Ecuador: Death threats against three women human rights defenders

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After death threats against three women human rights defenders in Ecuador protecting the rights of banana workers, Swedwatch together with over 30 other civil society organisations, including FIDH & the World Organisation Aginst Torture (OMCT) within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders call on companies sourcing from Ecuador to reach out to suppliers and take necessary steps to ensure the case is investigated.

October 11, 2023. - Three women human rights defenders working as coordinators of the Ecuadorian trade union ASTAC (Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas y Campesinos) have received death threats related to their work. The undersigned civil society organisations call on companies sourcing bananas from Ecuador to act. They must reach out to suppliers and push relevant actors to ensure the case is investigated and perpetrators held accountable, as well as step up their efforts to support human rights defenders at risk and adopt zero tolerance policies against attacks.

On the 4th of October 2023, Maricela Guzmán, Diana Montoya and Miriam Ternoz from ASTAC received identical Whatsapp messages in which the senders threatened to kill them. The message included detailed information about the defenders’ family members and addresses. The three women were demanded to henceforth refrain from defending workers’ rights and not to interfere with the interests of banana companies.

ASTAC has worked to improve labour rights, health and safety issues and environmental impacts related to the banana sector for more than a decade. Already in 2018, death threats were received by ASTAC’s coordinator, Jorge Acosta, who also has faced judicial threats. The latest threats are another example of violation of the rights of human rights defenders and workers in the country which has become increasingly violent in the past years.

Against this backdrop we, the undersigned organisations representing civil society, urge companies sourcing bananas from Ecuador, in line with the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the International Labour Organisation Conventions 87 and 98, to:

  • Take effective steps to help ensure the security of ASTAC staff and members including by condemning the actions and reaching out to state actors in Ecuador and other relevant parties to urge that the case is promptly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.
  • Reach out to suppliers and relevant business associations and include a zero-tolerance principle to any kind of involvement in attacks against defenders in relevant business relations, contracts and agreements.
  • Conduct continuous human rights due diligence including assessment of the situation of civic freedoms and human rights and environmental defenders and engaging in meaningful consultation with human rights defenders.

The persons named in the article have requested to have their names published.

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  • Co-signatories

    1. Acción Ecológica de Ecuador
    2. ActionAid France 
    3. African Law Foundation (AFRILAW)
    4. Benet Mosop Indigenous Community Association 
    5. Both ENDS 
    6. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
    7. Center for Human Rights and the Environment 
    8. Center for International Environmental Law 
    9. Christian Partners Development Agency 
    10. Environmental Defender Law Center 
    11. Fair Action
    12. La Federación de Comunidades nativas de Ucayali y afluentes (FECONAU)
    13. Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas (FAPI)
    14. Friends with Environment in Development
    15. Front Line Defenders  
    16. Global Witness 
    17. Green Advocates International 
    18. Indigenous Peoples Rights International 
    19. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    20. International Service for Human Rights 
    21. Instituto Sindical de Cooperación al Desarrollo 
    22. Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya 
    23. La Federación de Comunidades Nativas de Ucayali y Afluentes
    24. OECD Watch 
    25. Open Briefing 
    26. Oxfam Germany 
    27. Peace Point Development Foundation 
    28. Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business 
    29. Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) 
    30. ProPurús
    31. Protection International 
    32. SÜDWIND 
    33. Swedwatch
    34. The Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples
    35. The Marginalised Mirror
    36. The Sierra Leone Land Alliance
    37. Unión General de Trabajadores de España
    38. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

  • Member organisations - Ecuador
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