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Ecuador’s Legal Authorities Target Practitioners of Indigenous Justice

ISSN:1060-4189
LADB Article ID: 80375
Category/Department: Ecuador.
Date: 2017-08-11
By: Luis Ángel Saavedra

The conflict between Ecuador’s regular and indigenous legal systems has reached a breaking point now that 23 indigenous leaders have been prosecuted for practicing their own brand of justice. Six of those were convicted on kidnapping charges and sentenced to between four and five years in jail, suggesting that mestizo judges (of mixed white and indigenous ancestry) are either wholly ignorant of indigenous traditions, or that there’s a deliberate directive from the Consejo de la Judicatura—the oversight body of Ecuador’s legal system—to eliminate this ancestral practice, even if it means violating ordinary laws and the Constitution. Indigenous justice cases are resolved in assemblies in the communities involved. The accused is brought before the assembly and given an opportunity to tell his or her version of events. In that way, the process guarantees accused people the right to defend themselves. It also favors a satisfactory solution for all parties involved. However, judges, prosecutors, and lawyers who convicted or are criminally prosecuting the 23 indigenous leaders say they’re doing so not because the accused practiced indigenous justice, but because they committed crimes ranging from kidnapping and ransom to regular kidnapping, damage to third-party property, and in one case, accessory to kidnapping.

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