IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

July 15, 2021

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Washington, D.C. - On July 10, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed the case of Fredy Marcelo Núñez Naranjo et al. regarding Ecuador before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case concerns the enforced disappearance of Fredy Núñez Naranjo.

On July 15, 2001, while the victim was in a bar owned by his mother, several intoxicated individuals entered the bar and caused damage Núñez confronted them, for which reason the police arrived on the scene, and the victim and the other persons were taken to the police station in Cantón Quero. From there, he was abducted by members of the Juntas del Campesinado del Cantón Quero and taken to the Puñachisag community and later to the Shausi community, where he was subjected to ill-treatment. Since then, his whereabouts are unknown.

In its Merits Report, the Commission determined that what happened to Freddy Núñez Naranjo constituted an enforced disappearance as the constituent elements of such a violation were present. Regarding the deprivation of liberty, it considered that there is no dispute over the detention and subsequent abduction of the victim. As for the element of direct intervention or acquiescence of State agents, it established that there is no dispute that members of the Juntas del Campesinado were the ones who took the victim from the prison. In this regard, the Commission noted that there are a series of elements that prove that the Juntas del Campesinado acted with the acquiescence of the State. The IACHR noted that national and international bodies have indicated that these Juntas have assumed the functions of public authorities and that there are accusations of serious human rights violations against them, which has led to various exhortations to the State to prevent them from becoming paramilitary groups. In addition, it is clear from the context that state officials rarely responded effectively to complaints about the Juntas' activities. Taking these elements into account, the IACHR considered as established that, at the time of the beginning of the victim's disappearance, the Juntas del Campesinado were acting with the full knowledge, tolerance, and acquiescence of the State.

As for the refusal to acknowledge the detention or to reveal the fate or whereabouts of the victim, the Commission found that the State, through its failure to act diligently, allowed the victim's whereabouts to be covered up. The Commission stated that, even though members of the Juntas del Campesinado acknowledged that the victim was taken to a cell of the Juntas, the State did not take any steps in that place or elsewhere to determine his whereabouts.

The IACHR further concluded that the State violated the rights to judicial guarantees and judicial protection due to the lack of due diligence in the investigation of the facts, as it failed to carry out the minimum diligence necessary to locate the whereabouts of the victim and identify those responsible. In particular, the Commission noted that the State failed to inspect the prison where he was detained, the cell to which he was taken, and to prosecute the members of the Juntas who admitted having taken the victim from the prison. It also pointed out that the criminal proceedings ended with her dismissal because the evidence obtained during the investigation stage did not comply with the Organic Law of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

On the other hand, the Commission concluded that the process did not comply with the guarantee of a reasonable period of time, taking into account that, at the time of the adoption of the Merits Report, more than 17 years had passed since the State became aware of the facts. It also noted that there were unjustified periods of inactivity in the investigation, as well as scant steps to determine the whereabouts of the victim, and to prosecute and punish those responsible for the events.

Finally, the Commission concluded that the State is responsible for the violation of the right to personal integrity of the victim's next of kin, given the impact that the events had on their personal integrity. The IACHR also declared the violation of the right to humane treatment and to judicial guarantees and judicial protection to the detriment of Gregoria Naranjo and Marcia Núñez, since when the victim was taken from prison, he was taken with both of them to the Puñachisag Community, where they were subjected to flogging and ill-treatment, without any evidence that the State had conducted any investigation into these events.

Based on these findings, the Inter-American Commission concluded that the Ecuadorian State is responsible for the violation of the rights to humane treatment, personal liberty, freedom of expression, movement and residence, and judicial protection recognized in Articles 3, 4(1), 5(1), 5(2), 7, 8(1), and 25(1) of the American Convention, in relation to the obligations established in Articles 1(1), as well as Articles I.a) and I.b) of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons.

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

  1. Conduct a thorough, impartial, and effective investigation into the whereabouts of Fredy Marcelo Núñez and, if applicable, take the necessary measures to identify and hand over his remains to his family in keeping with their wishes.
  2. Conduct a diligent and effective investigation into the bodily harm endured by Gregoria Naranjo and Marcia Núñez, within a reasonable time to thoroughly clarify the crimes, identify the perpetrators and impose punishment, when applicable.
  3. Carry out domestic proceedings relating to the human rights violations declared in the instant report and conduct the appropriate proceedings for the crime of the forced disappearance of Fredy Marcelo Núñez, impartially, effectively and within a reasonable time, to clarify the crimes thoroughly, identify all persons responsible and impose punishment, as appropriate.
  4. Make adequate reparation for the human rights violations found in the instant report addressing both the material and moral aspects, including fair compensation, determining and disseminating the historical truth of the facts, and implementing an adequate assistance program for the family, in consultation with the members thereof.
  5. Adopt the necessary measures of non-repetition to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. The measures of non-repetition in the instant case should include legislative, administrative, or other types of measures aimed at eliminating the Juntas de Defensa del Campesinado as entities that exercise public functions. Also, to adopt necessary measures so that investigations into forced disappearances of persons in Ecuador, including criminal investigations and judicial proceedings, as well as processes for the search of the remains of missing persons, meet the standards described in the instant report.

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

No. 178/21

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