Civil society pushes for changes in Ecuador with new President in power

Association

Civil society organisations (CSOs) have requested that President Moreno revoke Executive Decrees No. 16 and 739. Executive Decree 16, as explained in another Monitor update, established new procedures and requirements for the legal recognition of CSOs. Organisations claim that the right to freedom of association, as guaranteed in the Ecuadorian constitution, has been restricted by the above-mentioned decrees. The Monitor country page for Ecuador explains that: “[D]ecree [No. 16] grants the government wide discretion to deny applications or dissolve organisations on grounds such as moving away from their stated aims or objectives, or compromising public peace or state security. “ Executive Decree 739, which regulates the operation of social organisations, has also been criticised by UN bodies because it “provides the executive with discretionary power to suppress the voice of civil society in the country”. 

In addition, recent research conducted by the national organisation Fundamedios shows that the system established under these two decrees is not working efficiently. On the contrary, the decrees seem to be used to control, restrict and persecute organisations. For example, as reported by the Monitor, the environmental CSO, Pachamama Foundation, was shut down in 2013, and in 2016 the Ministry of Education announced the dissolution of the teachers' union Unión Nacional de Educadores (UNE). Both actions were justified under NGO-related laws. 

During the 163rd session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Lima, Perú from 3rd to 7th July 2017, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), Comisión Ecuménica de los Derechos Humanos en Ecuador (Ecumenical Human Rights Commission) and the Fundación Regional de Asesoría de Derechos Humanos (Regional Human Rights Advisory Foundation) participated in a hearing on human rights defenders during which they denounced the hostility and violence human right defenders face in Ecuador. The government of Ecuador, however, did not attend the IACHR hearing. 

Peaceful Assembly

As reported on the Monitor, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), started a civic campaign - "Amnistía Primero” (Amnesty First) - to petition the government to release activists and human rights defenders currently in prison. It was reported that on 14th June, President Moreno pardoned activist Patricio Marcelo Meza Saltos who was imprisoned after his participation in a 2015 protest, along with six other activists. Later, on 23rd June 2017, four other activists were granted amnesty. To date, only activist Nelson Uyunkar remains in prison. Furthermore, on 4th July the President issued another decree that granted a pardon to jailed activist Tomás Jimpikit Tseremp.

In another positive development, twelve members of the Saraguro community accused of blocking access to public services during a 2015 demonstration were declared innocent after two years of legal proceedings. From 17th to 27th July, the final phase of their judicial process took place and the court, not having enough evidence, declared the Saraguro activists innocent.

Expression

As reported in the Monitor, the new president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, announced his commitment to respect freedom of expression as soon as he took office. Civil society organisations commended Moreno´s initiatives, and in a statement, suggested a set of complementary actions the government could take to guarantee freedom of expression in the country.

In a separate incident, since 14th July 2017 Twitter has suspended and blocked accounts where users expressed criticism of the government of Ecuador. According to local organisation Fundamedios at least five blocked accounts: @CrudoEcuador, @mi_rinkon, @LeonardoHumbolt @AliciaDorada y @skueffner, and another two, @La_chica_velcro, y @todoxecuador,  were blocked for 12 to 14 hours and obliged to remove some content related to ex Foreign Minister Guillaume Long. An official response from Twitter has not yet been issued.