PEN Appeal: El Universo
February 17, 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
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 express our disappointment that the prison sentences and fines against El Universo have been upheld by the Supreme Court.
According to our information, on February 16, 2012, the Ecuadorian Supreme Court upheld the draconian three-year prison sentences and US$40 million fines handed down to El Universo publishers Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, César Enrique Pérez Barriga, and Carlos Nicolás Pérez Enrique, and to former editor Emilio Palacio for alleged libel. There are no further options for appeal within Ecuador. However, on the same day that the Supreme Court upheld the ruling, a lower court judge responsible for the original ruling released an affidavit saying that the decision had been written for her in advance by President Correa’s lawyer. This judge also alleges that another judge was offered $750,000 to rule in President Correa’s favor.
El Universo has said that it will seek international relief from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The paper has already presented its case to the IACHR and is seeking a “precautionary injunction” that would order Ecuador to suspend execution of the sentences pending a full international review of the case by the commission and, later, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
PEN American Center protests the prison sentences and fines handed down to El Universo publishers Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, César Enrique Pérez Barriga, and Carlos Nicolás Pérez Enrique, and former editor Emilio Palacio. We therefore call on Ecuador to refrain from executing the sentences until a full international review of the case has been carried out by the IACHR, and urge the authorities 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.
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs
CC: Ambassador Nathalie Cely Suárez
Ecuadorian Ambassador to the United States
Embassy of Ecuador
1050 30th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 667-3482
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