Jailhouse incident renews torture debate in Ecuador.

Author:Saavedra, Luis Angel

On May 31, 2016, members of an enforcement unit of the Intervention and Rescue Group (Grupo de Intervencion y Rescate, GIR), along with other policemen dressed in camouflage tortured inmates of a medium security pavilion of the Turi jail in Cuenca, in the highlands of Southern Ecuador.

Two public defense attorneys who have offices in Turi denounced the actions and filed a habeas corpus petition in Cuenca's courts so that the affected detainees could have the opportunity to denounce the torture before a judge. A first audience scheduled for June 21 was suspended, as was as a second one scheduled for June 28, as representatives of the Interior Ministry searched for security camera videos that would back up their theory that the elite police unit had entered to control a riot. In other words, according to authorities, evidence of a riot would justify the police entering the jail. Moreover, it would legitimize the torture.

The security camera videos were leaked, causing indignation among Ecuadorans and forcing several civil and human rights organizations to turn their attention to the issue of torture in Ecuador, an issue that officials had managed cover up with assurances that the penal system had been reformed and its structure improved with the construction of new and modern detention centers. More importantly, the events at Turi motivated organizations to produce a report for the UN Committee Against Torture, which was scheduled to review Ecuador during the first week of November 2016.

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on Dec. 10, 1984. Ecuador ratified it in 1988, promising at that time to submit periodic reports. The most recent report was delivered in 2010. In July 2014, a progress report was issued detailing steps taken to respond to the committee's recommendations made in Ecuador in 2010. In 2014, the committee issued new recommendations and the November 2016 exam was intended to review the actions taken based on those recommendations.

Cases of torture unpunished

Besides the complaint of torture in Turi, other issues addressed in the reports of civil and human rights organizations surfaced, including:

* cases of students, such as Angelo Ayol, who was tortured after being arrested during student demonstrations in 2014

* some 118 complaints, not yet investigated, filed with the Truth Commission (a commission created by the government itself) (NotiSur, June...

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