Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Ecudor to Inter-American Court

August 17, 2011

Washington, D.C., August 17, 2011—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 12.600, Hugo Quintana Coello and Others (Justices of the Supreme Court), Ecuador.

The case involves the arbitrary removal of 27 justices of Ecuador's Supreme Court through a parliamentary resolution of December 8, 2004, in the absence of a clear legal framework governing the grounds and procedure for removing them from office and in disregard of the constitutional regulations under which they were appointed, relating to the indefinite nature of their tenure and the cooptation system for filling any vacancies. The victims did not have the minimum guarantees of due process and did not have the opportunity to be heard or to defend themselves. Neither did they have access to an effective judicial recourse that would protect them against the arbitrary actions of the National Congress. These events occurred in a context of political tension and institutional instability of the judiciary in Ecuador.

The case was sent to the Inter-American Court on August 2, 2011, because the Commission deemed that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in its Report on the Merits of the case. The Commission submitted to the Court's jurisdiction the facts and human rights violations described in the Report on the Merits.

The Commission also indicated that the events took place in a context characterized by a fragile judiciary, which was reflected in the removal not only of the Supreme Court of Justice, but also the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, by the legislative branch. Following these terminations at the high courts, mechanisms were activated to keep the affected judicial officials from having access to justice. Thus, this case provides an opportunity for the Inter-American Court to consolidate its case law on the principle of judicial independence and its implications for due process, through the application of the standards in question.

The case also incorporates, for the first time, an analysis of the lack of clarity in the processes and grounds for removing judges under the principle of legality established in the American Convention. In this regard, the Court will be able to delve more deeply into strict compliance with that standard as a corollary to the principle of judicial independence in processes used to sanction judicial officials.

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 matter. 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. 93/11