In Ecuador, judicial harassment persists against indigenous leaders persecuted by the previous government of Rafael Correa, who could face prison sentences based on crimes without legal weight, Human Rights Watch reported today.
In a 30-page report entitled “Amazonian on trial: judicial harassment of indigenous leaders and environmentalists in Ecuador,” he points out that prosecutors in three prominent cases failed to present sufficient evidence to support the serious charges or justify continuation of criminal investigations that went on for years.
HRW denounces that the former executive “went too far” in his criminal justice system to point out indigenous and environmental leaders who were protesting over mining and oil exploration in the Amazon.
He says that these groups operate “more freely” under the current president, Lenin Moreno, but they criticize that the inertia of the abusive prosecutions of his predecessor “has not been met”.
On March 28, the NGO advances, a trial takes place in the eastern Ecuadorian province of Morona Santiago against the leader of the Shuar Agustí Wachapá community, for allegedly instigating the violence with a comment on Facebook.
On March 16 an Ecuadorian court issued an arrest warrant for another leader of that nationality, Pepe Acacho, to serve a prison term for a crime he had not been accused of during the trial and had no opportunity to defend himself properly. .
The third case collected by HRW is a criminal investigation that involved six indigenous and environmental leaders and has been open for four and a half years, without any conclusive evidence to date.
“President Correa extended a campaign on national television against indigenous leaders and environmentalists who opposed extractive industry projects in the Amazon, while his Ministry of the Interior sought to imprison leaders and close their organizations,” says Daniel Wilkinson, director for the Americas of the NGO in an informative extract.
He points out that “President Moreno has ended the harassment and the environmental groups operate more freely, but the abusive prosecutions must cease”.
It also calls on the Ecuadorian authorities to guarantee that none of those leaders serve a prison term or is convicted on charges that are not sufficiently substantiated or proven in a court of law.
The report echoes that in 2013, under the Correa government, the Pachamama Foundation, one of the most outstanding in the field of environmentalism, was closed “in an arbitrary manner,” which has regained its legal status under Moreno.
And he affirms that in 2016 he threatened to do the same with the NGO Acción Ecológica, but retracted before international critics.
Five UN special rapporteurs described the attempt to close the group as part of “the strategy of suffocating civil society.”
“Moreno, like the judicial and legislative authorities, needs to do more to undo the damage done by the authoritarianism of Correa’s approach to critics of their environmental policies,” Wilkinson riveted. (I)