Ecuador's Ombudsman Freddy Carrión Intriago has an important role to play in defending human rights. Photo: Defensoría del pueblo

FUF-correspondents

Human rights organizations stopped new defense decree in Ecuador

A new decree in Ecuador is criticized for increasing the military's presence during protests and for allowing deadly violence against protesters. Human rights organizations stopped the decree in the Constitutional Court - with the help of the country's Ombudsman. The Development Magazine has spoken to the noted Ombudsman.

On May 29, Ecuador's Secretary of Defense, Oswaldo Jarrin, issued a ministerial decree redefining the powers of the military. The decree aroused national criticism.

- The law goes against the constitution and fundamental rights because the military can take part in operations in protests and use deadly force, says the country's Ombudsman, Freddy Carrión Intriago.

The Ombudsman is an important democratic state institution that acts as a controlling power to safeguard citizens' rights vis-à-vis authorities. Together with civil society, the Ombudsman is a cornerstone of democracy for balancing, criticizing and reconsidering government decisions and laws. Human rights organizations and the Ombudsman have now appealed the new decree to the Constitutional Court.

In a video call, Utvecklingsmagasinet Freddy Carrión interviews Intriago about the country's new defense decree 179.

- The ministerial decree violates national and international law and we therefore decided to go to the Constitutional Court - several human rights organizations have done the same, he says.

This is not the first time the Ombudsman has been in the political hotspot recently. In October last year, Ecuador was shaken by mass protests as a result of the country's fuel subsidies being withdrawn. The Ombudsman then became a key player in reporting on human rights violations and in cooperating with international organizations. His work has met with support, criticism and even threats against him and his family.

During the interview, the Ecuadorian flag appears in the background of his office. Next to it hangs the Ombudsman's flag with the slogan "The challenge of being different is to feel equal". He emphasizes that the decree does not live up to civil and political rights.

- The right to life and physical integrity must never be violated - not even in exceptional situations such as protests or instability, he says.

The Ministry of Defense, for its part, has instead pointed out that lethal force may only be used if there is a threat to the military or someone else, and that military action must comply with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. They believe that the new law does not violate the right to protest.

The Ombudsman considers that the Ministerial Decree not only violates human rights, but also constitutional norms.

- The military has the power to defend the population against external threats, not to deal with internal protests, says Freddy Carrión Intriago.

The Ombudsman quotes António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, and warns that the ongoing sanitary and economic crisis could also result in a humanitarian crisis.

- In such a situation, with a higher social dissatisfaction among the population, protests can arise as a legitimate way for people to influence their situation and their rights, says Freddy Carrión Intriago.

Following pressure, the Constitutional Court ruled that the ministerial decree did not comply with the constitution. It therefore ceases to apply until a new solution can be found. The decision is in many ways a benefit to civil society. It is also a receipt of the Ombudsman's work to safeguard rights.

- In the future, we need a rights policy that is not backward-looking, he says and smiles hopefully.

With new challenges from the corona pandemic and an economic crisis, it remains to be seen whether Freddy Carrión Intriago's hopes will be met.

Is there something in the text that is not correct? Contact us at opinion@fuf.se

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