Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Lourdes Tiban
Mr. President, I want other Senators to be aware of information I received about Ecuadorian National Assembly member Lourdes Tiban, a prominent and respected leader of Ecuador’s indigenous people.
As an indigenous leader, Ms. Tiban has become one of the most outspoken advocates for freedom of expression, indigenous rights, and social rights in Ecuador. Not surprisingly, this has made her the target of verbal attacks by President Rafael Correa.
Earlier this year, Ms. Tiban was beaten by unidentified assailants as she was walking to work. The assault was filmed and then shared online by government supporters who posted humiliating comments.
This isn’t the first time that Ms. Tiban has been physically assaulted. She is the victim of two other similar incidents which, I am told, have not been properly investigated.
It is regrettable that, instead of vigorously investigating this latest attack against Ms. Tiban, a National Assembly member from President Correa’s political party has brought a criminal case for libel against her. This is believed to be in retaliation for Ms. Tiban’s claim that government supporters were responsible for targeting her, presumably in an attempt to silence her and remove her from the National Assembly.
Ecuador is a country where judicial independence is seriously compromised. I have spoken about this several times, and it has been well documented by the Department of State, the United Nations, and human rights organizations. It is also illustrated by the fact that the Council of the Judiciary, with the power to appoint and remove judges, is comprised of five former officials of the Correa administration. It is likely that the criminal investigation against Ms. Tiban could result in an unjust conviction.
We should condemn these attacks on freedom of expression, political rights, and the rights of indigenous people, and we should defend judicial independence which is fundamental to democracy in Ecuador and throughout the hemisphere.
Lourdes Tiban has devoted her legislative efforts to protecting human rights for her people, and I am confident that she will continue to do so as she is not easily intimidated. She has my support and the support of others who believe in the principles of democracy.
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David Carle: 202-224-3693
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