MAC: Mines and Communities

Ecuador: Serious concern over misuse of terrorism charges

Published by MAC on 2011-02-14
Source: Servindi, statements (2011-02-09)

On February 1st 2011, José Acacho González, President of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centres, Pedro Mahshiant Chamik and Fidel Kaniras Taish were detained with terrorism charges.

Although, on Tuesday all three were released under Habeas Corpus, the ongoing charges for terrorism and sabotage that numerous environmental and rights defenders in Ecuador currently face remains of serious concern. According to ECUARUNARI, the Kichwa Confederation, there is a policy to "criminalize social protest" which has led to the filing of more than 189 lawsuits against leaders and organizations defending human rights and the environment.

These acts are taking place in relation to the state’s interest to implement large scale, open-pit mining on indigenous lands and the Water law that indigenous communities consider does not sufficiently protect their sources of water. Mining activities, have contributed to the growth in social conflicts and have led to the violation of fundamental rights of affected communities.

Lastly, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Ecuador's Ecumenical Commission for Human Rights (CEDHU) recently released a report on large scale mining and human rights abuses focusing on the cases related to Corriente Resources. See: Large-scale mining in Ecuador and human rights abuses

ESPAÑOL

Ecuadorian Indigenous Leaders Arrested, Including Pepe Acacho, Candidate for President of CONAIE

Servindi

1 February 2011

Río Blanco, Ecuador - Around 11 am today, several indigenous leaders were arrested in a joint operation by the Army and the National Police. Among those detained is Pepe Acacho, one of the candidates for president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).

Pepe Acacho is a former president of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers (FICSH) and also detained with him were Pedro Mashiant Chamik, president of the Sevilla Don Bosco Parish Council and Fidel Kaniras y Andrés Vizuma, President of the Arutam Corporation.

The operation took place in the Río Blanco area of Canton Morona in Morona Santiago Province. Pepe Acacho's arrest occurred while he was traveling to the city of Quito.

The operation included the use of a helicopter and officers whose faces were covered with balaclavas. The detainees are currently being held in the Social Rehabilitation Center in Macas.

Julius Caesar Sarango, Acacho's lawyer, denounced that the arrest of his client is part of the process of criminalization against several indigenous leaders accused of sabotage and terrorism.

The arrest warrant was issued by Miguel Angel Villamagua Ortega, president of the Provincial Court of Morona Santiago, although the judicial process has failed to prove any criminal charge against Pepe Acacho.

Francisco Shiki, current president of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centers, blamed the Court of Morona Santiago for violating the constitution and due process and the arbitrary and ill-considered deprivation of liberty of the Shuar leaders.

CONAIE condemned the arrest, calling it a clear example of political persecution using legal mechanisms.

As reported by the Network of Intercultural Bilingual Communicators of Ecuador (REDCI), Pepe Acacho is a strong candidate to become the next president of CONAIE, having been nominated by the assembly of the FICSH held on January 28-30th, 2011.

Pepe Acacho is renowned for his activism and is a figure respected by the various nationalities in Ecuador, according to REDCI.

Criminalization of Protest

This process of criminalization is intended to shut down social protest led by the indigenous nationalities of Ecuador against the Water Act and in opposition to open-pit mining megaprojects and oil exploration in their territory.

According to ECUARUNARI, the Kichwa Confederation, there is a policy to "criminalize social protest" which has led to the filing of more than 189 lawsuits against leaders and organizations defending human rights and the environment.

Seven social leaders have been sentenced to eight years in prison in Azuay province, despite a request for amnesty.


Freedom of Shuar leaders is a triumph of
 Indigenous and Popular organizations in Ecuador

Mining Injustice Solidarity Network

9 February 2011

Toronto - We express our solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, victims of systemic persecution by the Ecuadorian government as a result of their firm opposition to extractive mega-projects, principally mining. These projects have been shown to benefit only the transnational companies involved, not the local people.

We are shocked that a government who has self-identified as 'left', whom states that defending the interests of the country and their citizens, and who works to develop a constitution that includes the The Wellbeing of the people and The Rights of the Natural Environment and who has ratified the International Labour Organization's convention 169 Act in contradiction to these constitutional and international principles, illegally jailing three indigenous leaders, accusing them of TERRORISM and SABOTAGE, for opposing the entrance of mining operations into their territories.

We condemn the criminalization of protest and dissent, we welcome the mobilization and pressure from the indigenous movement and popular organizations that have successfully achieved the release of Pepe Acacho, Pedro Mashiant and Fidel Kaniras through a Habeas Corpus, demonstrating that lawsuits and detention were illegal and unconstitutional.

We consider it a triumph of the indigenous movement, workers and the Ecuadorian people who mobilized in the streets and demanded the release of indigenous leaders. Similarly we request the dismissal of lawsuits that the Ecuadorian government still carries on against close to 200 indigenous organizers active in defending their territory.

We support and will continue to work in solidarity with the National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador (CONAIE, Spanish acronym), and Indigenous Federation and Shuar Centre of Morona Santiago (FICHS, Spanish acronym) against this new wave of aggression instigated by the Ecuadorian government. A government that more and more reveals their push to the right and a neoliberal agenda, at the expense of the interest of the Ecuadorian peoples.

We are calling out to the international community, human rights defenders, social movements and civil society in general to condemn the abuse of power against the indigenous peoples of Ecuador.


Ecuador: Serious concern over the misuse of terrorism charges

Joint statement

4 February 2011

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Ecumenical Commission for Human Rights (CEDHU), the Regional Human Rights Advisory Foundation (INREDH), and the Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CDES) express their concern for growing criminalization against social protest of indigenous communities in Ecuador, which are mobilized in defence of their rights due to the presence of large scale mining activities on their territories.

In effect, following demonstrations on September 30th 2009 in the province of Morona Santiago, seven Shuar indigenous leaders were accused of organized terrorism, three of these as intellectual authors who were detained, and four for cover up who were not detained, and another four that had their charges provisionally overturned (absolved). On February 1st 2011, José Acacho González, President of the Interprovincial Federation of Shuar Centres and one of the indigenous people who had been accused, was detained in a joint operation between the Ecuadorian army and National Police. This same day, Pedro Mahshiant Chamik and Fidel Kaniras Taish were also detained and taken first to the Police Station in Macas, later to the local jail and finally, in the afternoon, to the García Moreno prison in the city of Quito.

The protests in September 2009 took place against the proposed Water Law. The indigenous communities considered that this bill would not protect their sources of water from the damages that industrial activities cause, and that the Mining Law does not precisely define the precautions that should be taken by companies that have mineral holdings in order to avoid contamination of water reserves.

FIDH, CEDHU, INREDH, and CDES consider that to charge the Shuar indigenous, who were mobilized in defence of their rights, with terrorism seriously undermined the international principles to the right to protest and contravenes the international definition of what is meant by a terrorist act.

In this way, the application of article 160.1 of the penal code as applied by the President of the Provincial Court of Morona Santiago is very disconcerting. To designate as terrorism the actions which were undertaken as part of the social protest carried out by the Shuar people in defence of their rights to organize, to the freedom of association and to liberty of expression as enshrined in the Political Constitution of Ecuador and international instruments such as the Inter-American Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to the provisions in Article 160.1 of the penal code, is a dangerous misinterpretation of the legal framework tending toward the criminalization of social protest. This is particularly worrisome when the right to resistance is clearly guaranteed in the current Magna Carta of Ecuador.

An act of public protest does not constitute organized terrorism, and as a result the state, in fulfillment of the constitution and its international obligations, should absolve the indigenous men who have been detained of these charges, without prejudice, and investigate in an objective and impartial way the death of Professor Bosco Wisum. There exists a grounded fear that the above-mentioned indigenous men have been implicated in this crime merely for being social leaders and/or for having opposed through public demonstration the government's proposed water law that was not previously consulted with indigenous peoples. As a result, our organizations condemn the criminalization of protest in Ecuador, as well as the appeal to national justice as a means to silence social demands.

It is fitting to mention that these acts are taking place within the framework of the implementation of large scale, open-pit mining on indigenous lands on the part of foreign companies, which without due oversight by the state of their activities, have contributed to the growth in social conflicts and have led to the violation of fundamental rights of affected communities. The protests that have been developing at a national level since 2005 are directly linked to the lack of participation on the part of affected populations in environmental management, as well as an absence of dialogue, a lack of mechanisms for prior, informed consultation of local populations, and as a result of a failure to consult with indigenous peoples as guaranteed in Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and the constitution.

Additionally, FIDH, CEDHU, INERDH, and CDES express their concern for the fact that despite the amnesty granted by the National Constituent Assembly in 2008 in favour of individuals that were affected by investigations and legal processes as a result of their defence of their land and water, repression, detentions and charging of citizens who are committed to the defence of collective rights continues.

Finally, these organizations recall that the right to free, prior and informed consent of communities and indigenous peoples is contemplated in Article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, as well as in Article 6 of Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), while reiterating their extraordinary concern as a result of the violation of human rights in the above mentioned context.

For further information:

FIDH: Karine Appy/Fabien Maître + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 90 19
CEDHU: Elsie Monge + 593 2 257 0561
INREDH: Luis Ángel Saavedra + 593 2 244 6970
CDES: Gabriela Ordoñez + 593 2 250 2611; 8414 1218

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