On June 14th, police from Azuay entered the Abanicos Bar in Cuenca, Ecuador arresting 14 gay men. According to local gay and lesbian accounts, one of the men was raped twice by other inmates while in police custody, as another suffered an epileptic seizure and was offered no medical assistance despite pleas from his friends. Media coverage of the incident relied on police reports fraught with discriminatory and inflammatory language about homosexuals. The men were released June 16th, after being charged with intention to commit a crime against morality.
According to local activist, this is not the first time that there have been attempts upon the moral and physical integrity of sexual minorities in Ecuador. In 1994, activists denounced the repression of sexual minorities in Ecuador before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. At that time Michael Reisman of the Commission warned the Ecuadorian government that the practice of arresting persons based solely on their sexual orientation contravened the American Convention on Human Rights.
For the first time in the country's history, a formal complaint protesting police abuse against sexual minorities was filed against the Police Chief of Azuay, Dr. Diego Crespo and against the police squad that accompanied him, the Grupo Especial de Operaciones de la PolicÍa (Special Operations Squad).
The complaint has generated a great deal of supportive public opinion from different sectors of society. The Governor of Azuay has asked for the repeal of Article 516 of the Ecuadorian Penal Code.
The Ecuadorian Constitution clearly espouses equality before the law for all persons. The Ecuadorian Penal Code however -- dating back to 1938 and drawing from the 1871 Belgian Code -- in its article 516 penalizes consensual homosexual sex between adult men with 4 to 8 years in prison. Article 516 violates the human rights of Ecuadorian citizens by depriving them of the rights to privacy and free expression, both of which are guaranteed under the American Convention on Human Rights, which was ratified by Ecuador in 1978. Furthermore Article 516 violates Articles 2 (equal protections) and 17 (right to privacy) of the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights.
Gay and Lesbian activists in Ecuador are publicly demanding the repeal of Article 516 of the Ecuadorian Penal Code and any other legislation that deprives citizens of the ability to freely express their sexual orientation and individual liberties.
Activists request that letters be sent to the authorities listed below demanding the repeal of Article 516 and asking them to intercede with the police force in the city of Cuenca so that they will abstain from harassing the gay men who were arrested at the Abanicos Bar and that they protect the physical and mental integrity of these men.
Send letters to:
- Dr. Fabian Alarcón
Presidente Interino de la República
- Palacio de Carondelet
García Moreno 1043
Fax: 593-2 580-142
- Dr. Heinz Moelle Freire
Presidente del Congreso Nacional
- Palacio Legislativo
Avenida ò de diciembre y Piedrahita
- Dr. Cesar Verduga
Ministro del Interior y la Policía
- Espejo y Benalcázar
- Dr. José Cordero Acosta
Presidente de la Comisión de lo Civil y lo Penal
- del Congreso Nacional
Avenida 6 de diciembre y Piedrahita
Fax: 593-2-549-533 / 506-360
- Dr. Felipe Vega de la Cuadra (Supports the repeal)
- Gobernador de la Provincia de Azuay
- Dr. Diego Crespo (Oversees the police station were the violations occurred)
- Intendente de Policía de Azuay
- Dr. Vicente Burneo Burneo
- Tribunal Constitucional de la República
Avenida Tarqui 315 entre 6 de Diciembre y 12 de Octubre
Copies of the letters should be sent to:
- MOVIMIENTO ECUATORIANO LESBICO-GAY
- Albis Cruz y Orlando Montoya
Casilla Postal 17-21-1404