Indigenous leaders, human rights defenders and staff of NGOs faced persecution and harassment amid continuing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association. The right to free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples continued to be restricted. The Bill to Prevent and Eliminate Violence against Women was pending revision by the National Assembly.
On 24 May, Lenín Moreno Garcés became President. Shortly afterwards he called for a referendum and a popular consultation, to be held in February 2018, for Ecuadorians to decide on matters including the amendment of the Constitution to eliminate indefinite re-election of authorities, the banning of mining in protected areas, and reducing the area of oil exploitation in the Yasuní National Park.
In May, Ecuador’s human rights record was examined under the UN UPR process. Ecuador accepted recommendations to adopt a national action plan on business and human rights, create an effective consultation mechanism for Indigenous Peoples, align national laws on freedoms of expression and assembly with international standards, ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders, and guarantee protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Ecuador pledged to lead on creating an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and human rights. Ecuador received a total of 182 recommendations of which it accepted 159, noted 19, and left four for further review.
In July, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held hearings on violence and harassment against human rights defenders, and on extractive industries and the right to cultural identity of Indigenous Peoples in Ecuador. The IACHR expressed concern over the absence of state representatives at both hearings.
Freedoms of expression and association
In January, the Ministry for the Environment rejected a complaint filed by the Ministry of the Interior aimed at shutting down the NGO Ecological Action Corporation, based on a lack of evidence linking the NGO to violence that occurred in 2016 in Morona Santiago province.
Violence against women and girls
In November the National Assembly approved a Bill to Prevent and Eliminate Violence against Women. In December, President Moreno partially vetoed the Bill and proposed a series of modifications, which were pending revision by the National Assembly at the end of the year.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
In July, Indigenous and human rights organizations denounced before the IACHR intrusions of the state into the territory of the Sápara People for future oil extraction. They also denounced government bids for oil extraction in the territory of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku without obtaining their free, prior and informed consent, despite the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling that the Kichwa People must be consulted.
In April, Shuar Indigenous leader Agustín Wachapá was released on parole after four months in pre-trial detention on charges of inciting violence in Morona Santiago in 2016. The Shuar People continued to face a dispute over the development of two copper mines in their territory.
Human rights defenders
NGOs denounced before the IACHR the lack of an adequate protection system or specialized institution responsible for investigating attacks against and criminalization of human rights defenders. They also denounced the frequent misuse of the charge of attacking or resisting authority to prosecute human rights defenders.
The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances noted in March that no criminal responsibility had been established for 17 cases of enforced disappearances from 1984 to 2008 identified by the Truth Commission, and that the whereabouts of 12 of those victims remained undisclosed.