The former vice-president of Ecuador has gone on hunger strike to protest against his detention conditions. Human rights violations, ‘lawfare’ and the duty of health-care workers are key concerns in this international issue.
Jorge Glas, former vice-president of Ecuador, was sentenced to six years in jail and sent to Cárcel 4 (Prison 4) in Quito on the 2 of November 2017. He is accused of illicit association and of receiving $13.5 million in bribes from Odebrecht, a Brazilian company. Glas maintains his innocence amid these accusations.
When Glas arrived at Prison 4, he underwent standard medical examinations that showed that he suffered from chronic insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, gastritis, lower back pain and dorsalgia, chronic arthritis and spondylitis. Glas’s health has steadily deteriorated due to his complex medical history, and he requires specialist doctors. His situation is not encouraging as, in addition, he has been unfairly deprived of his freedom.
Former Ecuadorian Communications Secretary Fernando Alvarado’s escape from prison led President Lenin Moreno to transfer Glas to the high-security Latacunga Prison on Sunday 21st October 2018. However, this prison is worse than Prison 4 as it does not have the appropriate resources or health services to protect the former vice president’s delicate health.
This infringes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that state that “all people deprived of their liberty have the right to live in detention conditions compatible with their personal dignity and the state must guarantee them the right to life and personal integrity.
Consequently, the government, as the body responsible for detention centres, is the guarantor of the rights of detainees.”
I t should be noted that Glas does not pose any danger to society. For this reason, many legal analysts consider the transfer to Latacunga to be an injustice on the part of the state.
Jorge Glas’s health and life are in danger because he has been unjustly imprisoned; healthcare in Latacunga is very basic and does not meet the needs of his illnesses.
As a result, Glas went on hunger strike on 22nd October. His aim is to reveal the injustice and physical, psychological and emotional abuse that he is experiencing, and to attract the attention of lawyers worldwide, international human rights organisations, such as the United Nations and the Hague, and other organisations related to human rights.
These events clearly demonstrate that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is being infringed.
The Covenant stipulates that every human being has an inherent right to life and that no one “shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The legal situation Glas is in is both cruel and inhuman.
The former President Rafael Correa claims that Glas is a victim of political persecution, with the sole purpose of removing him from his vice-presidential role, seeing as, to this day, there is no proof that he is guilty.
Jorge Glas is just one of many progressive Latin American leaders who have been subjected to legal injustices that constitute a right-wing strategy to remove them from electoral contests. This is known as ‘lawfare’, the use of the law as a tool for political persecution, which is supported by the United States and Europe.
In a letter, Glas said “I am a political prisoner. Limitless hate is the reason I have been transferred from my previous jail without motive. It is to humiliate me, as revenge. My life is in danger.” Meanwhile, his wife asks for mercy.
The prison’s medical staff should also be aware of universal human rights and reject abuses against their patients.
They should comply with international human rights norms and standards to prevent the abuse of detainees, abuse that Glas is experiencing. Articles 1 and 5 of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights (the Pact of San José) and the Regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights uphold respect for life and the right to mental and physical integrity.
As health professionals, we should insist on the protection of Glas’s right to good health and his immediate transfer to a health centre due to his medical problems.
Whatever we may think about his politics or his past actions, I call on our society to make a stand. It is our moral duty to defend all citizens’ health and human rights, to ensure they are respected according to international laws.
We should hold the Ecuadorian government responsible for any serious incident that happens to Glas.
The media should dispel harmful myths about detainees and also provide responsible coverage of the problems surrounding the abuse, neglect and human rights of people deprived of their freedom.
(Translated by Zosia Niedermaier-Reed – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay