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Ecuador

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary killings. Credible reports continued that security forces, particularly police units, used excessive force and committed isolated unlawful killings.

In November 2015 Francisco Cajigas, a Colombian citizen, was found dead, two weeks after the police detained him outside his house in Ibarra for allegedly breaking a car’s mirror. After the autopsy and investigation process, Cajigas’ family received his body with his cranium missing. On May 26, Vice Minister of Interior Diego Fuentes stated that an investigation was underway to determine possible police responsibility. In June the director of the Truth and Human Rights Commission of the Prosecutor’s Office stated that an investigation was in progress due to allegations that Cajigas was a victim of an extrajudicial execution. According to local human rights activists, the prosecutor in charge failed to perform a thorough forensic examination at the start of the investigation. On October 10, the Attorney General’s Office conducted a crime scene reconstruction.

A Quito-based human rights organization reported that an investigation continued into the death of John Jairo Urrutia Guaman, a 15-year-old who died in December 2015 while in police custody. As of December 7, the investigation remained in progress.

Human rights organizations reported additional alleged unlawful killings by security forces in Guayaquil and Carapungo, but no additional public information was available regarding law enforcement investigations.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

While the constitution and laws prohibit torture and similar forms of intimidation and punishment, some police officers reportedly tortured and abused suspects and prisoners, at times with impunity.

On May 31, approximately 80 police officers from the Maintenance of Order Unit (UMO) and Intervention and Rescue Group carried out an operation in the medium-security wing of the Turi Rehabilitation Center. Prisoners and human rights groups reported that UMO agents attacked prisoners with tear gas, batons, electric shocks, and kicks. On June 22, 13 prisoners filed a habeas corpus petition. On June 30, a judge in the Family, Woman, Children, and Adolescence judicial unit ruled in favor of the prisoners and ordered their transfer to another detention facility, respect for existing protocols and guarantees in all future operations carried out in the Turi center, and a public apology issued by the National Police. On July 25, the civil and commercial division of the court of Azuay nullified the process to adopt the habeas corpus petition, claiming the judge did not have the purview to rule on the petition. A second hearing on the habeas corpus petition took place on September 7. On September 28, a judge ruled that the inmates suffered cruel and degrading treatment. The judge ordered the inmates’ transfer to other detention centers in the country, as well as medical and psychological care. The police officers involved in the operation were prohibited from entering any prison in the country. In addition, the judge ordered the Ministries of Justice and of Interior to offer a public apology and provide human rights training to prison authorities around the country on May 31, 2017, the first anniversary of the operation. Public Defender Ernesto Pazmino stated that the aggression against prisoners in Turi constituted “torture.” Local human rights organizations, including the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (CEDHU) and the Regional Human Rights Advisory Foundation, called on the government to improve human rights training for police officers and prison authorities.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to food shortages, harassment by security guards against prisoners and visitors, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: While government authorities announced that the expanded prison capacity had reduced overcrowding, gross overcrowding continued in some prisons. On July 26, El Universo newspaper reported that 79 inmates from the Social Rehabilitation Center in Ibarra were transferred to a prison in Latacunga following a fire. According to the article, the Ibarra prison held 540 inmates, although its operating capacity was only 140 inmates.

Pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together in some detention facilities. Despite the opening of new prisons with more modern amenities, prisoners and human rights activists complained about a lack of resources for inmates, which meant that prisoners or their families were expected to provide many basic supplies, including mattresses, clothing, toiletries, and medicines. In some facilities the health measures provided remained sufficient only for emergency care. Prisoners reported that medicines often were not available and that they had no access to dental care. Prisoners also complained of harsh living conditions, including sanitary problems, a lack of food, the poor nutritional quality of the food, and lack of heating and hot water. A human rights lawyer reported lack of access to potable water in certain prisons.

Reports continued that prison guards ordered female relatives of prisoners to remove their clothing prior to visits, and in some cases they subjected the relatives to inappropriate touching during security body searches. On June 28, government representatives told the UN Human Rights Committee that a protocol prohibits bodily searches and uses body scanners to search visitors.

Vulnerabilities in security remained a problem. Official information was unavailable concerning the national prevalence of deaths in prisons. According to local human rights organizations, prison authorities threatened family members of prisoners who died or suffered serious injuries to prevent them from making their complaints public.

On May 16, television station Teleamazonas reported that a fight between prisoners in the maximum-security wing of the Turi prison in Cuenca left one prisoner dead and seven injured.

Police conducted searches and raids in prisons throughout the year and discovered guns, grenades, ammunition, and drugs. They also continued to take action against criminal gangs operating within prisons, which sometimes involved prison authorities. On July 28, the newspaper El Telegrafo reported that law enforcement officials dismantled an extortion network operating in the Cotopaxi Social Rehabilitation Center. The network included a prison guard and an employee from a food services contractor. On November 24, El Comercio reported that a Guayas criminal court sentenced 10 individuals, including seven employees at a Guayaquil prison, to five years in prison for their role in allowing drugs and other prohibited items to enter the prison.

Administration: Despite improvements in recordkeeping in the new prison centers, upon completing their sentences some prisoners remained incarcerated due to bureaucratic inefficiencies, lack of recordkeeping on the length of their sentence or incarceration, and corruption. It was extremely difficult to obtain a firm release date from prison authorities, and the onus was often on inmates to schedule their own review boards.

Public defenders assisted inmates in filing complaints and other motions. Prisoners have the right to submit complaints to local and national human rights ombudsmen. Human rights activists stated that independent authorities did not sufficiently investigate allegations of poor prison conditions.

Justice Minister Ledy Zuniga reported that procedures existed for transferring prisoners to different locations outside of prison centers. Media, however, reported that in several provinces, police did not have enough official vehicles, and there were reports police officers used taxis to accompany prisoners to medical checkups and other outside visits.

Independent Monitoring: Independent nongovernmental monitors complained that their access to prisoners was limited. According to the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDH), prison authorities placed strict limits on who can visit prisoners and monitor prison conditions, which led to a “progressive isolation of prisoners.” Independent observers must submit in writing their reasons for visiting a prison, specifying general and specific objectives of the visit, as well as other information required by an administrative order. The CDH reported that many requests never received a response, which effectively prohibited independent monitors from accessing prisons.

Improvements: In newer prison facilities, prisoners may acquire goods through a biometric system, limiting the flow of cash currency among prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and other laws prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but there were reports that national, provincial, and local authorities in some cases did not observe these provisions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The National Police maintain internal security and law enforcement. The military is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities, including combating organized crime. Both the police and military are in charge of border enforcement. Migration officers are civilians and report to the Ministry of Interior. The National Police are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, and the military is under the supervision of the Ministry of Defense. The National Police’s internal affairs unit investigates killings by police and examines whether they were justified. The unit can refer cases to the courts. An intelligence branch within the military has a role similar to the police internal affairs unit. The law states that the Public Prosecutor’s Office must be involved in all investigations concerning human rights abuses, including unlawful killings and forced disappearance.

Corruption, insufficient training, poor supervision, and a lack of resources continued to impair the effectiveness of the National Police.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police and the armed forces. The government has mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, although some problems with impunity existed. According to official figures published on February 28, the National Police expelled 866 officials from its ranks between 2013 and 2016, including 83 during the first two months of the year. In late December 2015, media reported the arrests of 19 police officers involved in a corruption scheme that sold “passes” (workplace transfers) to other officers for $1,500 to $2,000 per pass (country’s official currency is U.S. dollar). On May 30, El Universonewspaper reported that 27 former police officers were initially linked to the process. Four individuals were convicted, the prosecutors dropped charges against five individuals, and court proceedings continued against 17 other former police officers. On September 5, 15 police officers–including the former commandant of the National Police, Fausto Tamayo–and a civilian participated in a hearing held at the National Court of Justice. On October 31, the Provincial Criminal Court of Pichincha sentenced Tamayo and Lieutenant Alexis Cifuentes to 13 years and three months in prison for organized delinquency. On December 3, state-owned media outlet El Telegraforeported that the Provincial Criminal Court of Pichincha sentenced nine defendants to nine years and three months in prison, while other individuals received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years.

Police receive required human rights instruction in basic training and in training academies for specialized units. In the police academy, human rights training is integrated throughout a cadet’s four-year instruction. Additionally, there is a mandatory human rights training regimen concerning preservation of life and human rights, along with a human rights handbook. There were reports that police officers complained to local nonprofit groups about the lack of knowledge and preparation of police instructors teaching human rights in the academy. Authorities offered other human rights training intermittently. The government continued to improve the preparedness of police, including increasing funding, raising salaries, and purchasing equipment.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires authorities to issue specific written arrest orders prior to detention, and a judge must charge a suspect with a specific criminal offense within 24 hours of arrest. Authorities generally observed this time limit, although in some provinces initial detention was often considerably longer. Detainees have the right to be informed of the charges against them. By law, if the initial investigation report is incriminating, the judge, upon the prosecutor’s request, may order pretrial detention.

Detainees have a constitutional right to an attorney. Indigents have the right to request a court-appointed attorney from the autonomous Public Defenders’ Office. Although the number of available court-appointed defenders was higher than in previous years, the high number of cases and limited time they had to prepare for the defense of the detainees continued to represent a disadvantage during trials.

Although the law entitles detainees prompt access to lawyers and family members, human rights organizations continued to report delays depending on the circumstances and officials’ willingness to enforce the law.

Pretrial Detention: Corruption; a lack of resources to train police, prosecutors, public defenders, and judges; and general judicial inefficiency caused trial delays. On June 28, a government delegation stated during its presentation to the UN Human Rights Committee that 30 percent of the 26,421 persons in detention had not received sentences.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Detained persons may challenge the legality of their detention through an appeal to any judge in the locality where the detention took place, and there is no time limit in which such an appeal must be filed. The detainee may also request bail or other alternatives (for example, house arrest or probation) to pretrial detention. Such alternatives are allowed only in cases of crimes punishable with prison terms of less than five years.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

While the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, outside pressure and corruption impaired the judicial process. Legal experts, bar associations, and human rights organizations reported on the susceptibility of the judiciary to bribes for favorable decisions and faster resolution of legal cases. Judges reached decisions based on media influence or political and economic pressures in cases where the government expressed interest. Delays often occurred in cases brought against the government, whereas cases brought by the government moved quickly through the courts. A nongovernmental organization (NGO), the judicial watchdog Observatorio de Derechos y Justicia, issued a report in June arguing that government officials implicated in a corruption scandal at state-owned company PetroEcuador received preferential treatment (see section 4), whereas persons critical of the government, including students and indigenous leaders, were subject to “disproportionate sanctions” for minor crimes or without evidence of any infraction. There were credible reports that the outcome of many trials appeared predetermined. According to human rights lawyers, the government also ordered judges to deny all “protectionary measures,” i.e., legal motions that argued the government had violated an individual’s constitutional rights to free movement, due process, and equal treatment before the law. Lawyers and human rights activists stated the government initiated disciplinary action based on “inexcusable error” against judges who allowed protectionary measures against the government.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair public trial, although delays occurred frequently. By law defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges.

The accused have the right to consult with an attorney or to have one provided, and to appeal. Defendants have the right to free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, but some defendants complained about the lack of an interpreter at court hearings. They have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare defense, although in practice this was not always the case, and delays in providing translation services made this difficult for some foreign defendants. They also have the right to be present at their trial and to access evidence held by police or public prosecutors. The accused may also present evidence and call witnesses, invoke the right against self-incrimination, and confront and cross-examine witnesses. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

Judges reportedly rendered decisions more quickly or more slowly due to political pressure or, in some cases, the payment of bribes. There were reported delays of up to a year in scheduling some trials.

Criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing congested dockets in criminal cases produced “simplified” proceedings in pretrial stages, resulting in summary proceedings against defendants with few if any due process protections.

The regular court system tried most defendants, although some indigenous groups continued judge members independently for violations occurred in indigenous territory.

From June 6 to July 13, 121 Cuban citizens were deported because they did not have legal status in Ecuador. Authorities placed some Cuban citizens in a temporary detention center and a local jail prior to deporting them. Human rights lawyers argued the deportations violated the migrants’ human rights because they did not receive due legal process. They also claimed that 40 Haitian citizens were deported without due legal process. Government authorities stated the migrants received due process in deportation hearings.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Civil courts and the Administrative Conflicts Tribunal, generally considered independent and impartial, handle lawsuits seeking damages for, or immediate ending of, human rights violations. Civil lawsuits seeking damages for alleged wrongs by the government rarely were filed, since such suits were difficult to prosecute and time-consuming, with judges taking up to a decade to rule on the merits of a case.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

Human rights groups denounced forced evictions by government authorities without due process or timely relocation to other housing. The evictions mostly affected Afro-Ecuadorian families in urban areas or indigenous families living near natural resource extraction projects. According to human rights organizations, in some cases the government failed to provide timely restitution or compensation to evicted families.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and the law prohibit such actions, but there were reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Human rights, environmental, and labor activists and opposition politicians reported physical surveillance by authorities, including monitoring of their private movements and homes. According to some human rights activists, the physical surveillance was an act of intimidation intended to silence any potential criticism of the government.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. In December 2015 the National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment to eliminate term limits for all elected positions, including the president, starting after the 2017 national elections.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2013 the government held elections for national offices, including the presidency and the multiparty National Assembly. The Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-American Union of Electoral Organisms, Union of South American Nations, and domestic observers judged the elections open, free, and well organized, despite some recurring and limited local irregularities. Although the international and domestic observation teams reported no major fraud, some reports of missing or marked ballots and of counting and vote-tabulation irregularities resulted in challenges filed with the National Electoral Council (CNE) and Electoral Contentious Court (TCE), the appeals body for electoral matters. Opposition candidates claimed the CNE and TCE did not address irregularities transparently. The OAS reported the precampaign period featured “differential access and exposure of the contenders in the media.” Furthermore, during the campaign period, there was unequal coverage of parties and candidates in news reports, depending on the ownership of the media. According to media monitoring by the local NGO Participacion Ciudadana, President Correa and his political supporters had a significantly greater presence in both public and private media than other candidates.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Electoral laws require political parties to register with the CNE. In order to receive authorization to participate in elections, parties and movements need to show the support of at least 1.5 percent of the electoral rolls by collecting voters’ signatures. The law requires registered parties to obtain minimum levels of voter support to maintain registration. Voters are restricted to registering with only one political group.

On September 26, the CNE signed an agreement with Participacion Ciudadana that would enable the civil society organization to conduct a “quick count” of the February 2017 national elections.

Opposition alternate legislator Henry Llanes presented a complaint against President Correa, Vice President Glas, and several state-owned media outlets over alleged electoral infractions related to the live transmission of Alianza PAIS’ political convention on October 1. On November 11, TCE judge Patricia Zambrano ruled against Llanes’ complaint. Zambrano subsequently tweeted a message of gratitude to Alianza Pais (AP) supporters who accompanied the ruling party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates’ registration at the CNE on November 16. Following complaints that Zambrano’s tweet demonstrated political partisanship, the TCE accepted Zambrano’s resignation on November 24.

On November 11, Fernando Villavicencio registered his candidacy for a National Assembly seat in the province of Pichincha with the CREO (Creating Opportunities) opposition party. On November 14, Gustavo Baroja, prefect of Pichincha and provincial leader of ruling party AP, objected to Villavicencio’s candidacy, noting that electoral law requires a candidate to resign from any political party 90 days before registering as a candidate for a separate party, unless the candidate receives authorization from the party to which he belongs. On November 17, the CNE accepted Baroja’s objection, based on Baroja’s argument that Villavicencio was affiliated with the Pachakutik party. On November 21, Villavicencio appealed the decision to the TCE, arguing that a document dated November 10 from Pachakutik’s coordinator authorized him to register as a candidate for CREO. Villavicencio also claimed that the decision to bar him from running was politically motivated, citing his public denunciations of corruption in state-owned oil company PetroEcuador. As of November 25, the TCE had not issued a ruling. In 2013 Villavicencio received an 18-month prison sentence for defamation of President Correa, although Villavicencio went into hiding and the sentence was subsequently reduced to 12 months and then vacated. As of late November, legal proceedings continued against Villavicencio over his alleged publication of private emails from senior government officials.

Participation of Women and Minorities: The constitution provides for government-promoted, gender-balanced representation in the public sector, including in the lists of political parties’ candidates for the National Assembly and other representative institutions. The electoral law mandates that electoral lists be gender balanced and structured in an alternating male-female (or vice versa) pattern for both primary and alternative candidates.

As of late September, the president’s cabinet included eight women out of 36 ministers and national secretaries. The National Assembly featured 59 women among the 137 legislators, including three women in the principal leadership positions. In the February 2014 local elections, two of the 23 elected prefects were women. According to a report by El Comercio, three women were elected mayors in a sample of 30 provincial capitals and other large cities.

Minorities were underrepresented in political positions at the local and national levels in proportion to their representation in the overall population.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The government took some steps to address official corruption. It continued a process to reform the judiciary, which improved the judiciary’s ability to remove corrupt or ineffective judges. Many civil society activists noted, however, that judges on the higher courts appeared more closely aligned with the current administration, and many questioned the independence of those courts, especially in politicized cases. Media reports alleged police corruption and corruption in public contracts and procurement, including in state-owned companies. Labor leaders and business owners reported corruption among labor inspectors.

Corruption: On May 16, police arrested Alex Bravo, the manager of public oil company PetroEcuador, for influence peddling. On August 10, the Attorney General’s Office modified Bravo’s charges by including the charge of illicit enrichment; later, charges were further expanded to include acceptance of bribes from the company Oil Services & Solutions. On October 5, Alexis Mera, President Correa’s legal secretary, announced that Bravo received $12 million in bribes and kickbacks during his tenure at PetroEcuador. The Attorney General’s Office charged 17 individuals, including Bravo, former minister of hydrocarbons Carlos Pareja, and their relatives in connection with the PetroEcuador corruption case. A Quito criminal court held a preliminary hearing to review evidence on October 21. The judge ordered pretrial detention for nine suspects and prohibited the other suspects from departing the country. According to media reports, 14 of the 17 suspects, including former minister Pareja, had already fled the country. On October 23, the justice and interior ministers announced that the government had requested that Interpol issue “Red Notices” for eight suspects outside of Ecuador. On November 23, prosecutors added charges of illicit enrichment against Pareja, Bravo, and other defendants. On December 2, El Comercio reported that criminal investigations related to money laundering, illicit enrichment, bribery, and organized crime remained in process against 80 individuals, with six under arrest and 24 facing criminal charges. As of December the case remained in progress.

On December 21, unnamed Ecuadorian officials were cited among those taking bribes from the Brazilian construction and engineering company Odebrecht. Odebrecht admitted to making more than $33.5 million in corrupt payments to government officials in Ecuador between 2007 and 2016. The company realized benefits of more than $116 million as a result. As of December 31 an investigation into corruption claims related to public works projects managed by Odebrecht remained in progress.

There were other reported instances of corruption involving lower-level government officials, judges, and police officers. In April the Center for the Study of Bribery and Extortion Situations issued a report that described several cases of extortion experienced by rural women, including monetary demands from police officers and sexual and monetary demands from government officials in rural parishes.

Financial Disclosure: Government officials are required to declare their financial holdings upon taking office and if requested during an investigation. All agencies must disclose salary information annually. The constitution requires civil servants to present a sworn statement regarding their net worth at the beginning and end of their term of office, including their assets and liabilities, as well as an authorization to lift the confidentiality of their bank accounts. All declarations are filed in the offices of public notaries and are entered as a public document. The comptroller general’s website contains a section where the public can conduct a search on officials to see if the officials complied with the income and asset disclosure requirement. There are no criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance, except for the inability to assume office. Public officials are not required to submit periodic reports, even when changes occur in their holdings.

Following the May 2015 arrests of a National Assembly member and two other public officials on corruption charges, National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira requested that the comptroller general investigate the declared assets of all 137 lawmakers. In May 2016 media reported that six legislators remained under investigation due to possible evidence of criminal liability. As of November 1, the Office of the Comptroller General had not made public the results of the investigation.

Public Access to Information: The constitution and other regulations provide for the right of public access to government information, but authorities did not effectively implement the law. The law requires all public and private organizations that receive public funds to respond to written requests for information, publish specific information on their website, and submit an annual report to the Ombudsman’s Office that details their compliance with the transparency law. Because of this legislation, government agencies increasingly included budget information, functions, organizational information, lists of government officers, and official notices on the internet in addition to responding to written requests. Nevertheless, the government did not always grant requests for information, and the government made exceptions, stating that the requested information was not available. Judges did not enforce the legislation requiring the government to release information.

Opposition legislators complained that although the law allows them to request information directly from government institutions, President Correa instructed government ministers to respond only to requests for information channeled through the president of the National Assembly.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Civil society organizations expressed concern about the government’s discretion to dissolve NGOs per Decrees 16 and 739 (see section 2.b., Freedom of Association). Decree 16 created the National Secretariat of Policy Management, an authority responsible for regulating the fulfillment of the objectives and activities of social and civic organizations. Civil society representatives argued that the vague and overly broad grounds for dissolution led to self-censorship among NGOs. Additionally, NGOs contended that challenging an order of dissolution via the judicial process might take several years.

International NGOs are also subject to the NGO regulations in Decree 739. The government continued to claim many NGOs were tools of foreign governments that destabilize the government.

The government criticized the credibility of specific international and local NGOs and their findings during public appearances, including the president’s weekly television and radio address.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government continued to lead an effort to disparage and weaken the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) and often refused to send representatives to the IACHR’s public hearings. The government refused to allow the IACHR to visit to investigate human rights problems in the country. On October 10, President Correa called for a new Inter-American System of Human Rights, arguing that the IACHR is an expression of “neocolonialism.”

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ombudsman’s Office, which the constitution describes as an administratively and financially independent body under the Transparency and Social Control Branch of government, focused on human rights problems. The Ombudsman’s Office regularly presented cases to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

A special unit within the Prosecutor’s Office has responsibility for investigating crimes revealed in the 2010 Truth Commission report on alleged human rights abuses that occurred between 1984 and 2008.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape and domestic violence. Rape is punishable with penalties of up to 22 years in prison. The criminal code includes spousal rape under crimes against sexual and reproductive integrity. The penalty for rape where death occurred is from 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment.

A 2011 government study found that 60 percent of women suffered from gender-based violence at some point during their lifetimes. Rates of abuse were highest among indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian communities. On August 15, citing figures from the Coordinating Ministry of Security, El Comercio newspaper stated that 2,368 sexual attacks were reported between January and July, compared with 2,803 attacks during the same period in 2015.

According to local experts, reporting rapes and other forms of violence continued to be a traumatic process, particularly for female minors. For example, a rape victim must file a complaint at the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the victim must submit to gynecological evaluations akin to rape kits administered by medical experts. Many individuals did not report cases of rape and sexual assault because of the victims’ fear of retribution from the perpetrator or social stigma.

Domestic violence is punishable with penalties ranging from four days to seven years in prison. The law provides penalties for physical violence, psychological violence, and sexual violence. According to the law, a prosecutor must investigate the victim’s complaint of domestic abuse before issuing a restraining order. There were reports that in some cases victims waited 10 days or more for a response from the Prosecutor’s Office. According to the law, domestic violence may be punished with a fine for “damages, pain, and suffering” ranging from $350 to $5,300, depending on the severity of the crime. The law also gives family courts the power to remove an abusive spouse from the home if continued cohabitation creates a risk to the victim of abuse. The law requires public hospitals to provide “first reception halls” to handle cases of sexual violence and domestic violence. The specialized halls–under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and staffed by physicians, psychologists, and social workers–offer immediate attention to the victim. The Ministry of Social and Economic Inclusion, together with some local and provincial governments and NGOs, also provides psychosocial services to victims of sexual and domestic violence. The ministry subsidizes shelters and other initiatives, including medical services at care centers and private clinics. The ministry does not publish public data on the number of shelters it funds, which were primarily located in the largest cities. According to NGO Fundacion Maria Amor, as of March there were five shelters nationwide for women who had suffered violence. Several women’s rights organizations stated that the government did not have the resources to support victims of sexual and domestic violence. Fundacion Maria Guare reported that the city of Guayaquil, with a population of more than three million, had only one shelter for abused women and children, with a capacity for 40 persons.

Based on 2016 statistics, there were 50 judicial units and 78 courts specializing in gender-based violence. The judicial units have responsibility for collecting complaints and assisting victims may order arrest warrants for up to 30 days of detention against the aggressor. The units forward serious abuse cases to prosecutors for criminal prosecution. Human rights activists stated that 16,000 cases of domestic violence were pending in the court system. They argued that the court system was not sufficiently staffed to deal with the caseload and that judges lacked specialized training for dealing with gender-based violence.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code criminalizes sexual harassment and provides penalties of three to five years in prison. Despite the legal prohibition of sexual harassment, women’s rights organizations described harassment in public spaces as common. There were reports of sexual harassment on public transportation.

Reproductive Rights: The law acknowledges the basic right of couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Some women’s rights activists complained of the lack of formal sexual education, the ineffective distribution of birth control, and the social stigma that discouraged women from seeking family planning services.

Discrimination: The constitution affords women the same legal status and rights as men. The law also provides that the government should formulate and implement policies to achieve gender equality, incorporate a gender focus into plans and programs, and provide technical assistance to implement the law in the public sector. Nevertheless, discrimination against women was prevalent, particularly with respect to economic opportunities for older women and for those in the lower economic strata. According to a government study published in March 2015, women’s average monthly income was $444, compared with men’s average monthly income of $548.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired through birth in the country, birth to an Ecuadorian mother or father abroad, or by naturalization. In 2013 a study by the vice presidency revealed that 5.5 percent of the population were not registered at birth. According to 2014 statistics, ethnic minority families with limited economic resources continued to show registration rates significantly lower than those of other groups. Government brigades traveled to remote rural areas to register families and persons with disabilities. While the law prohibits schools from requesting civil registration documents for children to enroll, some schools, mostly public schools, continued to require them. Human rights organizations reported that the problem particularly affected refugee children. Other government services, including welfare payments and free primary health care, require some form of identification.

Education: According to the constitution, education is obligatory through ninth grade and free through 12th grade. Nonetheless, costs for school-related items, such as uniforms and books, as well as a lack of space in public schools, continued to prevent many adolescents from attending school. In some provinces children were assigned to schools outside their neighborhood, and school buses were not made available.

Child Abuse: According to 2015 figures from the Office of the Public Prosecutor, family members of the victim perpetrated the sexual abuse in 98 percent of the cases. Police estimated that more than 40 percent of child abuse cases were not reported to authorities. According to media reports, one in four children suffered sexual violence in 2013. A 2013 study by Plan International found that 69 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 15 were victims of violence. NGOs reported that children living in the streets or in rural parts of the country, many from poor indigenous families, suffered from exploitative conditions.

Bullying remained a problem in schools and increasingly occurred on social media.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18. In June 2015 a procedural code went into effect that repeals provisions that had allowed marriage before the age of 18, with the exception that legally emancipated minors can marry at age 16.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography, with penalties of 22 to 26 years’ imprisonment. The age of consent is 14. The penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of children under the age of 18 is 13 to 16 years in prison. Commercial sexual exploitation of minors remained a problem, despite government enforcement efforts.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was a small Jewish community, including an estimated 250 families in Quito and 120 families in Guayaquil, according to local synagogues. Isolated instances of anti-Semitism occurred. In September the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Worship sanctioned the director and chief of security of the Quito Provisional Detention Center for allowing the use of an official stamp with a Nazi swastika for visitors entering the facility. The ministry condemned the use of any offensive symbol that could compromise one’s human rights.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other government services. The National Council on Disability Equality oversees government policies regarding persons with disabilities. Although the law mandates access to buildings and promotes equal access to health, education, social security, employment, transport, and communications for persons with disabilities, the government did not fully enforce it. The law requires that 4 percent of employees in all public and private enterprises with more than 25 employees be persons with disabilities.

The law grants persons with disabilities the right to cost and fee reductions from several public and private entities, including utilities, transportation, and taxes. It also stipulates rights to health facilities and insurance coverage, increases access and inclusion in education, and creates a new program for scholarships and student loans for persons with disabilities. In 2015 the government-owned newspaper El Telegrafo cited a study by the Technical Secretariat for the Inclusive Management of Disabilities that 65 percent of persons with disabilities finished primary education and 7 percent pursued university studies. The law provides for special job security for those with disabilities or those who care for a person with disabilities, and it entitles employees who acquire a disability to rehabilitation and relocation. A national system evaluates and registers persons with disabilities. Many of the benefits in the law are transferable to a parent or primary caregiver. The law also gives the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman responsibility for following up on alleged violations of the rights of persons with disabilities and stipulates a series of fines and punishments for lack of compliance with the law.

Advocates for persons with disabilities reported procedural regulations that went into effect in 2013 reduced coverage, protection, and the legal recognition of some persons with disabilities. For example, individuals with disabilities considered less inhibitive–those that restrict their capacity to perform less than 40 percent of essential everyday activities–lost access to certain economic benefits, including subsidized health care, home loans, special retirement and disability payments, and reduced fees in utility services. Advocates for persons with disabilities noted that the regulations contradicted labor laws, which require companies with at least 25 employees to hire persons with disabilities that restricted their capacity to perform less than 30 percent of essential everyday activities. Citing official figures, they argued that the 2013 regulations could affect access to economic benefits for up to 98,000 persons with disabilities of between 30 and 39 percent.

The government continued a campaign to create jobs for persons with disabilities, provide funding to municipalities to improve access to public buildings, and open training and rehabilitation centers. The initiative also monitored the degree of compliance by companies that hire persons with disabilities. The caregivers of persons with more significant disabilities received a monthly government subsidy of $240. The Technical Secretariat for Disabilities reported that between 2010 and 2014, there were 353,000 persons with disabilities registered, and 73,500 were incorporated into the labor market. According to a government study, the poverty rate for persons with disabilities fell from 42 percent in 2006 to 28 percent during the year.

The law directs the electoral authorities to provide access to voting and to facilitate voting for persons with disabilities, and international observers commended the government’s accommodations for persons with disabilities in the 2014 local elections. The CNE initiated a program to allow in-home voting for those with more significant disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The constitution declares the state to be plurinational and affirms the principle of nondiscrimination by recognizing the rights of indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian, and Montubio (an independent ethnic group of persons with a mixture of Afro-Ecuadorian, indigenous, and Spanish ancestry) communities. It also mandates affirmative action policies to provide for the representation of minorities. In 2009 the government began implementing a national plan to eradicate racial discrimination and exclusion based on ethnic and cultural differences.

Afro-Ecuadorian citizens, who accounted for approximately 7 percent of the population according to the 2010 census, suffered pervasive discrimination, particularly with regard to educational and economic opportunity. Afro-Ecuadorian organizations noted that, despite the absence of official discrimination, societal discrimination and stereotyping in media continued to result in barriers to employment, education, and housing. Afro-Ecuadorians continued to assert that police stopped them for document checks more frequently than they stopped other citizens.

Indigenous People

The constitution strengthens the rights of indigenous persons and recognizes Kichwa and Shuar as “official languages of intercultural relations.” The law provides indigenous persons the same civil and political rights as other citizens. The constitution grants indigenous persons and communities the right to prior consultation before the execution of projects that affect their rights. It also provides for their right to participate in decisions about the exploitation of nonrenewable resources located on their lands and that could affect their culture or environment. The constitution also allows indigenous persons to participate in the economic benefits that natural resource extraction projects may bring and to receive compensation for any damages that result.

In the case of environmental damage, the law mandates immediate corrective government action and full restitution from the responsible company, although some indigenous organizations asserted a lack of consultation and remedial action. The law recognizes the rights of indigenous communities to hold property communally, although the titling process remained incomplete in parts of the country.

Indigenous groups continued to challenge government decisions and laws covering mining, water resources, and hydrocarbon resources that did not consider indigenous viewpoints, their right to prior consultation, or intruded upon indigenous autonomy over their lands and resources. On July 11, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concerns over reports that the government granted natural resource concessions in indigenous territories without prior consultation and the potential negative impact of natural resource exploitation projects on indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.

On August 11, the criminal court of Morona Santiago sentenced indigenous leader Tomas Jimpikit, president of the Shuar Bomboiza Association, to one year in prison for paralyzing public services during a social protest on August 14, 2015. Five other individuals were found not guilty. On that same day, human rights organizations and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) reported that police and military forcibly evicted residents of indigenous community Shuar Nankints, in the province of Morona Santiago, in relation to a mining project. On November 21, Minister of Interior Diego Fuentes reported that Shuar members attacked a Chinese-owned mining camp in the southern Amazon region of Morona Santiago. Fuentes announced that charges of attempted murder would be brought against those involved in the attack. President Correa denounced the violence and stated that 14 police officers were injured, one critically. CONAIE and CEDHU called on the interior and defense ministries to halt incursions by security forces into Shuar communities to avoid further bloodshed. The Ministry of Defense rejected allegations by CONAIE that soldiers attacked the Shuar Nankints community and killed two Shuar.

On December 14, Coordinating Minister of Security Cesar Navas announced a 30-day state of emergency in the Amazon province of Morona Santiago, declaring that a police officer died during an attack by “illegal armed groups.” On December 14, members of the Shuar community ‘Nankints attacked police officers and military who were patrolling the mining camp La Esperanza in Morona Santiago Province, killing one police officer and injuring five other police officers and two servicemen. The Shuar attack followed months of militarization of canton San Juan Bosco and police and military forcibly evicting the indigenous community from their ancestral territory to facilitate the establishment of Chinese company Explorcobres S.A. mining project. Human rights organizations and indigenous confederations stated that the government carried out the evictions without respecting the constitutional rights of indigenous communities, such as the right to consultation prior to the prospection, exploitation, and commercialization of nonrenewable resources located in their ancestral land.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination and the right to decide one’s sexual orientation as a right. The law also prohibits hate crimes. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, LGBTI persons continued to suffer discrimination from both public and private bodies, particularly in education, employment, and access to health care. LGBTI organizations reported that transgender persons suffered more discrimination because they were more visible. A study by the National Statistics Institute in 2013 on LGBTI persons’ social inclusion and rights found that 66 percent of transgender individuals suffered violence in public spaces.

In December 2015 the National Assembly approved a law on identity and civil data that enables individuals above the age of 18 to choose if they want to include their sex or gender on their government-issued identity cards. On August 3, the regulation allowing individuals to select gender on their identity cards entered into force. During the year the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations and the CNE met to define actions that would protect transgender voters from discrimination during the February 2017 national elections

The government, led by the human rights ombudsman, was generally responsive to concerns raised by the LGBTI community. Nevertheless, LGBTI groups claimed police and prosecutors did not thoroughly investigate deaths of LGBTI individuals, including when there was suspicion that the killing was because of sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI activists reported that law enforcement agencies had only resolved approximately 30 percent of the murder cases they had presented to authorities during the year. According to Silueta X, a Guayaquil-based NGO, transgender women were particularly vulnerable to violence motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI advocates estimated only 33 percent of cases involving violence due to sexual orientation or gender identity were reported to police and only one-third of reported cases were processed through the legal system. They noted that authorities had started to recognize these crimes as hate crimes.

LGBTI persons continued to report that the government sometimes denied their right of equal access to formal education. LGBTI students, particularly in the transgender community, sometimes were discouraged from attending classes (particularly in higher education). A 2015 UNESCO report stated that 25 percent of LGBTI students had been excluded from school activities because of their sexual orientation, while 26 percent had suffered physical violence during their studies. In June a representative in the office of equal opportunities at the University of Cuenca reported to media that she received 15 complaints from LBGTI students who had suffered discrimination during the previous quarter. LGBTI students, particularly transgender individuals, were more susceptible to bullying in schools, but human rights activists argued that the Ministry of Education and school administrators were slow to respond to complaints. The LGBTI population involved in the commercial sex trade reported abusive situations, extortion, and mistreatment by security forces.

LGBTI organizations and the government continued to report that private treatment centers confined LGBTI persons against their will to “cure” or “dehomosexualize” them, although such treatment is illegal. The clinics reportedly used cruel treatments, including rape, in an attempt to change LGBTI persons’ sexual orientation. According to a local LGBTI organization, law enforcement officials closed at least two such clinics in Guayaquil during the year.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The constitution specifically prohibits discrimination directed at persons with HIV/AIDS. There was limited societal violence against such persons. NGOs reported, however, that individuals with HIV/AIDS complained that they experienced discrimination, including in equal employment opportunities and access to appropriate health care. Civil society organizations criticized a lack of coordination between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, and local government institutions. They noted that testing centers existed but estimated that only 10 percent of persons with HIV/AIDS had been tested.

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