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Many experts say that Ecuador has one of the most advanced constitutions in Latin America. However, due to inherent inequalities in the political system, few Ecuadorians are aware of the basic rights their constitution guarantees them. To help raise awareness, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) prepared five public service announcements (PSAs) on the basic rights of children under the Ecuadorian Constitution. Tailored to run during children’s programming, the animated PSAs were designed to teach children—and adults watching with them—their rights according to Ecuadorian law. The PSAs, which ran throughout Ecuador in May and June 2007, address such rights as the right to education, the right to be part of a family (having a last name from one’s own father or mother can be an issue, especially for indigenous children) and the right to play.
In July 2006, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), supported by a multi-year grant from the U.S. Embassy in Quito, began a program to enhance the understanding of an adversarial criminal justice system in Ecuador. While the country has transitioned from an inquisitorial criminal justice system to an adversarial one, the professional culture remains tied to the older system and practitioners lack the skills the new system requires. Our program supports the transition by training the legal community, in general, and police, judges and prosecutors, in particular, in adversarial criminal procedure. We have also assessed reforms and assisted in providing computerized court management systems and financial crimes trainings. The program has since grown to include trainings and study tours for the country’s newly created major crimes task forces and an adversarial system course for law students.
You can visit the program’s Spanish-language website at <www.justiciapenalecuador.com.ec>.
In 2005 and in 2008, ABA ROLI brought a group of Ecuadorian judges, defense lawyers and prosecutors to Puerto Rico to observe how a hybrid legal system (a mixture of civil law and common law systems) can function in a Spanish-speaking, Latin American setting. During the week-long tours, participants met with their counterparts and witnessed various court proceedings, including arraignments, pre-trials and trials. Additionally, former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent John Larsen gave seminars on evidence collection to Ecuadorian police and prosecutors.
From 2004 to 2007, ABA ROLI, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, conducted an anti-human trafficking program in Ecuador. ABA ROLI worked with government and non-governmental organizations to rally the public in solving the problem. In 2006, Ecuador rose to Tier 2 in the U.S. Department of State’s annual human trafficking report. Countries are ranked Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch and Tier 3; until 2006, Ecuador had been a Tier 3 country since its first evaluation in 2004. Moreover, the 2006 report cited our anti-human trafficking campaign as an international best practice, while the Organization of American States called the program a hemispheric partner in the fight against human trafficking.
We completed our first assessment of Ecuador’s capacity to address the social needs of human trafficking survivors, allowing us to identify potential partners and to support existing victim shelters.
From June 30 to July 1, 2004, ABA ROLI, in collaboration with the Supreme Court of Ecuador and the National Council of the Judiciary, held a conference on appropriate responses to human trafficking. The U.S. Embassy in Ecuador funded the event, which included experts from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica and the United States. Participants agreed that human trafficking was equally a concern to source, destination and transit countries. The second day of the conference was devoted to devising new strategies and identifying specific measures to strengthen Ecuador’s fight against human trafficking.For more information about the project and to find its toolkit of web-based materials, please visit <www.trataecuador.org>.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is conducting an educational campaign to address judicial corruption and to promote judicial ethics in Ecuador. Implemented in coordination with local partners, the campaign highlights the importance of personal responsibility within the judiciary in ensuring a more transparent system.
Ethics workshops bring together law students, professors, judicial operators and civil society representatives to discuss the draft judicial ethics code as well as real world ethical issues faced by judicial operators. Through these initiatives, ABA ROLI promotes judicial independence, impartiality and propriety to help increase the efficiency and transparency of the Ecuadorian justice system.
Working with local partners, ABA ROLI is developing a pilot drug court program in the city of Cuenca. The program responds to the local and national governments’ requests for assistance in devising ways to decongest courts. The program will help determine whether the presence of specialized drug courts can increase court efficiency by helping better channel court resources. The program will also strive to reduce crimes against persons and property by providing treatment to addicts. An interdisciplinary working group of local and international experts is developing the program, which could later be replicated throughout the country.