IACHR Grants Precautionary Measures to Christian Zurita, Journalist and Presidential Candidate in Ecuador

August 20, 2023

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Washington, D.C.—On August 20, 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 46/2023, through which it granted precautionary protection measures in favor of Christian Gustavo Zurita Ron, presidential candidate and journalist, and Andrea González Nader, Ramón Antonio López Cobeña, and Carlos Eduardo Figueroa Figueroa, members of his electoral campaign team, whom it deems to be at serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their human rights in Ecuador.

According to the request, Christian Gustavo Zurita Ron is the presidential candidate for the Movimiento Construye party, replacing Fernando Villavicencio, who was murdered on August 9. The request also alleged that the threats and attacks against the party have continued in the aftermath of the murder of Mr. Villavicencio.

The request mentions an attack on the campaign headquarters; criminals on motorcycles outside one of the campaign's facilities; mysterious, selective robberies; and threatening messages, among other things. In some cases, these circumstances have led to the closure of premises where election-related activities were taking place. The request also claims that the criminal gang known as Los Choneros has sent firm threats and that a death threat has been received that may be related to the Jalisco Cartel and the pattern of contract killings in Ecuador.

When analyzing the request, the IACHR considered the alleged events in light of the context it has been monitoring in Ecuador, noting with concern the worsening of social tensions, the deterioration of citizen security, including serious acts of violence related to organized crime and the prison system, and the increase in political violence in the country.

The IACHR also considered several factors relating to Christian Gustavo Zurita Ron's work as a journalist and the reports of corruption and organized crime in the country, all of which expose him to similar levels of risk as Mr. Villavicencio.

The IACHR evaluated the events that occurred after the murder of Mr. Villavicencio and the ongoing threats allegedly linked to organized crime, the questioning of security plans, the status of investigations, and the intimidating effects that this could have on journalists investigating issues of public interest.

Consequently, in accordance with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR requested that the State of Ecuador:

  1. immediately take the measures necessary to safeguard the life and personal integrity of Christian Gustavo Zurita Ron and the members of his campaign team identified in this resolution;
  2. take the necessary measures to enable Christian Gustavo Zurita Ron to go about his work as a journalist and exercise his right to freedom of expression without being subjected to acts of intimidation, threats, or other acts of violence in the course of doing so;
  3. take the necessary measures to enable Christian Gustavo Zurita Ron to go about his work as a member of the political party that he is part of without being subjected to acts of intimidation, threats, or other acts of violence in the course of doing so;
  4. agree on any measures to be implemented with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and
  5. report on the actions it implements to investigate the alleged events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure to prevent them from being repeated.

The IACHR did not deem it necessary to request additional information on this case since the circumstances described and the context monitored by the IACHR indicate that the alleged risk is imminent. Furthermore, the petitioners have presented information suggesting that the State is aware of these alleged circumstances or risks, which have already become a reality to the detriment of Mr. Villavicencio, whose successor is the current proposed beneficiary.

In compliance with Article 25.5 of its Rules of Procedure, the IACHR shall review the decision as soon as possible or at the latest during its next period of sessions, taking into account the information received from the parties.

The fact that these precautionary measures have been granted and adopted by the State does not entail a prejudgment on any petition that may eventually be filed before the inter-American system to allege that the rights protected by all applicable instruments have been violated.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 188/23

6:55 PM