Attacks against Ecuadorian judiciary threaten rule of law, warns UN expert
23 August 2023
GENEVA (23 August 2023) – A UN expert today expressed grave concern about violent attacks and intimidation targeting justice officials, including judges, prosecutors and court officials, and judiciary buildings in Ecuador, noting that such attacks have become more concerning in the wake of the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.
Villavicencio was assassinated during a campaign event in the capital Quito on 9 August.
“I am dismayed by the great vulnerability of justice officials,” said Margaret Satterthwaite, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. “These threats appear to be especially pronounced for those who deal with organised crime and corruption cases.”
Between 2022 and 2023, four prosecutors have been assassinated and several justice officials have been subjected to intimidation and threats. Bomb threats were received at several judicial buildings. Thirteen attacks and threats against justice officials were registered in Manabí alone. Several criminal judges have also survived physical attacks and assassination attempts, the Special Rapporteur said.
"These attacks and threats undermine the independence of the judicial system, directly impacting the work of judges and prosecutors in their fight to ensure the rule of law against corruption and organised crime,” Satterthwaite said. “The attacks also violate their fundamental rights and freedoms," she said.
“Judges and prosecutors must have the security they need to carry out their work. I urge the authorities to ensure that all attacks and threats are investigated, and that all judges and prosecutors in Ecuador are adequately protected and able to do their jobs,” Satterthwaite said.
The Special Rapporteur has been in contact with the Government of Ecuador regarding these allegations.
Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. She was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers by the Human Rights Council in October 2022. Professor Satterthwaite is an international human rights scholar and practitioner with decades of experience in the field. She is a Professor of Clinical Law at New York University School of Law.
The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.