Ecuador: Indigenous Peoples’ rights activists at risk following leader's arrest

On 21 December, officers from the National Police force forced their way into the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar and Achuar Centres facilities in Morona Santiago and arrested their leader Agustín Wachapá.

His arrest comes in addition to a series of acts of violence, harassment and pressure from the state authorities towards members of the Shuar Indigenous Peoples’ community due to their opposition to a copper mining project in Morona Santiago.

Along with the arrest of the defender Agustín Wachapá, on 20 December the Ministry of the Interior filed a complaint against the local organization Ecological Action Corporation (Corporación Acción Ecológica) accusing them of acts of violence after they published information on their social networks about the possible environmental impacts which mining activities in the zone would have and also highlighting the possible human rights violations which the project would involve.

Faced with these administrative proceedings, Ecological Action runs the risk of being closed down before the end of the year.

“The Ecuadorian government must protect the Shuar people from attacks on their community, and not impose states of emergency or arrest Indigenous leaders. These acts of intimidation only serve to increase tension and put the lives of more people at risk”, said María José Veramendi, South America researcher for Amnesty international.

The Ecuadorian government must protect the Shuar people from attacks on their community, and not impose states of emergency or arrest Indigenous leaders. These acts of intimidation only serve to increase tension and put the lives of more people at risk
María José Veramendi, South America researcher for Amnesty International

Amnesty International calls on the Ecuadorian authorities to thoroughly respect due process of law in Agustín Wachapá’s case and urges them to end the state of emergency and the acts of harassment in Santiago Morona. The organization also urges the Ministry of the Interior to drop their application for the dissolution and closure of Ecological Action, to guarantee due process throughout the administrative proceedings and comply with the recommendations established in the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the “Protection of human rights defenders, whether they be individuals, groups or institutions, who work in the economic, social or cultural fields”.