Antécédents de l'affaire: Herlinda Gutama
Le 8 juillet 2016, un tribunal de la province d'Azucay a rendu un verdict contre huit défenseuses des droits humains du Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama (Front des femmes défenseuses de la Pachamama), dans le cadre d'une plainte qu'elles avaient déposée après avoir été arbitrairement frappées et détenues par la police lors d'une manifestation pacifique contre un projet minier à Rio Blanco, le 20 octobre 2015.
Herlinda Gutama est présidente du Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama (Front des femmes défenseuses de la terre mère). L'organisation a été créée en 2008 à Cuenca, dans la province d'Azuay, pour promouvoir la défense des droits humains tout en portant une attention particulière à l'environnement et à la question des genres. La majorité de ses membres appartient aux communautés les plus affectées par le projet minier Rio Blanco, et s'oppose donc activement à son impact social et environnemental sur ces dernières.
On 8 July 2016, a court in Azuay (Ecuador) ruled against eight women human rights defenders from the Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama (Women's Front for the Defence of Mother Earth) in a complaint they submitted after being beaten and arbitrarily detained by police during a peaceful demonstration against a mining project in Río Blanco on 20 October 2015.
The women human rights defenders targeted during the protest were Ms Elsa Urgiles Lazo, Ms Herlinda Gutama, Ms Rosa Misacango Chuñir, Ms Georgina Gutama Muevecel, Ms Lina Solano Ortiz, Ms María Angeles Chuñir Gutama, Ms Rosa Nacy Gutama Gutama and Ms María Mercedes Gutama Tibillín.
The Women’s Front in the Defence of Mother Earth was created in 2008, in Cuenca, Azuay Province, to promote human rights with a focus on environmental and gender issues in rural areas. The organisation is invested in the struggle against the Río Blanco and Loma Larga mining projects, which they claim will have profound negative social and environmental impacts on the region.
On 8 July 2016, the Coordinación General Defensorial Zona 6 de la Defensoría del Pueblo en Azuay (General Coordination of the Ombudsman in Azuay - Zone 6) ruled against eight women human rights defenders in a complaint they had submitted in 2015, after police officers assaulted and arbitrarily detained them during a peaceful demonstration.
Instead of condemning the attack against the women human rights defenders, the decision of the Ombudsman praised the behaviour of the police in having guaranteed the integrity and security of participants, public and private property as well as the right to freedom of assembly ("Reconocer la actuación de la Policía Nacional en el marco de la manifestación pública efectuada en la parroquia Molleturo, al haberse garantizado la integridad y seguridad de los actores sociales intervinientes y los bienes públicos y privados. así como el derecho a la manifestación pública y los derechos conexos que le asisten a los miembros de la Organización Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama como una expresión democrática en el marco de la no violencia").
Most worryingly, the Ombudsman characterised the attack against and arbitrary detention of the women human rights defenders as a necessary, reasonable and proportional use of force and further encouraged public security forces to continue to act in this way in other settings requiring management of public gatherings ("Exortar a la fuerza pública a seguir promoviendo la aplicación de principios y normas del uso necesario, razonable y proporcional de la fuerza en garantía de la vida, integridad y seguridad ciudadana, conforme actúo en el presente caso, así como el ejercicio del derecho a la manifestación pública no violenta en futuras situaciones análogas").
On 20 October 2015, police and security forces assaulted and arbitrarily detained several members of the Women's Front protesting against the inauguration of the Chinese-owned company Junefield and their Río Blanco Mining Project. When President Rafael Correa arrived at the Central Park of Molleturo, several members from Women's Front opened a banner that read: “Minería Responsable, Cuento Miserable" ("Mining [is] Responsible [for this] Miserable Story"). Members of the police immediately intervened, attempting to forcedly take the banner away, violating the defenders' right to freedom of expression and assembly.
When the human rights defenders refused to hand over the banner the police began to physically and verbally attack them, subsequently dragging them through the park, regardless of the fact that some of the human rights defenders were elderly or had young children with them. The police took away the banner, along with a sign bearing the Women's Front logo. The police then held the human rights defenders for over two hours until President Rafael Correa had given his speech at the inauguration ceremony.
Front Line Defenders condemns this biased and unfair decision rendered by the General Coordination of the Ombudsman in Azuay - Zone 6; not only does this decision fail to recognise the attack against and arbitrary detention of the eight members of the Women's Front for the Defence of Mother Earth but also has a potential chilling effect, discouraging human rights defenders from submitting complaints when violations are perpetrated against them. The decision to legitimate, praise and encourage the arbitrary and unnecessary use of force by public security forces has a further effect to deteriorate the integrity of the police body, as well as erode public confidence in the ethics of security forces.
On 20 October 2015, police and security forces assaulted and detained several women human rights defenders (WHRDs) protesting the inauguration of the Chinese owned company Junefield and their Río Blanco Mining Project.
The protest, assaults and arrests occurred at the inauguration ceremony, attended by President Rafael Correa, for a new mining project in Molleturo, Ecuador.
When President Rafael Correa arrived at the Central Park of Molleturo, several WHRDs from Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama opened a banner that read: “MINERÍA RESPONSABLE, CUENTO MISERABLE” ("MINING RESPONSABLE [for this] MISERABLE STORY"). Members of the police and the political security immediately intervened, attempting to take the banner away by force in a clear violation of the WHRDs' right to freedom of expression and protest. When the human rights defenders refused to hand over the banner the police began to attack and insult them, followed by dragging them through the park, despite the fact that some of the human rights defenders were elderly or had young children with them. The banner was taken by the police, along with a sign bearing the Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama's logo. The police then held the human rights defenders for over two hours until President Rafael Correa had given his speech at the inauguration ceremony.
Human rights defender Fernando Mejia, from the Coordinadora por la Vida y la Soberanía was also beaten by police and agents of political security when he tried to intervene on behalf of the WHRDs, telling the security agents that were violating their rights. He was punched in the face, knocked to the ground and kicked several times.
Human rights defenders have been subjected to severe repression in Ecuador when conducting peaceful protests, including the case on Ms Margoth Escobar earlier this year. The HRD was arrested in August in the aftermath of a general strike and demonstration in the town of Puyo against President Correa's attempt to run for indefinite re-election. In the same context of demonstrations, Franco-Brazilian journalist and human rights defender Ms Manuela Picq had her Ecuadoran visa cancelled and was forced to self-exile in Brazil.