The report of the Truth and Justice Commission on the events of the October 2019 protests was recently presented in Ecuador.
The report, commissioned by the Ecuadorian Defender’s Office, concludes that there have been allegations of human rights violations by members of the national police and armed forces against the population.
The evidence led the commission to conclude that the state seriously violated the rights to life, physical, psychological and sexual integrity, personal liberty, freedom of expression, peaceful protest and the law. to resistance.
This is done through repeated and widespread actions, which could even imply the existence of crimes against humanity.
Demonstrations and repression
On October 1, 2019, two days before the start of the crackdown that lasted almost two weeks, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno announced in a national channel a series of economic and social measures, as part of the respect of the agreement between Ecuador and the International Monetary Fund.
Basically, it was an economic, social and workforce adjustment that had a huge impact on the vast majority of the population.
The elimination of the fuel subsidy, in force in the country for 40 years, was the measure that sparked the protests.
Added to this were reforms aimed at reducing the tax burden on economic groups, liberalizing trade – by removing or reducing tariffs -, reducing the tax on foreign currency outflows on raw materials and a series of privatizations. .
The “essence,” as the social explosion is also called, was primarily driven by the indigenous movement and contested by the executive, both through the adoption of a state of emergency and through the use of state security forces and organs to suppress the demonstration.
To gain public opinion, the government used the public and private media and lobbied other bodies, such as the prosecutor’s office and the Constitutional Court.
In addition to the violence carried out during the national strike, violations of the rights linked to political participation – freedom of expression, communication and information -, to protest – to freedom of expression -, to resistance – a right recognized as such in article 98 of the Constitution of Ecuador – and honor, privacy, liberty and security, dignified and humane treatment during detention and trial.
In addition, government denunciations of political and social leaders, communications interventions, media shutdowns, arrests and statements of provisional arrest of activists, serving officials and leaders of social movements are an example of use, during and after the strike, of the judiciary to repress. and eliminate political pluralism, known as “lawfare”.
The facts revealed by human rights organizations and examined by bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) or the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights were analyzed. in the Truth Commission report.
In 519 testimonies, 249 alleged human rights violations were quantified, including six extrajudicial executions, 22 violations of the right to life, three cases of sexual violence and 20 eye injuries.
Truth and Elections Commission
The content of the report fell at the epicenter of the second round of the presidential election. Some voices have pointed out that it should have been introduced after the election, while others advocate its publication mainly for two reasons.
Firstly, because of the urgency of clarifying the facts, since the aim of the report is to deliver justice, the victims to be compensated and the perpetrators to be subjected to the relevant legal procedures, avoiding a possible exit from the country after the elections.
And the second reason is that the report does not mention the candidates who will run in the second round: Andrés Arauz, progressive candidate, and Guillermo Lasso, right-wing candidate.
On the other hand, both the commission and the contents of the report were denigrated by the authorities involved, who deny the existence of the facts of which they are accused.
The Presidency of the Republic, the Ministry of Defense and other entities involved asserted that police and military actions were carried out within the framework of the law.
In addition, they accuse the report of being partial and of not giving sufficient weight to human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials.
Analysis of the document shows that the report also reports the existence of common law crimes committed during the October strike and the impact on the physical integrity of the officers.
However, it is important to remember that the purpose of the commission’s work is to give substance to the right to truth enjoyed by victims of the excessive use of force by agents of the State; ordinary crimes are dealt with by other bodies.
As with the nationwide strike, criticism of the government was widely echoed in the mainstream media, while alternative media and social media were the ones that helped disclose the commission’s findings.
Truth, justice and reparation
The report’s recommendations call for the need to ensure an impartial investigation guaranteeing victims access to information in accordance with international protection standards.
The document focuses on “comprehensive reparation” to recommend individual, symbolic and collective reparation measures, as well as institutional, and states that “the Ecuadorian state, through its highest representative, should issue a public apology to victims of human rights violations the national strike of October 2019 “.
The document is a necessary recognition to continue to demand justice and reparation.
Now, after a complaint from the public defender’s office, it is the prosecutor’s and the courts’ turn to respond so that no abuse goes unpunished.
Only then, with truth, justice and reparation, will it be possible to heal the wounds opened during the popular uprising in October.