Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

December 18, 2013

Washington, D.C. -  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case No. 11.576, José Luis García Ibarra and Family v. Ecuador.

The facts of this case have to do with the extrajudicial execution of the child José Luis García Ibarra on September 15, 1992, when he was 16 years old, by a National Police officer who had been assigned to Provincial Command No. 14 of the National Police in the city of Esmeraldas. The child García Ibarra was in a public place with a group of friends when the policeman came over and had a fight with an adolescent who was there. During that fight, the police officer shot José Luis García Ibarra, who died immediately.

Despite the seriousness of the incident, more than nine years went by before the investigation and criminal case ended with a conviction for unintentional homicide, with a sentence of 18 months in prison. The judicial process failed to meet the minimum standards of justice for these types of incidents. The delay of more than nine years was not due to the steps in the proceedings but rather to the domestic authorities’ negligence and failure to act. At no time in the investigation, either in the initial stage or thereafter, did the authorities take the minimal steps that international standards concerning extrajudicial executions indicate as essential to shed light on a theory of “accidental homicide” or “homicide in a confrontation.” Specifically, the investigating authorities failed to perform technical tests that could have clarified the facts. Ecuador’s Supreme Court of Justice recognized the existence of certain irregularities but took no measures at all to correct them. In short, the extrajudicial execution of José Luis García Ibarra is in a state of partial impunity, and his family has had no judicial clarification of what happened.

The case was sent to the Inter-American Court on November 23, 2013, because the State of Ecuador did not respond to the Commission’s admissibility report and report on the merits. As a result, the Commission did not have any information regarding compliance with its recommendations.

In the report on the merits, the Commission recommended that the State undertake a complete and effective investigation into the human rights violations determined by the IACHR; provide adequate material and moral reparation for the human rights violations determined in the report; and order mechanisms to prevent recurrences. These mechanisms should include, among others, training programs geared toward the National Police and measures to investigate, with due diligence and in accordance with the relevant international standards, the need for and proportionality of the use of lethal force by police officers, so that there are effective protocols in place that enable the implementation of adequate mechanisms for control and accountability for their actions.

This case will enable the Inter-American Court to issue an opinion on the problem of extrajudicial executions stemming from the social stigmatization of low-income adolescents as potential criminals, an issue of major relevance and timeliness in the Americas. This case demonstrates the lack of controls and accountability mechanisms inside police institutions, especially when “anti-gang” units have been created to confront a specific segment of the population that is subject to special protection under the American Convention.

Moreover, the case raises fundamental aspects such as how a State should respond, in terms of justice, to a grave act such as the extrajudicial execution of an adolescent by a police officer assigned to protect the population. A particular feature of this case is that it involves a conviction for the crime of “unintentional” homicide. The Commission believes that this verdict, which led to impunity, goes beyond the victim’s family and affects law and order in the region, in a context in which inter-American justice standards need to be reinforced when it comes to grave human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions.

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. 99/13