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Persons of Concern:
Human rights defenders Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego, Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso and Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir
Human Rights Concerns: Death threats
Country of Concern: ECUADOR
Posted: May 26, 2009
A government official has threatened to kill human rights defenders Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso. Human rights defender Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir has been threatened and assaulted because of her work. All three are in grave danger.
They are members of organizations that are part of the National Coordinating Body for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty (Coordinadora Nacional por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberania, CNDVS), based in the south-east of the country. On 9 May, Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso took part in a demonstration organized by a CNDVS member organization, in the town of San Miguel de Conchay, in Morona Santiago province. They were protesting against a meeting being held between the province's representative of the national government (Teniente Politico), some local farmers, and representatives of a Canadian mining corporation which, according to the CNDVS, is operating in the area with a license that has expired.
When demonstrators arrived outside the meeting, the Teniente Politico started shouting at Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso and Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego: "You, get out of here, clear off to Gualaquiza [a nearby town], you have no business in my town, you are not from here, I am running my meeting". Then he pointed at Joel Vicente Zhunio Samanieg, and said, "You are a dead man." Policemen intervened to calm him down. Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso reported the threat to the provincial Ombudsman on 12 May, but no investigation is known to have been opened into the behaviour of the Teniente Politico.
On 22 April, Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir was attacked by four men who lived near her in the town of Molleturo, Canton Cuenca, in Azuay province. She nearly reached her home when the four started shouting at her, "Lazy, you are making trouble because you are lazy … you are against the mines because you are lazy." Then they knocked her to the ground, hitting and kicking her. She managed to get into her house, but they followed her in, and started attacking her again. They also attacked her son, who tried to defend her. The attackers stopped only after neighbours intervened, when they saw Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir being dragged out of the house by her hair.
Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s office on 23 April. No investigation is known to have been opened into the attack. The attack is believed to have been carried out in reprisal for her opposition to mining in the area. Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir is known in the community for campaigning against a Canadian gold mining company.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please create an appeal in your own words [click here for a brief guide to help you write your letter]:
expressing concern for the safety of Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso, who received threats on 9 May, and Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir, who was attacked on 22 April;
urging the authorities to do everything possible to guarantee their safety, and that of all members of the Coordinating Body for the Defense of Life and Sovereignty;
calling on them to order a prompt and impartial investigation into the threats against Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and Wilmar Fernando Mejia Reinoso and the attack against Etelvina de Jesus Misacango Chuñir, and bring those responsible to justice.
Please send your APPEAL TO:
Minister of Justice and Human Rights:
Ab. Néstor Arbito Chica
Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Edificio Anexo al Ministerio de Educación
Av. Amazonas 4545 y Atahualpa
Quito - Ecuador
Fax: 011 593 2 246 4914
Salutation: Dear Minister / Señor Ministro
Please send a COPY TO:
His Excellency Franklin Gustavo Chavez Pareja
Ambassador for Ecuador
50 O'Connor Street, Suite 316
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L2
Fax: (613) 235-5776
Several activists working to protect the rights of communities affected by mining projects, including members of the CNDVS, have been threatened. None of the threats have been properly investigated and to Amnesty International’s knowledge, no one has been brought to justice.
Members of local NGOs that are part of CNDVS, and others who have opposed mining projects and the government’s policy on mining, have been charged with offences including terrorism. In January Amnesty International sent a letter to the authorities expressing concern that Joel Vicente Zhunio Samaniego and others may have been victims of arbitrary detention and excessive use of force. At least 20 people were detained in January, after they took part in demonstrations against the approval of a new mining law.
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