Ecuadorian authorities must guarantee a fair trial and monitor whether due process is respected in the case of digital defender Ola Bini, whose pre-trial hearing for the alleged crime of “unauthorised access to an information system” will be held this 5 March in Quito
“The government must stop publicly accusing digital defender Ola Bini and intimidating his defence team so that the trial he is facing can be truly fair. Civil society organizations will be closely monitoring the proceedings,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
Authorities must also ensure that the proceedings are independent and impartial and avoid any undue interference. In particular, judicial authorities must verify that any evidence used against Bini has been obtained in accordance with international law. In addition, authorities must recognize the important and legitimate work that Ola Bini and other digital human rights defenders in Ecuador do.
As part of its mandate, the Ecuadorian Ombudsman’s Office, a national human rights institution, can “carry out and promote the monitoring of due process, in legal or administrative terms, in cases where possible violations of human rights have occurred”.
The work of people like Ola Bini who defend the right to privacy on digital media is fundamental for the protection of human rights around the world. In raising awareness of the existence of weaknesses in information systems, both public and private, human rights defenders have contributed to the improvement of digital security for society as a whole. In addition, the guidance that they have provided to journalists, activists and human rights defenders has been vital for them to be able to carry out their important work freely and safely.
“Amnesty International has documented violations of due process that could mean that the case against Ola Bini is unfair and make clear, once again, the need to implement a national policy so that all people in Ecuador can freely and safely work to defend human rights,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.
On 11 April 2019, Bini was detained by police after the now minister of government, María Paula Romo, publiclyaccusedhim of “cooperating with attempts to destabilize the government.” On 16 April, at a public event in Washington, D.C., President Lenín Moreno accusedBini of having been “discovered hacking government and individual accounts and hacking telephones.”
On 20 June, after 70 days in custody, a court ordered Bini’s release after recognizing that his detention was illegal and arbitrary, in violation of his rights to personal freedom and a fair trial. On 6 September, the Attorney General’s Office violently raided the home of Fabián Hurtado, the independent information technology expert witness in the case against Bini and seized his electronic equipment. Amnesty International expressed concernthat this operation could have been intended to intimidate Ola Bini’s defence team.
On 25 September, during an interview with CNN, President Lenín Moreno publicly accusedBini of having interfered “not only in the politics of Ecuador but in world politics”. On 9 January 2020, Carlos Soria, Ola Bini’s defence lawyer, took photographs and reportedon social media that alleged police officers were outside Bini’s house using a telephone monitoring device.
Ecuador: Violent raid jeopardizes Ola Bini’s right to a fair trial (News, 6 September 2019) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/ecuador-allanamiento-violento-pone-en-riesgo-juicio-justo-ola-bini/
Ecuador: Government interfered in criminal case against Ola Bini (News, 26 August 2019)
Ecuador: Human rights violations in criminal proceedings against Ola Bini
(Research, 26 August 2019) https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr28/0871/2019/en/