Ecuador: Manuel and Manuela innocent of terrorism charges!

Press release
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Paris-Geneva – The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory), a joint programme with FIDH and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), celebrates the ruling by the Bolívar Guarantee Court (Tribunal de Garantías) which, by two votes, declared the two human rights defenders innocent of charges of “organised terrorism”.

Community leader and defender of the right to land, Mr Manuel Trujillo, President of the San Pablo de Amalí community in the province of Bolívar, and Ms Manuela Pacheco, another community member who mobilised to defend the right to water and land, were charged with “organised terrorism” under Article 160.1 of Ecuador’s criminal code. The hearing began on the 19 January and concluded on 25 of January with the pronouncement of their innocence.

“This decision marks a step forward in the fight against the criminalisation of human rights defenders in Ecuador. We congratulate and recognise the work of the INREDH and the CEDHU in Manuel and Manuela’s defence.”

said our organizations.

On 15 January 2016, the Observatory sent an open letter to government and judicial authorities in Ecuador repudiating the trial against Mr Trujillo and Ms Pacheco, and denouncing the misuse of criminal law as a tool to criminalise human rights defenders in the country.

The putting of the defenders on trial stirred up deep concern as it occurred two days before the 10 December 2015 publication of the report “Criminalización de la Protesta Social frente a proyectos extractivos en Ecuador” (Ecuador: Increase of the criminalisation of social protest in the context of extraction plans) by FIDH, the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU) and the Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH). The report mentions Mr Trujillo’s case among others.

San Pablo de Amalí community members have mobilised for years against the San José del Tambo hydroelectric plant developed by HIDROTAMBO S.A.. From the outset, the project has violated the communities’ right to consultation. Neither their needs were taken into account, nor was their right to freedom of expression safeguarded. Mr Trujillo and other community members lost their land and homes due to the increased flow of the Dulcebampa River caused by the construction of the plant. The river’s conditions worsen during the heavy rainfall season.

The Observatory hopes that the public prosecutor will abide by the Court’s decision and will not appeal.
The Observatory was established in 1997 by FIDH and the OMCT. Its objective is to intervene to prevent or remedy specific instances of repression of human rights defenders.

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