The murder of Kofan defender Eduardo Mendúa reflects a systematic pattern of violence and criminalization against Ecuador`s indigenous peoples

HIC-HLRN Joins the Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) in condemning the murder of Kofan Indigenous leader and defender Eduardo Mendúa. The perpetrators of this attack must be brought to justice immediately.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) confirmed that, on the afternoon of Sunday, 26 February 2023, its leader for international relations Eduardo Mendúa, belonging to the A`i Kofan nationality, was shot and killed outside his home in the province of Sucumbíos. This happened hours after his participation in the Expanded Council of CONAIE. This violent attack generated suspicions about the motives behind the murder and has caused consternation throughout the indigenous movement of Ecuador.

This serious incident occurs in the context of increasing attacks, including with firearms, harassment, threats, and permanent persecution against indigenous leaders and rights defenders, particularly against land defenders from extractive activities of public and private oil companies.

Eduardo was the visible face of resistance to the conflict generated by the presence of the public company Petroecuador in the Dureno territory. In the area where he was murdered, the indigenous communities have demanded an initial consultation process in line with the Constitution and international standards. This demand was not carried out, and on the contrary, has resulted in the occupation of indigenous territories by the company.

In April 2022, Mendúa denounced that: “the national government, through a pre-agreement with some individuals, was fomenting division among the inhabitants of the community.” Just last January, the leader had reiterated that he held the government of Guillermo Lasso responsible for inciting violence in the region and had warned of intentions to exterminate the A`i Kofan people.

Indigenous Peoples Rights International denounces the attacks against the indigenous peoples and nationalities of Ecuador in defense of their territories. We call on companies, both private and public, to respect the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and resources, and to conduct the process of free, prior, and informed consent with affected communities based on international human rights standards.

In addition, we urge the government of Ecuador to:

  • Immediately conduct an impartial investigation and ensure that perpetrators are held to account for their crime and that justice is served to Eduardo’s family;
  • Strictly regulate the activities of companies to ensure their respect for human rights and to be held accountable to their involvement in any attacks to environment and human rights defenders;
  • Demonstrate political will to comply with the agreements on the demands made during the Ecuador 2022 National Strike, not to expand the extractive mining or oil frontier; to respect the 21 collective rights among them free, prior, and informed consent; not to privatize strategic sectors and to guarantee security of environment and human rights defenders;
  • Stop persecution against Indigenous Peoples defending their collective and individual rights;
  • Stop media campaigns that stigmatize and criminalize the work of indigenous leaders;
  • Respect and protect the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, especially to their lands, territories and resources and their right to self-determination;
  • Guarantee the right to free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples affected by any project that affects their lands, territories and resources;

We join the global call for justice for the A’I Kofan community, and we stand in solidarity with Eduardo’s family, community, and brothers and sisters of the A`i Kofan nationality.

These acts against Indigenous Peoples and their impunity must stop now.

Image: PRI.

Related articles:

Ecuador Court: FPIC for Indigenous Groups, 04 February 2022

Constitucional respalda derecho CLPI de indígenas, 04 February 2022

Corporate Retribution: Donziger Sentenced, 01 October 2021

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