Ombudsman receives death threats after claiming the government committed ‘crimes against humanity’

Mar 24, 2021

Ecuador’s National Ombudsman, Freddy Carrión, has requested that he and his family be temporarily entered into the country’s witness protection program due to death threats he has received following his demand that President Lenín Moreno, former Minister María Paula Romo, Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin and senior police officers be prosecuted for their handling of the October 2019 indigenous protests.

National Ombudsman Freddy Carrión

In his official request, Carrión said he and family have received threatening phone calls, emails and written notes as a result of  his work investigating the protests and his claim that the government used excessive force to control crowds in Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil.

In his official report, released last week, Carrión called on federal prosecutors to conduct an official investigation of the government reaction to the protests and said that Moreno, Romo and Jarrin should not be allowed to leave the control until they are cleared of criminal activity.

Reacting to Carrion’s report on Tuesday, Defense Minister of Ecuador Oswaldo Jarrín called the charges “outrageous and infamous” and suggested that Carrion is abusing his office for political purposes.

Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin

“This report distorts and damages the the image of the Ombudsman’s Office,” Jarrín said. “It is one-sided that does not consider the damage committed by criminals against the state and the people protecting it.” He added that the idea of attaching tracking bracelets to the president and other top government officials who have not been charged with a crime is “insulting and disrespectful.”

The Ombudsman’s office was created by the 2008 constitution to review claims against the government by citizens claiming their rights have been abused.

Carrión’s 90-page report alleges that the government used “extreme measures” against protesters and “seriously violated their rights to life, physical, psychological and sexual integrity and personal liberty.” It also claims that six deaths can be linked to the government’s action and said that military weaponry was used during riot control.

“The Rome convention defines crimes against humanity as systematic murder, persecution and massacre of the population, slavery, torture, rape and disappearances,” Jarrin said. “This did not happen in October 2019 and, in fact, it was the police and military forces who were attacked and abused. Our nation was under attack by criminal elements and our personnel were simply doing their job to control the situation.”

Jarrin added that no lethal force was used by the military during the two-week uprising that left about 300 injured, many of them police. “The National Police were in charge of the operation and they were very restrained in their reactions. The military were used in an auxiliary role and did not fire a single shot.”

The Attorney General’s office said it has asked Carrión for additional information in his request for government protection against threats.