Mayo 5, 2007

Ecuador founds truth commission to investigate human rights violations

By Gonzalo Solano

6:38 p.m. May 4, 2007

QUITO, Ecuador – Ecuador's new leftist government has set up a truth commission to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed over the last 27 years, particularly during the right-wing administration of former President Leon Febres Cordero.

President Rafael Correa said Thursday that the four-member commission – composed of a lawyer, two human rights activists and the father of two brothers who disappeared at the end of Febres Cordero's 1984-1988 government – is intended to “halt impunity.”

Pedro Restrepo's two sons disappeared in January 1988 and are believed to have been killed by police, who mistook them for Colombian guerrillas. Their bodies were never found.

Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea said the human rights of “hundreds of citizens were systematically violated.”

Larrea said there have been 327 cases of political assassinations, torture and disappearances that have gone unpunished.

The commission will have nine months to present a report, with a possible extension of three months.

The Ecuadorean panel will follow others in Guatemala, Peru and Chile that have belatedly tried to reconcile the fates of thousands who disappeared in Latin America's so-called dirty wars. Colombia in 2000 created the National Commission for the Seeking of Disappeared People and authorized it to build a “unified registry” of the missing in its ongoing conflict.

Members of the Ecuadorean victims' families and human rights groups accuse the 76-year-old Febres Cordero, for decades a dominant figure in Ecuadorean politics, of ordering political killings during his government. He has strongly denied the accusations.

He ordered police to crush a small leftist urban guerrilla group Alvaro Vive, which took up arms during his government. The violence claimed the lives of a dozen or so people, including the rebels' leader, a former university student who his family charges was killed after being arrested.

In a news conference from the port city of Guayaquil on Friday, Febres Cordero accused Correa of forming “a tribunal of the Inquisition” and said his political enemies want to try him “for having fought terrorism.”

He called Correa “a totalitarian” who has revealed himself to Ecuadoreans.

“I've never run, nor will I run,” the leader said, denying he planned to flee the country.

Febres Cordero resigned from Congress in January and retired from politics due to poor health.

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