Ecuador: 19 peace judges now working in 12 provinces


Redacción Justicia, El Telégrafo (abridged)

Peace judges are officials who help in solving conflicts in rural areas. This year the coverage will be extended to 6 more Ecuadorian cities. At least 20 people attend each week.

Click on the photo to enlarge
The first 19 peace judges were trained for 40 hours by the Judiciary. Photo by Cortesía

For example, early last year Berta Vaca acquired land of 2 acres in the Las Palmas province of Pastaza, but after a few months the Municipality of Puyo took about 10 meters from his property to build a country road in the direction of the area of Marianitas.

This action angered the woman who asked for clarifications to the original owner, Claudio Caicedo, who told him he would give the same extension in the rear of the property he bought her. That calmed her down.

However, the days passed and the procedusre was not done, Vaca put a rope across the road to prevent passage as a protest against what he considered to be an injustice.

This prompted the neighbors to approach Luis Alcócer, who was inaugurated in January as peace judge of Veracruz parish, province of Pastaza, where he has lived for 40 years.

The judge, well known by the 220 inhabitants of the area, immediately contacted the woman and the seller of the property, called them into his office, and after 30 minutes of dialogue the problem was solved.

The peace judge wrote up an agreement that Caicedo extended the property, which señora Vaca expected, and set down the new boundaries in writing. “It was not difficult to talk amicably, so we reached an agreement which avoided a legal dispute, and resolved the problem peacefully,” said Alcócer.

The director of the Justice Council of the Judiciary, Patricia Salazar, reported that as of December, 2014, there were 19 peace judges at work in 17 parishes in 12 provinces of the country. “Judges are appointed by the community of which they are resident and the Judiciary trains them how to reach amicable agreements that are essentially based on the will of the parties,” she said. . .

Peace judges are volunteers and are not paid, nor charge for their services to users, but the commitment is to meet eight hours a week with the inhabitants of their sector, which they can do at the offices of the parish. “The Judiciary helps with furniture, computer, printer and access to direct consultation with legal counsel of the organization,” said Salazar.

The official said the 19 judges are dealing with an average of 20 cases a week. “This has prevented those in conflict from having to go to court, which would have generated a waste of time and money for the citizen and the state,” she added.

This has encouraged the Judiciary to encourage the participation of more peace judges. “There are about 2,000 rural parishes in the country that we want to reach with this program and we believe that by the end of 2015 we will add another 80 judges to this initiative of spreading the culture of dialogue as a means of peaceful settlement of disputes”. ..

(click here for the original Spanish version of this article)

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