Ecuador rejects annual U.S. State Dept. human rights report

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa speaking with journalists in Quito last month. (Agencia de Noticias ANDES/Flickr)

Ecuador’s government has called out the U.S. government on multiple human rights failures in a rejection of a recent annual report issued by the U.S. State Department.

Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry rejected the report Friday in a statement on its official online portal, calling on the U.S. “to demonstrate a real commitment to international human rights law” through adhering to treaties it has so far refused to sign.

“[Ecuador] urges the United States government to listen to the constant calls of the international community to put an end to the grave threat to Human Rights that has exposed thousands of citizens in a situations of human mobility in their territory,” according to the statement.

The statement mentions specific human rights treaties the U.S. has so far refused to agree to, among them the American Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ecuador also called out several ongoing, controversial practices overseen by the U.S. government, including illegal detention, inadequate judicial processes and torture in the Guantanamo prison, continued use of the death penalty, the illegal and criminal blockade of Cuba, and the use of assassination drones.

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The State Department’s annual report documents human rights conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories. Reuters reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson quietly unveiled the report in a conference call with reporters, breaking a precedent set by previous administrations that announced the report in person.

Human rights groups criticized the break with tradition.

“It’s just signaling a lack of basic interest and understanding in how support for human rights reflects what’s best about America,” said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First.

While the report is intended to help shape U.S. aid, security and other aspects of foreign policy, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry argued that the report aims to tarnish Ecuador’s international image in the interest of U.S. politicians.

In the section on Ecuador, the report noted issues of corruption and “a lack of independence in the judicial sector.” The report also criticized Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s alleged “verbal attacks against media and civil society” – a critique widely perceived as a double standard, considering U.S. President Donald Trump’s well-documented attacks on media institutions and individuals.

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Throughout the report, however, the State Department noted that Ecuador is actively addressing each of the areas of criticism.

Ecuador will come before the United Nations Human Rights Council this May for scrutiny of its human rights record. Every U.N. member country is subject to review – a process known as the Universal Periodic Review – to evaluate compliance with international human rights standards.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) officials said Ecuador will be asked to explain why it has failed to implement key recommendations accepted during its previous review in 2012, particularly its restrictions around freedom of speech and association. Correa signed a communications law in 2013 granting his government broad powers to punish independent media outlets, HRW noted, and his administration has repeatedly used the legislation to ensure favorable coverage.

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Madrid-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau or email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org.