Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

February 26, 2015

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 11.442, Luis Jorge Valencia Hinojosa (Luis Valencia) with regard to Ecuador.

The case concerns the death of a policeman, Luis Valencia, who died when he was being pursued by police officers in the context of a law enforcement operation. The Inter-American Commission concluded that the criminal investigation failed to fulfill the State’s obligations in terms of clarification and justice. Basically, the investigation was not carried out in a reasonable period of time, and the use of the police criminal justice system constituted a failure to recognize the right to an independent and impartial judge. In addition, the investigation was not carried out with due diligence, despite evidence indicating that those responsible for the death had been the police officers conducting the operation. In particular, the Commission deemed that the State did not take sufficient steps to clarify whether this was a suicide or an extrajudicial execution.

The IACHR determined that Luis Valencia’s death was attributable to the State after understanding that the investigation carried out was incompatible with the American Convention and that there was no State response to explain what had happened. Specifically, the Commission considered that a lack of regulation, planning, and oversight led to an environment ripe for the improper and excessive use of force. Moreover, the Commission concluded that the police officers exercised deadly force in a way that was unnecessary and disproportionate, because they did not have a legal framework regarding the use of force in police operations.

The Inter-American Commission said that the available evidence examined indicated that the death could have been caused by a shot fired by one of the police officers during the operation. The IACHR also found that, even under a theory of suicide, the deliberate use of deadly force to “intimidate” Luis Valencia could have caused him to be fearful and frightened, which could have been determining factors in his eventual decision to end his life. As a result, the Commission determined that, in either of the two scenarios, the actions of the State agents were incompatible with the obligations derived from the right to life.

In its Admissibility and Merits Report on the case, the IACHR concluded that the right to life of Luis Valencia had been violated, as had the rights of his widow, Patricia Alexandra Trujillo Esparza, to a fair trial, to judicial protection, and to humane treatment.

The Inter-American Commission submitted Case 11.442 to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction on January 19, 2015, because the Commission deemed that the State of Ecuador had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Commission’s Merits Report. In that report, the IACHR recommended that the State of Ecuador conduct a complete and effective investigation into the human rights violations found by the Commission; provide adequate reparation for these violations, both in the material and moral sense; and adopt legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure that the use of force by agents of the State is compatible with the standards described in the report.

This case will enable the Inter-American Court to expand its case law on the use of force by security agents of the State, specifically as it relates to preventive actions and those taken when force is used. In addition, the Court will be able to express its opinion on the minimum standards of diligence that an investigation must meet. Finally, the Court will be able to delve into the evidential implications, in international human rights law, in cases in which there are indications of arbitrary use of force and in which the State fails to conduct a proper investigation. 

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 018/15