Organizations reported dozens of human rights violations during mass protests in June across the country. Security forces killed a protester in Puyo. At least 146 prisoners were killed amid a crisis in the prison system. Authorities failed to provide truth, justice and reparations to Indigenous communities affected by oil spills. Abortion in cases of rape was decriminalized.
President Lasso, whose approval rating dropped below 20% during the year, announced states of emergency seven times during the year, giving a variety of reasons for doing so, including security risks from organized criminal groups, but also alleged violence in the context of national strikes. Mass protests continued to erupt across the country during the year.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Ecuadorian organizations reported that the response of the authorities to protests by Indigenous peoples over socio-environmental issues that began in June resulted in a wide range of human rights violations. These included arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, criminalization and attacks on journalists and human rights defenders. At least six people died in the context of the protests.
Indigenous peoples’ rights
In January, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the A’i Cofán Indigenous community of Sinangoe, confirming that the state had violated the community’s rights to prior consultation, to nature, to water, to a healthy environment, to culture and to territory by granting 20 mining concessions without their consent and processing 32 others that affected their territory. The Court also recognized the A’i Cofán’s right to organize their own guard to protect their land and ordered comprehensive reparation measures for the community.1 By the end of the year, the authorities had not complied with the ruling.
On 28 January, an oil pipe owned by OCP Ecuador, a private company, broke, spilling approximately 1 million litres of oil into the Coca River basin in the Amazon and affecting Indigenous peoples and their environment. By the end of the year, Indigenous peoples affected by this and a prior spill in April 2020 in the Amazon had still not received truth, justice and reparations.2
On 14 June, security forces arrested Leonidas Iza, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), in Cotopaxi province. He was detained incommunicado and charged with “paralysing a public service” before being released that night. Human rights organizations considered his detention arbitrary and that the criminal proceedings against him could constitute the criminalization of protest. The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers stated that his right to defence may also have been affected.
Excessive use of force
On 21 June, security forces repressing a demonstration in Puyo, the capital of Pastaza province, fired a tear gas grenade directly and at close range at B.G., a Kichwa Indigenous man. He later died of his injuries.3
In June, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at the use of violence against children by security forces during protests. It criticized the authorization to use potentially lethal ammunition, such as pellets, in addition to the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of tear gas.
By the end of the year, the Prosecutor’s Office had failed to charge or prosecute law enforcement officials for human rights violations committed during protests in October 2019 and June 2022.
In November, the Constitutional Court ruled that President Lasso’s proposed Constitutional reform to allow the armed forces to engage in joint operations with the National Police to combat organized crime, on a permanent and complementary basis, should be referred to the National Assembly for approval.
In February, President Lasso issued Decree 355 granting pardons to 3,000 prisoners to reduce overcrowding, promising that 1,400 more guards would be hired and that USD 125 million would be invested in the prison system by 2025.
On 9 May, 44 prisoners were killed and 10 others injured at the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas prison, amid a protracted crisis. At least 146 people were killed in Ecuador’s prisons in 2022, according to the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.4
In April, the president signed into law a bill decriminalizing abortion in cases of rape. The law includes restrictive conditions, including allowing abortion only up to the 12th week of pregnancy. In July, the Constitutional Court modified the law to no longer require the permission of legal guardians or third parties for girls and adolescents who are victims of rape and want to access abortion.
Authorities failed to guarantee access to justice and protection services for refugee women survivors of gender-based violence, in particular those from Venezuela.
In September, the body was found of lawyer María Belén Bernal. A victim of feminicide, she disappeared after visiting the Police College in the capital, Quito, earlier that month.
Human rights defenders
By the end of the year, authorities still had not designed and implemented a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders at risk.
Failure to tackle climate crisis
The government had not announced a new NDC since 2019.
- “Ecuador: Constitutional Court ruling to protect Indigenous peoples from mining projects affecting their human rights”, 10 February
- Ecuador: Amazon at Risk: Submission to the 41st Session of the UPR Working Group, 5 April
- “Ecuador: Evidence confirms that security forces killed Indigenous protester in Puyo”, 24 June (Spanish only)
- “Ecuador: In light of new prison massacre, authorities must address structural causes”, 10 May