February 23, 2012

Presidente Rafael Correa
Palacio de Carondelet
García Moreno No. 10-43, entre Chile y Espejo
Quito, Ecuador
Fax: +593 2 258 0714

Justice and Human Rights Minister
Johana Pesántez Benítez
Ministra de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Av. Amazonas No. 34-451 y Atahualpa
Quito, Ecuador
Fax: +593 2 292 3804/ +593 2 246 4914

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) recent intervention on behalf of El Universo, and urge the Ecuadoran government to suspend the sentences against El Universo in accordance with the IACHR’s decision.

According to our information, on February 21, 2012, the IACHR called upon the Ecuadoran government to immediately suspend the execution of the sentences handed down to El Universo directors Carlos Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, Carlos Pérez Barriga, and César Pérez Barriga, and columnist Emilio Palacio, after deciding that the three-year prison sentences and US$40 million in fines were a violation of their right to freedom of expression.

The sentences were handed down on July 20, 2011, after President Correa alleged that an El Universo article by Emilio Palacia offended his honor. On February 16, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence, despite an admission from a lower court judge that the original ruling had been written for her in advance by President Correa’s lawyer. This judge also alleged that another judge was offered $750,000 to rule in President Correa’s favor.

PEN American Center protests the prison sentences and fines handed down to El Universo directors Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, César Enrique Pérez Barriga, and Carlos Nicolás Pérez Enrique, and former editor Emilio Palacio, and welcome the IACHR order that Ecuador suspend the sentences, pending a hearing between both parties to take place on March 28, 2012, in Washington, DC. We therefore call on the Ecuadoran authorities to act in accordance with the IACHR’s decision, and to decriminalize defamation and all other press offenses in line with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Nathalie Cely Suárez
Ecuadorian Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Ecuador
1050 30th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 667-3482

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