The international human rights monitoring group, Human Rights Watch (HRW), says significant improvements have been made in Ecuador’s human rights record but that serious problems remain.
In its 2017 annual report, HRW says that Ecuador has lifted many restrictions on the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and assembly, and has relaxed government rules restricting the rights of non-governmental organizations.
It credited the improvements to new president Lenin Moreno, who has rejected some of the policies of former president Rafael Correa.
“The new president ended his predecessor’s practice of publicly threatening and harassing independent journalists, human rights defenders and critics,” the HRW report said. “We are encouraged by these positive changes and expect more will come.”
The report also applauded improvements in the country’s court system. “The judiciary enjoys more independence today than it has in years, thanks to the new government.” In a note accompanying the report, HRW said that, on occasion, Correa personally intervened in court cases and communicated directly with the director of the country’s judicial council when he disagreed with judgments. It some cases, the notes add, Correa asked for the dismissal of judges.
HRW said, however, that much more needs to be done to improve the country’s overall record on human rights. “Ecuador still faces serious human rights problems, such as regulations that grant the government broad powers to restrict freedom of expression, limited judicial independence, sub-standard prison conditions, and restrictions on access, by women and girls to reproductive health care.”
Specifically, HRW recommends the revision of Ecuador’s communication law and the elimination of Superintendencia of Communications (Supercom), which it says can still be used to muzzle the press. “The current president had ended repressive policies against the press but legislation remains on the books that can be used in the future against those the government disagrees with.”
HRW also urged the country to update its libel and defamation laws, which it called ambiguous and “out of step with those of vigorous democracies.”