Categories Alert, Ecuador, Latin America

Alert: Indigenous leader in Ecuador illegally detained as national protests gain momentum

#LibertadLeonidasIza poster. Credit: CONAIE.

The ICCA Consortium condemns the illegal and arbitrary detention of Indigenous leaders, including Leonidas Iza Salazar, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), in the early hours of 14 June 2022

According to multiple media outlets and video recordings shared on social media, Mr. Leonidas Iza Salazar (Kichwa Panzaleo), President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), was allegedly arrested by unidentified police and/or armed forces in unmarked vehicles at approximately 00:30 local time on 14 June 2022. According to public information, Mr. Leonidas Iza was taken to an unauthorized location and illegally held incommunicado for several hours without access to his legal representation.

Despite the fact that a judge ordered the immediate release of Leonidas Iza, she initiated a prosecutorial investigation ordering alternative measures to pre-trial detention, such as a ban on leaving the country and periodic reporting. According to human rights organizations in Ecuador, the criminalization of Leonidas Iza continues due to the abusive use of the law, abuse of the use of force, lack of respect for collective rights and the ineffectiveness of jurisdictional guarantees.

CONAIE  issued a public statement, as did the Alliance of Human Rights Organizations of Ecuador (which includes some ICCA Consortium Members), to denounce the illegal and arbitrary arrest of Mr. Iza and call for his immediate release. The Alliance also submitted urgent communications to the Organization of American States and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the UN office in Ecuador issued a statement on the guarantee of constitutional and legal rights to social protest, and the President and three Latin American representatives of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues issued a statement calling on Guillermo Lasso’s government to release Mr. Iza and engage in political dialogue to find a peaceful and lasting solution.

This arbitrary arrest occurred in the context of a national strike organized by CONAIE and other organizations and social movements that started on 13 June 2022. The strike is protesting the rising cost of living, imposition of extractive industries (particularly mining and oil), disruption of local economies and food systems, and increase in insecurity, violence and corruption, among other issues. Extractive industries are particularly harmful for Indigenous Peoples and their territories of life in Ecuador and contravene the constitutionally recognized rights of nature and Indigenous principle of Sumak Kawsay.

Read more: “Ecuador: a national analysis on the status of territories of life” (2021)

The ICCA Consortium stands in solidarity with our Members and other Indigenous Peoples, Nations and organizations in Ecuador. We condemn the abuse of power, the illegal and arbitrary detention of Leonidas Iza Salazar, president of CONAIE, and the arbitrary detention of several other leaders throughout the country, and call for their immediate release. We condemn the systemic racism, repression, stigmatization and criminalization of Indigenous and social organizations in Ecuador, including several ICCA Consortium Members that comprise the national Network of Territories of Life.

We support the right of all citizens to participate in peaceful protests, movements and resistance against structural injustice. We also support the rights of Indigenous Peoples specifically to defend their collective lands and territories of life against both acute and systemic threats, and to continue their self-determined pursuit of a life of respect, dignity and freedom from oppression.

TAKE ACTION: For the latest news, follow CONAIE on Facebook. Show your support on social media with the hashtag #LibertadLeonidasIza and send an appeal letter to the President of Ecuador.

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