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Ecuador: Militarization of public security poses a threat to human rights

On 12 September this year, President Guillermo Lasso presented Ecuadorian citizens with a series of eight questions on public security, strengthening democracy and the environment in order to promote a citizens’ consultation in 2023 that could lead to constitutional reforms. This week, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court will carry out a constitutional review of the questions, the first of which concerns the deployment of the armed forces for public security tasks.

In relation to this, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

“Referendums and public consultations should not be used as a tool with which to violate a state’s international human rights obligations. Human rights obligations cannot be dependent on popular support, and referendums should therefore not be used to suppress the inherent rights of all people. On the contrary, governments should develop their policies in accordance with international human rights law.”

Our region has already experienced the negative impact that the militarization of public security has on human rights, from Mexico and Brazil to Colombia and Venezuela, among other countries.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

“The consultation proposed by President Lasso opens up the possibility of constitutional reform in Ecuador permanently allowing the use of the armed forces in public security tasks. Permanent deployment of the armed forces in public security tasks goes against international standards and poses a threat to the guarantee of human rights in the country.”

“Our region has already experienced the negative impact that the militarization of public security has on human rights, from Mexico and Brazil to Colombia and Venezuela, among other countries. As the evidence from these countries shows, the security challenges that Ecuador is facing will not be solved by deploying the military and on the contrary, this could cause the human rights situation to deteriorate. In order to respond effectively to these challenges, the authorities must prioritize the strengthening and professionalization of police forces and promote public policies focused on crime prevention and access to justice.”

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has determined that maintaining public order and public security should be primarily the responsibility of civilian police forces. The use of the armed forces in public security tasks, as the Court has indicated, must be exceptional, temporary and restricted to what is strictly necessary, under the direction of civil authorities and supervised by relevant civilian bodies. In exceptional circumstances where the deployment of the armed forces is necessary, military personnel must have the necessary instructions, training and equipment to act in full compliance with human rights and must be subject to international standards on human rights and the use of force.