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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Human Rights Foundation responds to President Correa’s accusations

Human Rights Foundation responds to President Correa’s accusations and declares Guadalupe Llori a political prisoner of Ecuador’s government

NEW YORK (June 18, 2008) -- The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) released a letter yesterday in response to the accusations made by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa regarding a May 12 letter from HRF denouncing human rights violations. At that time, HRF condemned violations resulting from the Tax Equity Reform Law enacted by Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly, namely: restrictions of the right of citizens to take part in public affairs and restrictions of their rights to due process and access to justice.

In his response of May 20, President Correa accused HRF of defending the “interests of Ecuador’s oligarchies and political elites.” President Correa added that HRF’s work is an act of “insolence” since it “dares” to “revise” the current Ecuadorian constitutional reform system with a “clear ideological bias.” President Correa’s letter suggests that HRF dedicate its resources to “more legitimate causes, instead of defending particular interests.”

In the letter sent yesterday, HRF reminds President Correa that he has failed to respond to two other letters sent earlier this year (dated February 20 and March 18), in which HRF denounced numerous human rights violations perpetrated by “Ecuador’s political elites,” specifically the army and government officials. These violations include the arbitrary arrest and incarceration of Guadalupe Llori, Governor of Orellana, first imprisoned for terrorism charges which were dropped due to lack of evidence. She remains in prison on equally unsubstantiated charges of embezzlement. HRF believes that her continued imprisonment is a result of her expression of opinions critical of President Correa.

HRF cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2) in response to the claim of an ideological bias: human rights are universal and inherent to every human being, and governments are compelled to protect them “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” HRF believes that history has shown that governments that overtly violate human rights typically justify themselves by making such “distinctions” against people whose opinions differ from their own, as in the case of Guadalupe Llori.

In response to President Correa’s assertion that HRF is insolent for denouncing a law that was passed by the Constituent Assembly, HRF notes that international law dictates that whenever human rights are violated by a state, it does not matter whether the violation is in the form of a decree passed by the president, a law passed by the legislative body, or a constitutional reform passed by a constituent assembly. In any of those cases, a state, including its main officials, must face condemnation by the international community and, eventually, be judged by an international court. “Otherwise,” states the letter, “human right violators such as Slobodan Milosevic or Augusto Pinochet, would have never been prosecuted internationally, for they never hesitated in ‘constituting,’ ‘legislating’ or ‘decreeing’ those violations.”

HRF reaffirms its will and commitment to defending human rights in Ecuador, even if it means condemning a law passed by the Constituent Assembly—especially considering that by eliminating Ecuador’s legislative body, and, as a result, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, the Assembly violates Article 3 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Finally, as to President Correa’s suggestion that HRF use its resources on “more legitimate causes,” HRF Chairman Armando Valladares quotes the letter, saying, “As we have done in the past, we will continue investigating human rights violations and personally visiting victims in Ecuador, especially those imprisoned for their political beliefs by the government.” Effective immediately, HRF considers Guadalupe Llori a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience of the Correa government.

HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the American hemisphere. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Armando Valladares, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

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