Press Release

IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

November 3, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On October 26, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) referred the case of Víctor Henry Mina Cuero regarding Ecuador before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The case concerns the international responsibility of the State for a series of violations in the framework of the disciplinary process that culminated in the dismissal of police officer Victor Henry Mina Cuero. The Commission found that the State violated the right to know in advance and in detail, the accusation made, to have adequate time and means for the defense, and to be assisted by a defense attorney of his choice. This was due to the State's failure to demonstrate that the victim was notified with clear and detailed information about the opening of a proceeding against him and the factual and legal grounds before making his first statement on September 17, 2000 or before the hearing held on October 25, 2000. In addition, during this hearing, the disciplinary body referred in a generic way to the victim's infractions without there being clarity about the reasons for which the process was initiated. On the other hand, the victim gave a statement to the Judicial Police on September 18, 2000 without any legal assistance.

Likewise, the IACHR determined that the State violated the principle of presumption of innocence because the sanctioning decision took into account certain past history of the victim, such as having been prosecuted for homicide in a process that culminated in a dismissal, and having two police casualties that were revoked by the Constitutional Court. This meant that, in order to sanction the victim, account was taken of having been subjected to disciplinary or criminal proceedings that did not result in a sanction. On the other hand, the Commission concluded that the State violated the principle of legality and the right to sufficient motivation since the victim was punished on vague grounds such as performing acts that reveal a lack of consideration and respect for a superior, or carrying out acts of manifest violence or indiscipline against a superior as long as the act does not constitute a crime. The reasons given by the Disciplinary Court do not indicate how what happened falls within the scope of those grounds, nor do they make any assessment regarding the imposition of the more serious penalty.

Finally, the IACHR determined that the State violated the right to appeal the judgment and the right to judicial protection, taking into account that the amparo filed by the victim after his removal from office was denied, indicating that the punishment was imposed in accordance with all the constitutional norms, without conducting a comprehensive examination of both the factual and legal aspects of the decision.

Based on these determinations, the Commission concluded that the State of Ecuador was responsible for the violation of the rights to judicial guarantees, the principle of legality, and judicial protection established in Articles 8(1), 8(2)(b), 8(2)(c), 8(2)(d), 8(2)(h), 9, and 25(1) of the American Convention, in relation to the obligations established in Articles 1(1) and 2 of that instrument, to the detriment of Víctor Henry Mina Cuero.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State:

1. To reinstate Victor Henry Mina Cuero, if he so desires, in a position similar to that which he held in the police force, with the same remuneration, social benefits, and rank that he would enjoy today if he had not been removed. If, for good reason, reinstatement is not possible, an alternative compensation must be paid.

2. To make full reparation for the violations of rights declared in the Report on the Merits, including the material and immaterial aspects.

3. To adapt internal legislation to ensure that disciplinary proceedings against members of the Ecuadorian National Police comply with all guarantees of due process and the principle of legality. Specifically, take steps to ensure that the proceedings guarantee the right to prior and detailed communication of the accusation, the right to a defense with sufficient time, the principle of presumption of innocence, and the right to appeal the ruling. Likewise, ensure that the disciplinary grounds applied and their respective aggravating factors comply with the principle of legality.

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 and to defend 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. 264/20