International Defamation: Criminal Defamation In Ecuador
An international defamation lawsuit out of Ecuador caught our attention.
In brief, the three-term (and counting) president of the country, Rafael Correa, filed a defamation suit. He won and the defendants landed in jail for 18 months. Supporters of Correa say the case was justified and appropriate. Detractors argue he inappropriately used his political power to silence critics.
Why Did Correa File A Defamation Lawsuit Against A Political Opponent?
In 2010, a violent demonstration rocked Ecuador. If you believe the opposition, it was a justified, non-violent protest waged by government workers demanding fair pay. If you believe Correa enthusiasts, it was an “undemocratic coup d’etat.” Whichever the case, the incident turned violent. Rebels held Correa hostage at a police hospital, and five civilians died when soldiers rushed the facility to rescue the president.
In the aftermath, opposition leader Jose Clever Jimenez Cabrera (commonly known as Jimenez) publicly ridiculed the ruling party and Correa for “promoting political chaos” and “perpetuating crimes against humanity.”
As you might imagine, Correa didn’t take kindly to the accusations. In fact, he filed a defamation lawsuit against Jimenez and two union leaders.
International Defamation Watchdog Group Chastises Correa
To shorten a long story, Correa won his case. And since Ecuador still has criminal defamation laws, the defendants landed in the clink for 18 months. Additionally, the judge ordered Jimenez to pay the president $145,000, plus publicly apologize.
Upon hearing the ruling, international first amendment advocates, Human Rights Watch, issued an excoriation. Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch America, fulminated, “President Correa has long made it clear that he willing to go after anyone who criticizes him, from civil leaders to media critics.”
A Defiant “Defamer”
Jimenez refused to comply with the public apology demand. We’ll see if his prison sentence is extended, as a result.