IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

July 17, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
mrivero@oas.org

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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 11.458, Jorge Vásquez Durand), with regard to Ecuador.

The case involves the forced disappearance of Jorge Vásquez Durand, a merchant of Peruvian nationality, in the context of the conflict of the Alto Cenepa between Ecuador and Peru. In this context, the security forces of Ecuador detained several Peruvian citizens. After traveling overland from Peru to Ecuador, Jorge Vásquez Durand called his wife, María Esther Gomero de Vásquez, on January 30, 1995, for the last time. He told her he was worried about getting his merchandise through customs in Huaquillas. There are testimonies that indicate that the same day he was detained in Huaquillas by members of the Ecuadorian Intelligence Service.  The information available indicates that Jorge Vásquez Durand had been seen in the Teniente Ortiz military barracks, in poor physical shape. This is the last news available about the victim. The Ecuadorian military and police authorities denied that Jorge Vásquez Durand had ever been under State custody. The Truth Commission described what happened to Jorge Vásquez Durand as a forced disappearance. The State of Ecuador has not adopted effective measures to determine his whereabouts, despite having knowledge of his detention and his disappearance through several sources. The habeas corpus action did not constitute an effective or appropriate resource for this situation. After more than 20 years since the start of the execution of this act of disappearance, no criminal investigation has been launched. The Commission determined that there is a context of impunity for the human rights violations committed in the context of the conflict between Ecuador and Peru, and that this case is an example of that context.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended the State of Ecuador to conduct a complete, impartial, and effective investigation into the whereabouts of Jorge Vásquez Durand and, should it be determined that the victim is no longer alive, adopt the necessary measures to deliver his remains to his family, as they wish. It also recommended to initiate criminal proceedings for the offense of forced disappearance with the goal of fully clarifying the facts, identifying those responsible, and imposing the corresponding punishments. In addition, the IACHR recommended to make adequate reparation for the human rights violations, both materially and morally, including just compensation, the establishment and dissemination of the historical truth of what happened, and recovering of memories of the disappeared victim. Also, to adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent any such events from occurring in the future, in keeping with the duty to protect and ensure the human rights recognized in the American Convention. In particular, implement permanent programs on human rights and international humanitarian law in the training institutes and academies of the Armed Forces. The Merits Report established that the State of Ecuador must make a public acknowledgment of international responsibility and a public apology for the violations declared in the case.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the jurisdiction of the Court on July 8, 2015 because it considered that the State of Ecuador had not complied with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report. The Commission submitted to the Court the whole of the facts of its Merits Report.

This case will allow the Court to deepen its jurisprudence on enforced disappearances, with special emphasis on the structural deficiencies the State of Ecuador has regarding this subject, such as the manner in which habeas corpus was regulated by the time of the beginning of execution of the enforced disappearance of Jorge Vásquez Durand and the absence of a proper definition of this crime. The analysis that the Court will make of these structural aspects will have an impact on the institutional approach to the enforced disappearance of persons in other States of the region.  In addition, the case will develop the existing interrelation and complementarity between International Humanitarian Law and the International Law of Human Rights in the context of an international conflict.

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. 079/15