Ecuador: IACHR Condemns Political Violence and Warns of Attacks on Democracy

August 11, 2023

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the serious acts of violence that have taken place in the run-up to the general elections in Ecuador, which constitute an attack on democracy and the rule of law.

On August 9, journalist and presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was murdered at the end of an electoral campaign rally in Quito after receiving threats in the previous weeks. National Assembly candidate Gisella Molina and eight people who took part in the rally were also injured in the attack. This incident comes on top of the violence that occurred in July, in which the mayor of Manta, Agustín Intriago, and National Assembly candidate Rinder Sánchez were killed. There has also been also an armed attack targeting the mayor of Durán, Luis Chonillo, as well as threats against municipal officials in the same area and against National Electoral Council authorities.

The increase in political violence in Ecuador has unfolded in a context of a serious deterioration in citizen security, which is linked to the actions of organized crime. The security indicators show that at least 3,513 homicides were recorded in the country in the first half of 2023, a 58% increase over the same period in 2022. The situation is particularly serious in cities where organized crime is more active, which is impacting the rights of the population in general, but especially those of journalists and the judiciary.

Although widespread violence is a multicausal phenomenon, the IACHR observed that the most serious outbreaks initially occurred in the penitentiary system as a result of confrontations between different criminal gangs. According to the information the IACHR received, from January 1, 2020, to July 27, 2023, at least 547 people lost their lives as a result of prison violence.

In this regard, it should be noted that politically motivated violence not only implies the violation of various human rights but also undermines the principles that underpin the rule of law and is a direct violation of democratic governance.  It also has intimidating and dissuasive effects on people participating in the electoral process and on society as a whole.

The IACHR rejects this violence and calls on the State to investigate, prosecute, and punish these events diligently, pursuing lines of investigation that seek to determine the motive for the murders and identify those responsible for planning and carrying them out. It is the State's duty to take effective measures to guarantee the necessary conditions for the exercise of political rights, including by preventing attacks on the life of a person due to their political activity, taking a differentiated gender and ethnic-racial perspective.

The IACHR urged the Ecuadorian authorities and society in general to guarantee peaceful elections in the country and to respect the results as the highest expression of popular sovereignty, with strict adherence to representative democracy and human rights. Finally, the IACHR exhorted the Organization of American States to continue paying particularly close attention to the electoral process in Ecuador to ensure that fair, peaceful elections are held in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 180/23

5:05 PM