IACHR Asks Ecuador to Ensure Judicial Independence in the Face of Organized Crime Interference

May 14, 2024

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is closely monitoring investigations concerning the infiltration of organized crime in the judiciary in Ecuador. The Commission calls on the State to ensure the independence of judicial officers and to protect the work, lives, and integrity of all individuals who investigate acts of corruption.

The State's Office of the Attorney General has publicly reported on evidence that criminal structures have bribed judicial officers to allegedly obtain favorable decisions, changes in court make-up, unjustified procedural delays, and penitentiary benefits in favor of members of organized crime gangs and their families. According to official reports, at least 19 judges in various regions and at various levels of the judiciary are involved in the allegations.

These cases have been exposed in a context of worsening law and order in Ecuador, due to the actions of organized crime. The Commission condemned the murder of public prosecutor César Suárez, of the National Unit to Investigate Transnational Organized Crime, who was in charge of investigating an armed group's raid on a TV channel's facilities on January 9.

The independence and impartiality of the judiciary are essential in the fight against organized crime. The Commission has warned about the impact of organized crime on justice systems in the Americas, which has enabled the creation of parallel power structures aimed at coopting judicial institutions, including the highest courts. In these contexts, States must adopt effective strategies to prevent internal and external pressure and other forms of harassment against judicial officers. For instance, special units need to be set up to ensure genuine response capacity, complete with adequate funding, to address allegations of corruption. It is also essential to ensure that individuals who investigate corruption cases are paid adequate salaries, get ongoing training, and can count on suitable human and technical resources, as well as on having their safety preserved.

The Commission notes the good will expressed by Ecuadorian authorities to fight corruption and preserve judicial independence in the face of the threats posed by transnational organized crime.

The IACHR stresses that all States must ensure the free conduct of judicial activities and protect the safety of all judicial officers. The IACHR therefore urges the State of Ecuador to step up its efforts to protect judicial officers and public prosecutors and to conduct comprehensive, thorough, and impartial investigations that enable the prosecution and punishment of all perpetrators and masterminds of violence against judicial officers.

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. 100/24

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