Ecuador signs on to regional agreement to protect HRDs

Association

On 3rd April 2018, 24 representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries adopted the first binding regional agreement to protect the rights of access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. 

The agreement includes protection for human rights defenders in the region. Article 9 of the agreement states that: “Each Party shall take adequate and effective measures to recognize, protect and promote all the rights of human rights defenders in environmental matters, including their right to life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement, as well as their ability to exercise their access rights, taking into account its international obligations in the field of human rights, its constitutional principles and the basic concepts of its legal system”.

Ecuadorian environmental NGOs had been advocating for such an agreement for a long time, as Accion Ecologica called on the government of Ecuador to address judicial cases involving activists, noting in a statement that "hundreds of defenders in the country are persecuted or stigmatized". The agreement will hopefully address some of these issues facing activists. 

Expression

The murder of a team of journalists in a northern border area of Ecuador has raised serious concerns at a national and international level. As reported on the Monitor, on 26th March 2018 journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Raúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra, all working with the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, were abducted and killed by the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A month later, Cesar Navas, Minister of the Interior, and Patricio Zambrano, Minister of Defense, resigned from their positions in the Ecuadorian government due to "the security deterioration on the border with Colombia".

In a separate incident, on 20th April 2018 the online investigative media outlet Plan V reported a cyber attack that prevented the uploading of information and blocked access to news articles. Plan V's most recent investigative work focused on drug trafficking in Ecuador and the armed conflict caused by militant groups. This is not the first time Plan V has been a victim of this kind of attacks.

In another development, the local organisation FUNDAMEDIOS sent a letter to General Comptroller Pablo Celi requesting the public release of a report assessing the adjudication process for radio and TV frequencies. The Comptroller General had announced a month before that the report would be public, but it has not yet been released. 

Althought Ecuador is still not a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative that aims to "promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance",  the Municipality of Quito has issued a bylaw with the objective of implementing open government public policies at the local level. The bylaw stated that the city of Quito will foster public policies and public services based on transparency, open data, accountability, citizen participation and social control.