GENEVA – The United Nations mission investigating the protests that occurred in Ecuador between Oct. 3-13 heard numerous complaints of arbitrary detentions by police and the possible disproportionate use of force, for which it asked that further investigations be permitted into those cases.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which deployed a team of experts there from Oct. 21 to Nov. 8, received reports that at least nine people had been killed, 1,507 injured (435 were members of security forces), and 1,382 placed under arrest, according to a statement by the organization this Friday.
The UN experts cited reports from victims and witnesses that police and military deployed, following the declaration of a state of exception, failed to comply with international rules in their “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force.”
“Victims and witnesses denounced the repeated use by security forces of tear gas and buckshot fired at short distances against demonstrators,” which left hundreds injured and undoubtedly some people killed, the mission said.
The statement noted as a “disturbing pattern” the large number of arbitrary detentions reported during the crisis, in some cases in huge numbers and “without any concrete charges against those detained.”
The mission interviewed many who said that after being arrested they suffered cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, while some reported that due process of the law was not observed when they were put in solitary confinement or moved to non-authorized detention centers.
Upon seeing the results of the mission, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michele Bachelet, said the protests “had a high cost” for those detained, and that “people should be able to express their complaints without fear of being injured or arrested.”
The former Chilean president, who sent a similar mission to investigate the protests in her own country and whose results will soon be published, urged Ecuadorians to enter into dialogue to prevent further conflicts and to build an inclusive, intercultural and peaceful society.
She also asked that “independent, impartial and transparent” investigations be carried out into reports of human rights violations and the plundering and destruction of public and private properties.
The mission of human rights experts traveled to Ecuador at the invitation of President Lenin Moreno’s government, which, as the spokeswoman for the UN office directed by Bachelet, Marta Hurtado, told a press conference Friday, provided freedom of access to the people and installations the UN personnel requested.
The experts carried out 373 interviews including 83 with some of the victims, and went to three detention centers while visiting the provinces of Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cotopaxi and Guayas.
The statement also said that some protesters presumably resorted to violence as they blockaded highways, looted and set fire to buildings, attacked ambulances and destroyed public and private property.
At the same time, the experts reported more than 100 attacks on reporters covering the protests, both by security forces and demonstrators, while some audiovisual media were cut off and several offices of other media suffered acts of vandalism.
The demonstrations in Ecuador took place between Oct. 3-13 after President Lenin Moreno announced adjustments to the economy that included the end of gasoline subsidies, a measure that detonated social protests.