The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) claims it has repeatedly faced “official obstruction” in its investigation of government abuse against protesters in the October protests. On Wednesday, members of the IACHR team were prevented from taking video and audio recordings during interviews at the Cotopaxi federal prison.
IACHR is conducting interviews in Quito, Cuenca, Riobamba, Ambato and Guayaquil of those who claim they were victims of government violence between October 4 and October 13. IACHR is being hosted by the Ecuador’s Ombudsman, a government office charged with defending the human rights of Ecuadorian citizens.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro praised President Lenin Moreno for Ecuador’s “extraordinary restraint” shown during the protests.
Chief Ombudsman Edwin Piedra complained that the IACHR team faced a very “unpleasant situation” at the Cotopaxi prison Wednesday morning in its talks with prisoners allegedly held for political reasons. “They were forced to erase audio and video recordings that are part of their investigation,” he said. The team was at the prison to talk to Pichincha Province Prefect Paola Pabón and former vice president Jorge Glas, among others. “I’m sure this harassment, which is not part of the official rules, will be reported in the investigation,” he said.
Piedra said that in its interviews, IACHR is discovering what he calls a “pattern of excessive force” used by national police and the armed forces against protesters. “The team has much more work to do but I believe that their final findings will report that government forces acted with unnecessary violence toward the people of Ecuador.”
At a meeting at the Technical University of Cotopaxi Wednesday afternoon, victims and family member of those injured during the protests provided details of what they claim was unjustified force against protesters.
Piedra said that the IACHR has a history of being treated badly in Ecuador. “During the presidency of Rafael Correa, they were insulted and obstructed from doing their job when they investigated attacks by police on indigenous protesters,” he said. Correa called IACHR “an illegitimate puppet of the U.S.”
In his praise for Moreno following a Wednesday meeting in Quito, Almagro said that the government “exercised compassion and restraint” in dealing with violent circumstances during the protests. “I want to congratulate the president on the decisions he made in the days of the protest and for his efforts to isolate the social protest from the violent criminality that infiltrated the protest is some instances.”
He added: “The right to peaceful protest should always be protected but it is important to recognize the threat from those who do not respect the principles of democracy and human rights.”