HRW reports judicial abuse of Ecuador indigenous and environmental activists

HRW reports judicial abuse of Ecuador indigenous and environmental activists

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday released a report [HRW website] alleging that former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa [BBC profile] abused the criminal justice system to target indigenous leaders and environmentalists who protested mining and oil exploration in the Amazon.

The Correa administration has continually denounced environmental activists and indigenous people mobilized to protest. In 2013 Correa issued a presidential decree allowing his organization to arbitrarily shut down civil society organizations—leading to the dissolution of the Pachamama Foundation [advocacy website], one of the Ecuador’s most prominent environmental groups.

The 30-page report further illustrates the abuse of the judicial system to condemn indigenous leaders and environmentalists. In an examination of three cases involving activists accused of criminal activity by the Correa administration, HRW found that in two cases “prosecutors did not produce sufficient evidence that supports the serious charges they brought.” In the third case, “a criminal investigation involving six indigenous leaders and environmentalists has been kept open for four-and-a-half years even though it has failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing.”

HRW Managing Director Daniel Wilkinson said, “President Correa lashed out on national TV against [those] who opposed extractive industry projects in the Amazon, while his Interior Ministry sought to jail their leaders and shut down their organizations.”

Current President Lenin Moreno [BBC profile] has made positive change, opening a dialogue with environmentalists and indigenous leaders. The new administration has reinstated the Pachamama Foundation and rid of the presidential decree that allowed for the shut-down of civil organizations.

HRW says, “the groups are operating more freely under President Lenín Moreno, but the abusive prosecutions set in motion by his predecessor remain unaddressed.”