Pablo Xavier Ortiz, academic and adviser at Amazanga Institute

Re: Pablo Xavier Ortiz, academic and adviser at Amazanga Institute

To: Ing. Raúl Baca Carco, minister of the interior

Dra. Mariana Yépez de Velasco, attorney general

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, member of LRWC

Date: 2004-04-08

LRWC is gravely concerned by information received from Amnesty International regarding threats to the safety of members of the organisations Fundación Pachamama and Instituto Amazanga, and the academic, Pablo Xavier Ortiz.

On April 6, 2004, an unidentified caller telephoned Fundación Pachamama and said, “ya les advertimos y no nos hicieron caso. Ahora les dejamos un realito en el edificio”. Fearing a bomb in the building, staff evacuated the Fundación Pachamama offices and reported the threat to the police. The police searched the building, but found nothing. A few hours later, a box was left outside the organisation’s door. Police discovered the box to be empty.

Fundación Pachamama reported the events of April 6th to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The bomb threat on April 6th is the most recent in a series of acts of intimidation and harassment directed at the Fundación Pachamama and the Instituto Amazanga. In February, Mr. Ortiz, who is an advisor to the Instituto Amazanga, received death threats in relation to his work for the Institute. Further, the Fundación Pachamama received a number of threatening telephone calls on February 12th, including a death threat. All threats and telephone calls were reported to the Ministry of the Attorney General.

It is apparent to LRWC that the threats to the Fundación Pachamama, the Instituto Amazanga and Mr. Ortiz are meant to discourage their support for the Sarayaku indigenous community, which opposes oil extraction in its territory by Compañía General de Combustibles of Argentina (“CGC”). LRWC is aware that CGC has been granted a concession to extract oil in the Sarayaku’s territory by the Ecuadorian Government.

LRWC is further aware that the Ministry of Energy and Mining assured Amnesty International on February 27th that Ecuador would protect the safety of all Ecuadorians at the Fundación Pachamama. However, we note that the letter to Amnesty International did not state whether authorities had opened an investigation into the complaints, nor did it specify measures being taken by the State to guarantee the safety of those under threat. Further, in light of the fresh threats against the Fundación Pachamama, LRWC is concerned about Ecuador’s ability and willingness to protect threatened human rights advocates. LRWC is also deeply troubled by the reported response of the Ecuadorian Minister of Energy and Mines to the precautionary measures endorsed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in relation to the Sarayaku community in December 2003. When those precautionary measures were communicated to the Minister, he reportedly said “la OEA no manda aquí”.

Mr. Minister and Madam Attorney General, LRWC reminds the Government of Ecuador of its international legal obligations to protect human rights defenders. Ecuador is party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, among others. It would be inconsistent with Ecuador’s legal obligations under these treaties to fail to protect those threatened and investigate their complaints, to ignore precautionary measures adopted by the Inter-American Commission, and to fail to prosecute those responsible for acts of harassment.

Further LRWC notes the 1998 UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This Declaration evidences the international community’s general acceptance of an obligation to protect those who work in the cause of human rights protection and promotion. LRWC expects, and sincerely hopes, that Ecuador will fulfill its moral obligation as a member of the international community to adhere to the terms of the Declaration and remedy abuses against members of the Fundación Pachamama and the Instituto Amazanga.

LRWC calls on you to act on Ecuador’s international obligations by immediately:

  • taking concrete, effective steps to ensure the safety of members of Fundación Pachamama and the Instituto Amazanga, in accordance with the international obligations set out above; and
  • investigating the death threats directed to Mr. Ortiz and Fundación Pachamama earlier this year, and the bomb threats allegedly directed at Fundación Pachamama on April 6th. We also urge you to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

Please advise LRWC, by mail, e-mail or fax, of the actions that you are taking in relation to the matters discussed above. LRWC awaits your response.