WASHINGTON – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced the excessive use of force by the Ecuadorean police in anti-government protests last month and criticized the President Rafael Correa for applauding the abuses.
“Correa has shown no concern for the rights of protesters. On the contrary, he applauded the police who hit them, and threatened lawyers and journalists who exposed this brutal mistreatment,” HRW’S Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco said in a statement.
According to testimony collected by HRW, during the protests in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, on Sept. 17-18, police arbitrarily arrested protesters and beat them.
Dozens of those arrested suffered serious physical abuse such as beatings, kicks and electric shocks, the rights organization said.
“President Rafael Correa’s government responded to complaints and accusations of abuse by publicly congratulating the national police for its role during the protests and threatening to prosecute lawyers who denounced human rights violations by not telling the truth, and questioning the media that published information about the abuses,” HRW said.
According to Ecuadorean human rights organizations, more than 270 people were arrested during the protests and in the 24 hours after the arrests, more than 100 were brought before a judge and prosecuted for attacking or resisting authority and causing harm to others.
Lawyers and defenders consulted by HRW pointed out that the detainees were not informed of the charges against them before the hearings, and that they had no contact with family or lawyers until immediately before the hearings.
On Sept. 17, tens of thousands of people took part in protests all over Ecuador questioning several issues such as the proposal to reform the labor code, the possible rise in the cost of public transport, access to education in public universities, and government policies in the promotion of extractive industries.
Another anti-government protest took place in Quito on Sept. 18, but with fewer people, according to HRW.