Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) expresses its solidarity with the leaders of the Indigenous rights movement in Ecuador who are being criminalized for exercising their legitimate right to mobilize and defend their human rights.
We urge the Ecuadorian State and its judicial institutions to guarantee due process to Indigenous leaders and defenders of human rights, to protect them against persecution, and to respect their right to peaceful protest in a state of law and democracy.
On Monday, 13 June 2022, CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), supported by various civil society organizations, called for a national strike against the imposition of government policies that have led to increased poverty and insecurity, reduction in health and education budgets, and the aggressive imposition of extractive activities (mining and oil) that violate the collective rights and way of life of Ecuador’s Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples.
The state’s response to this mobilization has been to criminalize and persecute protesters. On 14 June 2022, the President of CONAIE and leader of the Indigenous movement, Leonidas Iza Salazar, was arbitrarily detained by police and military forces for 24 hours, during which he remained in isolation for more than 15 hours. A judge then began criminal proceedings against Salazar for allegedly obstructing public services, in a clear attempt to crush his and other Indigenous leaders’ universal right to protest. The legal future of Iza continues to be uncertain while he awaits his hearing on 4 July 2022, leading to serious concerns that he will be sentenced with an intention to silence the country’s Indigenous rights movement.
We strongly urge the Government of Ecuador to send a clear message to its communities and to the world that it is committed to protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and their movements, and that it respects their right to demand fair and inclusive policies that ensure their wellbeing.