UPR Of Ecuador: Freedom Of Expression For Human Rights Defenders And Journalists Problematic
Ecuador was reviewed for the second time under the UPR process on 21st May 2012...All States that took part in the interactive dialogue saluted the achievements of Ecuador since its last review and the efforts made by the Government in implementing recommendations made in the first cycle...Despite the strides made by Ecuador it was not spared from criticism. Western countries like Belgium and Canada were the first to draw attention to restrictions on the freedom of expression and association of journalists, NGOs, and human rights defenders.
"Unlike in the first cycle where speaking slots were allocated on a first come first served basis, the allocated speech time for States in the second cycle was equally divided among the number of States wishing to speak. In the case of Ecuador 73 States were registered on the list of speakers, each was allocated 1 minute and 36 seconds. The delegation of Ecuador was led by the Vice-President Mr Lenin Moreno Garcès and included the Minister of Justice, a high-level delegation demonstrating a serious approach from the Ecuadorian Government to the UPR process. As a member of the Human Rights Council until 2013, this display of commitment to the process is important. Ecuador engaged well in the interactive dialogue, taking comments into account, and tried to provide answers to some of the concerns.
In his opening statement the Vice-President elaborated on the new constitution adopted by referendum in 2008. In addition to the promotion of human rights, it enshrines the concept of Sumak Kawsay which reinstates the notion of ‘good living’ important to the indigenous people of Ecuador. The Ecuadorian Government has put in place a national plan of good living which is its ‘road map to human rights development’. Innovatively the constitution recognises the right of people to a healthy environment and promotes the protection of the environment.
The main recommendations made to Ecuador were:
- Continue efforts in social development
- Develop new programs to combat discrimination
- Establish a system of universal birth registration
- Adopt special measures providing access to collective rights of indigenous people and adopt mechanisms ensuring the rights of indigenous people to be consulted
- Facilitate a constructive dialogue between stakeholders to promote freedom of expression
- Comply with international obligations especially in regards to freedom of expression and freedom of the press
- Continue reforming the judicial system and expedite that reform. The reform should provide for provisions ensuring the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary as well as protecting judges from undue influence.
All States that took part in the interactive dialogue saluted the achievements of Ecuador since its last review and the efforts made by the Government in implementing recommendations made in the first cycle. In particular, the social and economic programme pursued by the Ecuadorian Government has proved to be efficient in reducing poverty, child labour, and achieving social inclusion by fighting discrimination. Nevertheless, further actions are needed in order to fully address these issues. States such as China, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Luxembourg, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Zimbabwe, and Algeria recommended that Ecuador continues its efforts in social development by fighting poverty, and develop new programs to combat discrimination. Despite the decrease, child labour has not been eradicated. It is closely linked to the trafficking of children and is rooted in deficiencies in the process of birth registration. Finland suggested the establishment of universal birth registration. Regarding indigenous people’s rights, Hungary recommended the adoption of special measures against discrimination to provide access to collective rights as well as the adoption of mechanisms to ensure indigenous people’s right to be consulted.
Despite the strides made by Ecuador it was not spared from criticism. Western countries like Belgium and Canada were the first to draw attention to restrictions on the freedom of expression and association of journalists, NGOs, and human rights defenders. States referred to information provided by NGOs pertaining to the detention of journalists under defamation and contempt provisions in the criminal code. Ecuador clarified that no journalists were being detained and that press agencies were not stigmatised. It underlined the fact that, on the contrary, the Ecuadorian government was encouraging the development of the media. It further indicated that a new criminal code was in the process of being adopted and that this new code does not contain the disputed provisions. However, France, Germany, and other European Union States continued to raise these concerns.
Switzerland and Austria requested information on the application of decree 982 to NGOs, human rights defenders, and journalists. This decree restricts the rights of NGOs and allows the government to dismantle NGOs on a discretionary basis. Switzerland mentioned that the decree should not be applied to human rights defenders and journalists. Further concerns for the freedom of expression of human rights defenders were expressed. The Minister of Justice replied that Ecuador provides ‘facilities for all human rights defenders’ to exercise their rights and reminded the assembly that Ecuador has been congratulated by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders
At the adoption of the report, Cuba, speaking on behalf of the troika, noted that many of the recommendations made to Ecuador had acknowledged the progress made by the State since its last UPR, and that a large number of those recommendations are already in the course of being implemented, such as those relating to prisons, the elimination of child labour, maternal and child mortality, and the improvement of the conditions of persons with disabilities. Ecuador stated that it had accepted '95 per cent' of the recommendations made to it."
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