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A prominent human rights group sharply criticized Ecuador's President Rafael Correa Monday for a decree imposing restrictions on non-governmental organizations.
Human Rights Watch said the decree, issued in June, undermines Ecuadorans' rights to free assembly and should be revoked.
The decree sets forth new procedures for Ecuadoran and international civic groups to gain legal status and requires international groups like HRW to go through a screening process.
Organizations are required to inform the government of changes in their leadership, the projects they are undertaking with foreign financing, and submit their statutes for review by the authorities.
It empowers the government to dissolve groups for compromising "public peace" or for moving away from the objectives for which they were created.
"The Correa administration has damaged free speech, expending a lot of its energy focusing on the media, and now it's trying to trample on independent groups," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
"Officials can now essentially decide what groups may say or do, seriously undermining their role as a check on the government," he said.
"The decree limits groups' ability to choose who can be a member or participant, undermining their right to free assembly," Human Rights Watch said.