Ecuador: High Court Confirms Three Years of Prison and $40M Fine for Journalist Critical of the President
"Correa was elected democratically but he behaves like an autocrat. In a democracy, you don't send people to jail for criticizing leaders," said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. "The court's decision in the Emilio Palacio case sends a chill throughout independent journalism in Ecuador, and calls into question the independence of judicial power in that country," he said.
The sentence of the Second Criminal Chamber of the National Court of Justice of Ecuador—published on December 28—confirmed the decision ordering journalist Emilio Palacio to serve three years in prison and pay U.S. $40 million in damages to President Correa. On October 10, 2011, a lower court had accepted an appeal presented by Palacio's defense, temporarily suspending the sentence.
On October 31, HRF sent a letter to NCJE magistrates, urging them to revoke the conviction of Palacio and three executives of El Universo newspaper and declaring the case a violation of the inter-American standard of protection of freedom of expression. HRF's letter to the magistrates of NCJE was accompanied by a legal report that analyzed the case of Palacio and El Universo under international human rights law.
"The resolution of the NCJE affirms the violation of the right to freedom of expression and represents the exhaustion of domestic remedies," explained Javier El-Hage, general counsel of HRF. "The path is open for Palacio to challenge this violation of his human rights, and of the international obligations of the Ecuadorean State, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and—ultimately—before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights," he continued.
On January 13, the NCJE will rule on the appeal by other defendants, the executives of El Universo who were accused and convicted along with Palacio for permitting the publication of the opinion editorial.
"The elimination of all critical and independent press appears to be a priority of President Correa's government," said Halvorssen. "As Palacio noted in the very article that led to his imprisonment: President Correa's attacks against the press resemble the actions of a dictator, and his government: a dictatorship," concluded Halvorssen.
HRF is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that protects and promotes human rights globally. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the right 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 does not support nor condone violence. HRF's International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.
Contact: Javier El-Hage, Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486, firstname.lastname@example.org
Read HRF's letter to the magistrates of the National Court of Justice of Ecuador (NCJE) here.
Read HRF's legal report analyzing the case of Emilio Palacio here..