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Ecuador: Fear for safety/possible prisoners of conscience

, Index number: AMR 28/001/2000

Ciro Guzmán Aldas, Luis Villacis Maldonado and José Chávez were detained by the security forces on 15 January 2000, apparently only because they called for President Jamil Mahuad to resign over Ecuador’s economic crisis. Amnesty International therefore believes they may be prisoners of conscience and is seriously concerned for their safety, in particular that they may be ill-treated and tortured.

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 28/01/00
UA 10/00 Fear for safety/possible prisoners of conscience
18 January 2000
ECUADOR Ciro Guzmán Aldas - Political party leader
Luis Villacis Maldonado - Trade union and community leader
José Chávez - Trade union leader
The three men named above were detained by the security forces on 15 January
2000, apparently only because they called for President Jamil Mahuad to resign
over Ecuador’s economic crisis. Amnesty International therefore believes they
may be prisoners of conscience and is seriously concerned for their safety,
in particular that they may be ill-treated and tortured.
Ciro Guzmán Aldas is president of the Movimiento Popular Democrático, Popular
Democratic Movement, a left of centre political party. Luis Villacis Maldonado
is president of the Frente Patriótico, Patriotic Front, a coalition of trade
unions and grassroots organizations, and José Chávez is president of the
Ecuadorean Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Confederación Ecuatoriana de
Organizaciones Sindicales Libres.
Amnesty International has been told that the security forces are planning to
detain a number of other grassroots and opposition leaders in the near future.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On 5 January 2000 President Mahuad reimposed a national state of emergency
- in force intermittently since the beginning of 1999 - as trade unions,
indigenous groups and grassroots organizations called for mass demonstrations
and protests against his government’s policy of “dollarisation”. On 11 January
Ecuador’s Central Bank approved the President’s proposal to legalise the dollar
as the official currency of Ecuador and gradually take the sucre out of
circulation, in an effort to curb the runaway inflation that has led to the
devaluation of the currency.
During the state of emergency the National Police and the Armed Forces are
permitted to enter any premises without a judicial order or the permission
of the occupants. The constitutional rights to freedom of movement and peaceful
association have also been suspended. Those who infringe the state of emergency
legislation are tried under the military justice system.
Ecuador is party to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights
and to the American Convention on Human Rights, which stipulate, under articles
4 and 27 respectively, that neither the right to life or the right not be tortured
and ill-treated can be derogated under any circumstances.
Amnesty International recognizes that the Ecuadorean authorities are entitled
to maintain law and order within the country. However, international and
domestic human rights standards must be respected and the authorities should
make it clear that abuses of fundamental human rights by the security forces
will not be tolerated.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Spanish or your own language:
- expressing concern at the arbitrary detention of Ciro Guzmán Aldas, Luis
Villacis Maldonado and José Chávez on 15 January 2000;
- urging the authorities to ensure that they are not ill-treated or tortured;
- expressing concern that it appears the three men have been detained solely
because they called for the President to resign over the country’s economic
crisis;
- urging that they be charged with a recognizably criminal offence, or else
immediately released;
- expressing concern at reports that other trade union and popular leaders
are reportedly in imminent danger of being arbitrarily detained;
2
- urging the authorities to ensure that international and domestic human rights
standards are fully respected during the present state of emergency.
APPEALS TO:
President
Dr. Jamil Mahuad Wit
Presidente Constitucional de la República del Ecuador
Palacio de Carondelet
García Moreno 1043
Quito
ECUADOR
Fax: + 5932 580735/580142/580750/580716
Salutation: Dear President
COPIES TO:
Human rights organization
Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos
"Segundo Montes Mozo S.J."
Montevideo 509 y Estados Unidos
Casilla 17-08-8069
Quito
ECUADOR
and to diplomatic representatives of Ecuador accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 29 February 2000.

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