GENEVA – A team of three experts from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will travel to Ecuador from Oct. 20 to Nov. 8 to probe alleged human rights violations during recent violent protests, that agency announced Friday.
The delegation, which will travel at the invitation of Ecuador’s government, will investigate allegations the office has received about possible abuses by state security forces and third parties, UNHCR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a press conference in Geneva.
The experts will meet with government officials, indigenous leaders, civil society representatives, journalists and other parties to learn first-hand about the circumstances surrounding the violence that spread nationwide starting Oct. 3, she added.
Shamdasani also urged authorities to conduct impartial and transparent investigations into the alleged rights abuses committed over the 10 days of protests and disturbances.
She also expressed the UNHCR’s concern over the protest-related arrests of political leaders and elected officials and urged President Lenin Moreno’s administration to safeguard due-process rights.
The protests in Ecuador were launched in opposition to austerity measures that Moreno’s government implemented under a $4.2 billion financing deal agreed early this year with the International Monetary Fund.
The most controversial aspect of the plan was the end of decades-old fuel subsidies, which spurred a 123 percent increase in the price of diesel.
Eight people died, more than 1,300 were injured and a thousand were arrested in connection with the protests, according to Ecuador’s Ombudsman’s Office.
They ended after Moreno agreed to scrap the austerity package in a deal with indigenous leaders on Oct. 13.
On Oct. 11, New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Ecuadorian authorities to “investigate and hold accountable demonstrators who committed serious acts of violence and members of security forces who responded with excessive force.”
HRW said then that it had heard in interviews that Ecuador’s police had fired tear gas indiscriminately at protesters, sometimes in enclosed spaces or from a distance close enough to cause injuries.
The rights watchdog also said some protesters had acted violently, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, attacking police, burning military vehicles and looting and vandalizing buildings.
While the protests were still ongoing, Moreno said they were being orchestrated by unidentified elements from the government of his predecessor and political mentor, Rafael Correa.
After serving for several years as Correa’s vice president, Moreno won election on a promise to maintain the center-left policies of the Alianza Pais party.
Instead, he has moved to reverse virtually all of Correa’s initiatives and programs.