiple bombings and other acts of violence that have killed several people and injured scores of others in Ecuador in recent days. The violence is allegedly linked to planned operations by organized crime gangs. The Commission calls on the State to protect citizen security and to ensure respect for inter-American human rights standards.

Since November 1, violence has been reported in the provinces of Guayas, Esmeraldas, and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. Official reports indicate that car bombs and other types of explosive devices have been detonated, and that there have been instances of arson and simultaneous attacks in several parts of the country. There have also been clashes inside the Guayas 1 detention facility and blasts and shots inside the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil. According to the Interior Ministry, some of these acts of violence are a response by organized crime gangs to inmate transfers conducted by Ecuador's prison service (SNAI).

The violence reportedly left at least five National Police officers and two detainees dead, and at least 25 people injured. The IACHR condemns the loss of human life in this context and calls on the State to conduct the necessary investigations, with enhanced due diligence.

As in prior occasions, the government decreed a state of emergency in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Guayas, and Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, for a period of 45 days. A unified command was set up in Guayaquil and joint operations by the police and the Armed Forces were announced. The IACHR notes that its monitoring mechanisms have found evidence of serious violence and other major challenges in Ecuador's prison system, which have led to the adoption of several states of emergency.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has noted that organized crime undermines States' security, stability, and democratic governance, curbs their development, and prevents the enforcement of human rights for people under their jurisdiction. In their efforts to address this problem, States must always remain within the limits of legality and ensure proceedings that enable them to protect both public security and human rights.

In keeping with the applicable inter-American standards, preserving public order and citizen security should be reserved for civilian police institutions. The Armed Forces should only get involved in law enforcement tasks in extraordinary circumstances. In such cases, that involvement needs to be justified. It also needs to be exceptional, temporary, and restricted to strictly necessary actions in any given context, and subordinate and complementary to the work of civilian police forces, as well as regulated and supervised.

Further, the IACHR stresses that States have a duty to take concrete, immediate action to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of all citizens, and particularly of individuals who are in State custody. The IACHR notes its commitment to continuing to support the efforts of the State of Ecuador to improve the situation of individuals who are deprived of liberty in its territory, based on the technical cooperation agreement that was recently signed by both parties.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 255/22

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