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June 2016

NOTE: Indigenous human rights defender Ms Gloria Ushigua has been a target of increasing levels of harassment continuing through 2017, to include reports of recent harassment within the past month of August 2017. PLEASE sign the letter of support at the right if you have not done so already. This is the same form found on the other information pages we’ve provided regarding Gloria and her constant struggle for justice, for her community and those struggling to protect their homelands from extreme energy extraction.

Indigenous human rights defender Ms Gloria Ushigua, has been a target of increasing levels of harassment over the past month, as a result of her peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental rights and of her ancestral land. On 31 May 2016, five men sat outside Gloria Ushigua’s home throughout the night, in what appeared to be an act of intimidation against the human rights defender. This follows another act of intimidation against her niece on 26 May 2016 and the killing of the human rights defender’s sister-in-law, Anacleta Dahua Cují, on 2 May 2016.

There have been escalating acts of intimidation against Gloria Ushigua in the past month including an assassination attempt on her life, which in a case of mistaken identity, resulted in the killing of her sister-in-law, Anacleta Dahua Cují, on 2 May 2016. Anacleta Dahua Cují was brutally murdered by four men as she was working on the land in her community of Llachama Cocha, where Gloria Ushigua also lives. Due to the signs of struggle and the injuries Anacleta Dahua Cují’s body sustained, her relatives strongly believe that she was raped before she was killed. Following this, on 26 May 2016, four men surrounded Gloria Ushigua’s niece, Ms Casiela Grefa, and physically restrained her and interrogated her about her aunt’s whereabouts and activities.

This is not the first time the human rights defender has been the subject of harassment. On 19 August 2015, three policemen broke into Gloria Ushigua’s house in the city of Puyo. They shocked the human rights defender with tasers and beat her badly. The police also used tear gas inside the house causing Gloria, and those present including children, to almost suffocate. The human rights defender’s office and property, including her fax and desk computer, was destroyed in the raid.

In December 2013, government-owned TV channels broadcast a programme that discredited Gloria Ushigua and other indigenous human rights defenders. This smear campaign came shortly after a demonstration by indigenous people, including Gloria Ushigua, on 28 November 2013 outside the Secretariat of Hydrocarbons, where they protested against the bidding of land for oil exploration in the Amazon. In a particularly racist remark, TV anchors referred to  Gloria Ushigua’s traditional Sápara clothing as a clown costume. The smear campaign lasted over two weeks. In the same month the human rights defender was notified of charges against her that included terrorism, sabotage and public obstruction, despite the fact her personal behaviour was peaceful throughout the march. She was summoned to make a declaration about the demonstration and was called again in January 2014 to a hearing. To date, the charges against the human rights defender have not been dropped, forcing her to incur costly fees for her legal representation in what is clearly an instance of judicial harassment .

In October 2015, the human rights defender was invited along with other female indigenous leaders of Ecuador to provide information about the situation of her community in a hearing held during the 156th session of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR). Her testimony and that of other human rights defenders revealed a pattern of relentless persecution against indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon, as a result of their activism to preserve their ancestral lands, language and culture. This persecution is in contravention of the United Nation’s (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Ecuador supported at the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the safety of Gloria Ushigua, particularly considering the direct targeting of her family members and the increasing levels of violence being used against her. Front Line Defenders expresses further concern about recent and increasing persecution and intimidation against indigenous and environmental rights defenders, particularly those participating in peaceful demonstrations in Ecuador.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Ecuador to:

1. Immediately cease all further harassment of Gloria Ushigua and her family, and take all necessary measures to guarantee their physical and psychological security and integrity;

2. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the murder of Anacleta Dahua Cují on 2 May 2016, and into the police assault of 19 August 2015 against Gloria Ushigua, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

3. Immediately drop all charges against Gloria Ushigua as it is believed that they are solely motivated by her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

4. Take measures to ensure that government officials or other public figures refrain from making statements or declarations stigmatising the legitimate work of indigenous human rights defenders such as Gloria Ushigua;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Ecuador are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Help Defend the Sapara Nation!


President of the Republic of Ecuador Lenin Moreno
Vice-President of the Republic of Ecuador Jorge Glas

President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping
Premier of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Ecuador Wang Yulin
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations Liu Jieyi

Your Excellencies,

The Sapara Nation of the Amazon in Ecuador and the undersigned organizations and individuals of the world, write to you to request that you act to prevent the genocide of the Sapara Nation and of the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation, and that the contracts of the Chinese state oil company Andes Petroleum to explore and exploit oil in Blocks 79 and 83 in the Sapara ancestral territory be immediately and definitively canceled. The survival of the Sapara Nation and Indigenous Peoples in Isolation depends on the health of our rainforest, rivers, mountains and biodiversity, where our spirits are born.

The territory of the Sapara Nation where the 560 Sapara live in 25 communities is located in Ecuador in the Amazonian province of Pastaza, quenched by the Conambo, Pindoyacu, Jandiayacu, Corrientes and Tigre rivers. The spirits of our ancestors, who reside in our mountains, visit us in our dreams and care for the animals, trees, waterfalls and pools. We also share out territory with our brothers and sisters of the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation including the Taromenane and the Tagaeri.

Unfortunately, in 2011, the government of Ecuador imposed a grid of oil blocks on our sacred territory. Bidding on the concessions to these oil blocks was opened during the Suroriente Round and, in February 2014, the offer to explore Blocks 79 and 83 presented by Andes Petroleum (a consortium of two Chinese state companies National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) y China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec)), was accepted. Two exploration and exploitation contracts were signed on January 25th, 2016, condemning our home to imminent destruction.

Meanwhile, the Sapara Nation was never consulted. Nor did the Sapara Nation grant its free, prior and informed consent, as stipulated by the Constitution of Ecuador, international human rights treaties and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, even though this project can gravely impact our integrity and very existence as a people, including the survival of our language and culture, which were declared oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2001.

Many international instruments and national laws have been violated including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, the United Nations recognizes that there are risks of genocide of the Sapara People and the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation.

In this regard, there are precedents of genocides causes by the exploration, extraction, exploitation and transportation of oil in the Amazon in Ecuador. The operations of Texaco (now known as Chevron) caused grave destruction of the environment and cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. Both the Tetetes and the Sanshauri who inhabited the region exploited by Texaco were wiped out.

Because of this, Indigenous nations oppose the extraction of resources from our territories and exercise our constitutional right to resistance. Our opposition has been expressed in declarations, national campaigns and several letters to the Ambassador of China in Ecuador. However, until now, we have not received a response.

For all these reasons, we request that the President of Ecuador commit to protecting ancestral cultures like that of the Sapara, and act to ensure that the Chinese oil company Andes Petroleum refrain from entering Indigenous Peoples’ territories. We also demand that the Chinese government assume its commitment to comply with international law and Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and that its overseas investments adhere to the Chinese Due Diligence Guidelines for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains; Guidelines for Social Responsibility in Outbound Mining Investments; and Guidelines on Environmental Protection in Overseas Investment and Cooperation.

In summary, we request that:

1. The oil concessions in Sapara territory and the territory of Indigenous Peoples in Isolation be immediately and definitively canceled;

2. Any and all exploration, exploitation and extraction of hydrocarbons or timber in the territory of Indigenous Peoples in Isolation be stopped;

3. The carbon offset project called SocioBosque in Sapara territory be immediately and definitively canceled and that no carbon offset projects be implemented in the territory of the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation in the future;

4. That the collective and individual rights of the Sapara Nation and of the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation enshrined in national and international law are fully implemented and that the necessary budget is allocated for their implementation as indicated by the Sapara People through their legitimate representative organizations such as the Sapara Nation and the Sapara Women’s Association of Ecuador Ashiñwaka.


Manari Ushigua, President of the Sapara Nation of Ecuador | Gloria Ushigua, President of the Sapara Women’s Association of Ecuador (ASHIÑWAKA)

cc- UN Secretary-General António Guterres
cc- Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova
cc- UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng
cc- UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
cc- UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
cc- UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights
cc- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
cc- President de Andes Petroleum in Ecuador Zhao Xinjun
cc- President of National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)
cc- President of China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec)
cc- Chinese Consul General Luo Linquan in San Francisco

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