United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - Case of Cristián Andrés Peña Majé v. Ecuador

Cristian Andrés Peña Majé is a 15-year-old Colombian boy living in the province of Orellana, Ecuador.

Cristian Andrés Peña Majé is a 15-year-old Colombian boy living in the province of Orellana, Ecuador. His family fled to Ecuador as refugees in 2002. He has played soccer since he was child, both for personal growth and in hopes of someday playing professionally. In 2011, Cristian was selected to represent his province of Orellana on the under-14 “Juegos Nacionales Deportivos” team. Players, however, were required to show proof of citizenship or naturalization. As a refugee Cristian was unable to meet this requirement, so he asked the team to reconsider. It refused. He sought a protective order from Orellana’s Judge for Children and Adolescents, but was similarly unsuccessful. His case was chosen for review by the Constitutional Court, but it has stalled there for more than a year as Cristian ages out of eligibility for Ecuador’s youth teams. 

The Clinic has submitted an individual communication (complaint) before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights alleging violation of Cristian’s rights under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESC). Specifically, by refusing to allow him to play competitive soccer, Ecuador has violated Cristian’s rights under the ICESC to non-discrimination, right to culture, education and special protections for children. The case stresses the importance of sport not only as a means of personal fulfillment and health, but as a necessary component of combating stereotypes about Colombians, who are often viewed as thugs and criminals. When citizens and refugees work together on the soccer field toward a common goal, it helps dispel these negative stereotypes about Colombians. Soccer represents a shared part of cultural life, and can provide a common “language” and cultural identity.