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
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
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
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
Oyu Tolgoi Watch
Peace Point Development Foundation
Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER)
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