Ecuador: IACHR and RFOE Condemn Serious Acts of Violence Committed by Organized Criminal Groups

January 17, 2024

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE) condemned the serious acts of violence committed by organized criminal groups in Ecuador and announced that they will continue to monitor the human rights situation in the country closely.

In recent years, organized crime has threatened citizen security and democratic rule in the country. Indicators reflect a significant increase in the homicide rate, the worsening and deterioration of prison violence, and the resurgence of political violence linked to drug trafficking, which the IACHR has described as an attack on democracy and the rule of law. In this context, a new terrorist uprising that began inside prisons was reported between January 8 and 9. At least six prisons reported riots in which at least 139 state agents were taken hostage. Violence and explosions were also reported outside the prisons, including one near the residence of the President of the National Court of Justice.

The city of Guayaquil was particularly affected by the violence, which left at least eight people dead and several injured. In addition, an armed group stormed the premises of TC Televisión and threatened to kill its employees during a live broadcast. The National Police Force intervened swiftly to protect the lives and physical integrity of the people at risk and arrested those responsible. During the attack, a cameraman was wounded by shots fired by the armed group. The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Government also set up a perimeter to protect the people inside TC Televisión. The police reported other operations to address the violence in other parts of the country.

In response, the Office of the President declared a state of emergency due to serious internal disturbances. It subsequently described the situation as an internal armed conflict, identified organized criminal groups as terrorists, and ordered the armed forces to carry out military operations under international humanitarian law and with respect for human rights. Both decrees are being supervised by the Constitutional Court. The IACHR will continue to monitor the human rights situation in the country while these decrees are in effect.

In recent years, organized criminal groups have increased the violence that is threatening the security, stability, and democratic governance of States, hindering their development and preventing people within their jurisdictions from enjoying their human rights. This violence is also directed against journalists and media organizations, limiting freedom of expression and preventing society from receiving information on matters of public interest.

The IACHR and RFOE condemned this violence, expressed their solidarity with the Ecuadorian people, and urged the State to investigate, prosecute, and punish all the events with due diligence. They also acknowledged the widespread anxiety that these events have caused among the Ecuadorian population and reiterated their willingness to work with the State to implement inter-American standards in the measures taken to guarantee citizen security, the rule of law, and the protection of journalists. During states of exception, it is essential to ensure that information is distributed as widely as possible. The State must provide guarantees for journalists to carry out their work safely and without fear of reprisals; and authorities should condemn all attacks and acts of intimidation against them.

Finally, the IACHR and the RFOE appreciate the importance that the States of the region have attached to the recent events in Ecuador. They urged the Organization of American States to continue to pay special attention to the situation of violence generated by transnational organized crime and its impact on democratic rule, the rule of law, and groups in historically vulnerable situations.

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. 017/24

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