Ecuador: Don’t Criminalize the Right to Protest


Target: President Rafael Correa Delgado

Goal: Encourage Ecuador to revise a law which grants the government control over non-governmental organizations, including human rights groups

For the past several years, the government of Ecuador has faced censure from its citizens, particularly indigenous peoples, for its inability to consult with affected parties on serious environmental issues. Now a new law, Executive Decree 16, subjects non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to close monitoring and grants the government unprecedented power to dissolve organizations found to be in violation of the decree. Sign the petition reminding the Ecuadoran government that peaceful protest is a basic human right and urging President Delgado to revise or repeal the decree.

Protests–and the government’s inadequate and unjust responses to them–have become particularly widespread in Ecuador in recent years, as the government attempts to move forward with projects that deeply affect indigenous communities without consulting them. For instance, disputes over water rights and mining provoked protests between 2008 and 2010. The government responded with “criminal proceedings against defenders and leaders who had participated in the protests,” Amnesty International reports, adding that “[i]n November 2012 the government opened a bidding process to explore and exploit oil in southeastern Ecuador, a region that includes vast areas of the Amazon inhabited by Indigenous Peoples.” Indigenous peoples and NGOs representing them were not consulted.

One such NGO, Fundación Pachamama, was recently shut down under Executive Decree 16 for allegedly “‘[deviating] from the aims and objectives for which it was created’ and ‘[e]ngaging in political activities reserved for political parties and movements registered in the National Electoral Council, that affect the public peace or that interfere in public policies that threaten the internal or external security of the state.'” The accusations came on the heels of a demonstration protesting the oil bidding process. The government alleges that some protesters hit and yelled at officials, and it claims activists from Fundación Pachamama were involved. The activists deny this, but they were given no hearing or appeals process before Fundación Pachamama was shut down.

Human rights NGOs perform essential work, and countries have a responsibility to protect NGOs and the work they do. Ecuador’s new law flies in the face of international human rights regulations and is incredibly harmful to people across the country. Sign the petition and remind Ecuador of its responsibilities under international human rights laws, and urge authorities to revise or repeal Executive Decree 16.


Dear President,

I am writing to express my concern for the fate of Fundación Pachamama and other human rights non-governmental organizations (NGO) like it. Under the newly-passed Executive Decree 16, human rights organizations doing invaluable work are subject to arbitrary closure. Please remember your responsibilities to NGOs under international human rights laws. I urge you to reinstate Fundación Pachamama pending a full, fair, and impartial investigation into allegations regarding its function and behavior, and I encourage you to take another look at Executive Decree 16 in the interest of making it more just, effective, and precise.

As it stands now, Executive Decree 16 grants the government incredible power when it comes to NGOs–such power, in fact, that Fundación Pachamama was shut down just days after some of its members participated in a protest that allegedly turned violent. Activists claim that they had nothing to do with any violent events at the November 28 protest outside the Ministry of Energy, but the organization was shut down on December 4, a mere six days later.

Six days is not an adequate amount of time to launch, process, and complete a full and impartial investigation into the events of November 28. It does not allow time for the organization to defend itself or otherwise address the accusations brought against it. It leaves no opportunity for an appeal or even an initial hearing. It is, in short, not a fair law.

The UN Human Rights Council on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders maintains that states have a responsibility to protect the work of human rights activists within the state. Ecuador is perilously close to being in direct violation of this resolution. However, it is not too late to make amends. I ask that you reinstate Fundación Pachamama pending a full, fair, and impartial investigation into the accusations against it, and I demand that the organization’s activists be given a proper hearing and an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges levied against them. Most of all, though, I demand that the incredibly problematic Executive Decree 16 be repealed or extensively revised to reflect a fair legal process that cooperates with international human rights laws.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Taty2007 via Wikimedia Commons

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