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Raising public awareness of legal rights
While many experts say that Ecuador has one of the most advanced constitutions in Latin America, few Ecuadorians are aware of their constitutional rights in part due to inherent inequalities in the political system. 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 television programming, the animated PSAs were designed to teach children about their rights. The PSAs, which ran throughout Ecuador in May and June 2007, addressed such issues 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.
Strengthening the criminal justice system
From July 2006 to April 2014, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), supported by a multi-year grant from the U.S. Embassy in Quito, worked to enhance Ecuadorian lawyers’ understanding of an adversarial criminal justice system. While the country had transitioned from an inquisitorial criminal justice system to an adversarial one, the professional culture remained tied to the older system and practitioners lacked the skills the new system required. Our program supported the transition by training the legal community, in general, and police, judges and prosecutors, in particular, in adversarial criminal procedure. We also assessed the legal system reforms and assisted in providing specialized trainings on crimes, such as human trafficking and money laundering. The program grew to include study tours for the country’s major-crimes task forces and an adversarial system course for law students.
In 2005 and in 2008, ABA ROLI brought groups 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.
Combating human trafficking
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 from 2004–2007. ABA ROLI worked with governmental and non-governmental organizations to engage the public in solving the problem. The U.S. Department of State ranks countries as Tier 1 (most compliant with human trafficking standards), Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch and Tier 3 (countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so). In 2006, Ecuador rose from Tier 3 (where it has been since its first evaluation in 2004) to Tier 2 (countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards). 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, which allowed us to identify potential partners and to support existing survivor shelters. These efforts culminated in a two-day conference on appropriate responses to human trafficking, hosted by ABA ROLI in collaboration with the Supreme Court of Ecuador and the National Council of the Judiciary. The U.S. Embassy in Ecuador funded the event, which featured 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.
Promoting judicial ethics
In 2011 and 2012, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) conducted an educational campaign to address judicial corruption and to promote judicial ethics in Ecuador. Implemented in coordination with local partners, the campaign highlighted the importance of personal responsibility within the judiciary in ensuring a more transparent system.
We also conducted ethics workshops, which brought together law students, professors, judicial operators and civil society representatives to discuss a draft judicial ethics code as well as real-world ethical issues faced by judicial operators. Through these initiatives, ABA ROLI helped to promote judicial independence, impartiality and propriety to help increase the efficiency and transparency of the Ecuadorian justice system.