Ecuador: Women trade unionists threatened for defending the rights of agricultural workers

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After death threats against three women human rights defenders in Ecuador protecting the rights of banana workers, over 40 other civil society organisations call on companies sourcing from Ecuador to reach out to suppliers and take necessary steps to ensure the case is investigated.

Three women human rights defenders working as coordinators of the Ecuadorian trade union ASTAC (Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas y Campesinos) have received death threats related to their work. The undersigned civil society organisations call on companies sourcing bananas from Ecuador to act. They must reach out to suppliers and push relevant actors to ensure the case is investigated and perpetrators held accountable, as well as step up their efforts to support human rights defenders at risk and adopt zero tolerance policies against attacks.

On the 4th of October 2023, Maricela Guzmán, Diana Montoya and Miriam Ternoz from ASTAC received identical Whatsapp messages in which the senders threatened to kill them. The message included detailed information about the defenders’ family members and addresses. The three women were demanded to henceforth refrain from defending workers' rights and not to interfere with the interests of banana companies.

ASTAC has worked to improve labour rights, health and safety issues and environmental impacts related to the banana sector for more than a decade. Already in 2018, death threats were received by ASTAC's coordinator, Jorge Acosta, who also has faced judicial threats. The latest threats are another example of violation of the rights of human rights defenders and workers in the country which has become increasingly violent in the past years.

Against this backdrop we, the undersigned organisations representing civil society, urge companies sourcing bananas from Ecuador, in line with the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the International Labour Organisation Conventions 87 and 98, to:

  • Take effective steps to help ensure the security of ASTAC staff and members including by condemning the actions and reaching out to state actors in Ecuador and other relevant parties to urge that the case is promptly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.
  • Reach out to suppliers and relevant business associations and include a zero-tolerance principle to any kind of involvement in attacks against defenders in relevant business relations, contracts and agreements.
  • Conduct continuous human rights due diligence including assessment of the situation of civic freedoms and human rights and environmental defenders and engaging in meaningful consultation with human rights defenders.

The persons named in the article have requested to have their names published.


Acción Ecológica de Ecuador

ActionAid France

African Law Foundation (AFRILAW)

Benet Mosop Indigenous Community Association


Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Center for Human Rights and the Environment

Center for International Environmental Law

Christian Partners Development Agency

Environmental Defender Law Center

Fair Action

La Federación de Comunidades nativas de Ucayali y afluentes (FECONAU)

Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas (FAPI)

Friends with Environment in Development

Front Line Defenders

Global Witness

Green Advocates International

Indigenous Peoples Rights International

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

International Service for Human Rights

Instituto Sindical de Cooperación al Desarrollo

Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya

La Federación de Comunidades Nativas de Ucayali y Afluentes


OECD Watch

Open Briefing

Oxfam Germany

Oyu Tolgoi Watch

Peace Point Development Foundation

Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business

Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)


Protection International

STAR Kampuchea



The Lawyers' Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples

The Marginalised Mirror

The Sierra Leone Land Alliance

Unión General de Trabajadores de España

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders