Interview to Pablo de la Vega – Inter American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD for its acronym is Spanish)

Ecuador: balance of successes and challenges in the area of human rights

Monday 13 May 2013

All the versions of this article: [English] [Español] [français]

Authorship: Nelsy Lizarazo

Published: Pressenza International Press Agency

Canal: Inter American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD)

Type of document: Interview

Language: Spanish

Theme: Human rights

Keywords: Democracy, Human rights, Government, Legislation, Civil society

Countries and Regions: Ecuador

Description: Interview to Pablo de la Vega, Coordinator of PIDHDD

-  Lights and shades in the recent past
-  Challenges: looking inwards and outwards

To see the full text of the interview on a direct link and on PDF format

A new term of power for the government of Rafael Correa will start in a couple of weeks. With the aim of providing our reads with more elements around the context in the country we have been offering in past days an interview to María Augusta Calle, member of the Assembly by Alianza PAIS. Today we are providing a different scope, this time from the perspective of the civil society. Pablo de la Vega, an Ecuadorian and present regional coordinator of the Inter American Platform of Human Rights–PIDDH–, offers us his assessment of the advances and challenges faced by the Revolución Ciudadana, in the sphere of human rights.

Light and shaded in the recent past

Pressenza: Pablo, according to your perspective and knowledge, which are the most significant advances and things yet to attain by the government of the Revolución Ciudadana in this period that is about to end?

Pablo: the base which allow us to produce a reflection on the role of the Ecuadorian state and its government in the promotion and protection of human rights is the constitutional norm and the challenges that the Constitution from 2008 state for all Ecuadorians and in particular for the human rights organizations. The constitutional norm characterize the Ecuadorian state along the following terms: “Ecuador is acknowledged as a constitutional State of rights and justice”.

This is the argument from which the human rights organizations are demanding for the State to fulfill its obligations along three very concrete areas: respect, protect and guarantee human rights. These are the obligations the State has both facing the Ecuadorian community as well as facing the international community.

The State has been, progressively and slowly, implementing a first challenge marked by the Constitution: the construction of a responsible institutionalism of respecting, protecting and guaranteeing human rights. The present government has received an inheritance from the traditional democracy and from the partycracy. To create a new state institutionalism from a comprehensive perspective takes some time. Along this process certain mistakes and omissions have been made.

There are in the constitution ninety four articles devoted to speak about rights and guarantees. Nevertheless, from the institutional point of view we only have the People Defender as the body in charge of human rights. Of course, the logical thing would be for all State institutions to watch after human rights.

We have seen the,, in the first stage of the government by the Revolución Ciudadana, the challenge of creating a new institutionalism, but also the collision with the normative still enacted presenting yet old and perverse vices which regretfully are maintained in some cases.

Another key aspect covered, also with certain shyness, is the issue of the recovering of the memory. The creation of the Truth Committee, which forms part of this new institutionalism and attempts to recover the memory of the victims of a shameful past, was a remarkable step forward. Nevertheless, it left the victims and their relatives facing the debt, since beyond the symbolic compensation which they might have received, they cannot find an answer to their hopes of finding truth or that of obtaining from the State guarantees of no repetition.

Pressenza: What ever happened with the report delivered by the Truth Commission?

Pablo: The Truth Commission presented its report and delivered all those cases which merit an investigation under responsibility of the State through the District Attorney office. Out of the cases handed in, over one hundred; we have noticed that only no more than twelve have advanced. This faces us to the role of the State and of the State facing the impunity. We have had the opportunity of speaking several times to the prosecutors of the unit responsible and we can assure that in many cases they do have solid evidence regarding who are those responsible of the violations included in the report. The question to be asked is when will they bring into the courts those persons implicated in these violations?

Pressenza: an example of this?

Pablo: The Truth Committee has identified all the members of the public force implicated in the extrajudicial execution of Fausto Basantes. The question is: what is the office of the prosecutor waiting for to inform the courts and bring them to justice? We have not been able to find an answer for that question. It happens then that substantive advances are stopped, due to political factors which we do not know.

Pressenza: and what about the implementation of a public policy to guarantee rights for the most vulnerable sectors?

Pablo: We have seen, with great interest, how from the most technocrat sectors of the government an approach on human rights has been included as a paradigm for national and territorial planning. After seven years of governmental management, results are incipient. The initiative of working along public policies with this approach and by sectors, present some bottle necks, again due to institutionalism.

Pressenza: could you illustrate with a case?

Pablo: Yes. After the disappearance of the National Women Council, the Equality Councils were to be created, to work public policies not only related to the rights of women, but also of children, of migrant people, in summary, to the most vulnerable sectors. It has not been possible and no one has been able to understand why this is so. It does not seem it is due to a lack of resources or normative, or a will. In the light of the available information, there is no reason whatsoever.

Pressenza: a priority issue in the period just ending is justice. Which are, from your own perspective, the advances and setbacks in this process?

Pablo: This has been an issue under a great political pressure. In brief a balance would be the following: there has been a strong investment in the infrastructure and operative capacity but we cannot see how those which have suffered the surgery of justice are really able to fight impunity or the lack of security or the other functions of the State. The international recommendations were not well accepted by the same government who hired them.

The system of justice requires in an urgent and decisive way, to adjust itself to constitutional standards and to the human rights norms. Thus, we need a deep reform to the national police, at all levels. A reform to the penitentiary system in which the present government has made huge investments but it still is following a path leading to nowhere. Allow me to explain this idea: we are demanding that these nefarious jails where several human rights are violated should change. But we are continuing building more jails; this doesn’t seem to be the most proper pattern to follow, according to criminal and prison experts. Finally there is this new criminal code around which there is a strong debate since, from the perspective of human rights institutions, there is a window through which a series of proposals could filter which will run against the essence of the Constitution. Thus, the police reform, the one of the judicial system and of the normative represents the four legs of a table: the justice system of our country. All of them should be aligned to the essence of the Constitution and to the highest standards of human rights.

Pressenza: Let’s tallk about the right to resistance and to civic protest, is there a trend to criminalize social protest in Ecuador?

Pablo: In our Criminal Code, now enacted, there are anachronisms that have been reactivated and invoked in recent years at a time of social conflicts, given margin to a discretional interpretation by those in charge of implementing justice. So, conducts such as the obstruction of roads or damages to private property are put aside, which are possible to be sanctioned with sums of money to be paid or criminal figures are invoked, such as terrorism, sabotage, actions against State security, which does not correspond the alleged violations done. Criminal justice can be used as an instrument for political control and of course, it is a major concern of the national and international human rights institutions. We are worried that in the period just starting, the National Assembly will not open civic participation in the debate about the new criminal norm.

In summary, the justice reform still has certain debts and especially there are signals showing that the path it is following is not aligned to the constitutional standard.

Continue reading the interview on a direct link and on PDF format

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