Press Release

IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur installed in Quito Special Follow-Up Team for the murder of members of El Comercio's journalistic team

July 26, 2018

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE) installed a Special Follow-Up Team, on July 25 in Quito, for the case of the killing of journalists Javier Ortega Reyes, Paúl Rivas Bravo, and Efraín Segarra, of “El Comercio” newspaper in Quito, on the border between Ecuador and Colombia in April of this year.

Representatives of the governments of Ecuador and Colombia agreed with the IACHR to establish a Special Follow-Up Team ("ESE" by its Spanish acronym) to accompany the investigation of the murders, search and handing over of the bodies, within the framework of the Precautionary Measure 309-18, still in effect. Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, Rapporteur of the IACHR for Ecuador, will oversee the ESE with the support of the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, as well as the technical team of the precautionary measures section, and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur recognize the readiness and openness of the Ecuadorian State to collaborate with the work of the Special Follow-Up Team and to solve these crimes. "We welcome and recognize the progress made with the States to satisfy the clamor for justice of the families of the victims and the people of both countries, who deserve a full investigation of these abominable crimes," said Arosemena de Troitiño, first Vice-President of the IACHR and Rapporteur for Ecuador.

The ESE is guided by the principles of transparency, accompaniment, and centrality in the events that occurred in connection to the murder of reporter Javier Ortega Reyes, photographer Paúl Rivas Bravo, and worker Efraín Segarra Abril, of the newspaper "El Comercio", all of them Ecuadorian, who were kidnapped on March 26, 2018 by a group of FARC dissidents which engages in activities related to organized crime, on the Ecuadorian border with Colombia.

Within the activities agreed in the work plan, technical visits to Ecuador are foreseen, as well as independent technical contribution to the investigation, access to information on the progress of the investigations, work meetings, public hearings during the period of sessions of the IACHR, and the issuance of a final report to be presented on December 2018. "The IACHR has worked all this time to propose a follow-up strategy that responds to the legitimate demands of family members and today we can announce a responsible work plan, with the involvement and commitment of both States," said Paulo Abrão, Executive Secretary of the IACHR.

The ESE will work on four specific objectives: I) Technical advice and monitoring in the progress of the investigation and punishment of those responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the journalists; II) Accompany the comprehensive care plan of the victims and relatives, and keep them informed of the process; III) Technical advice and monitoring in the compliance of state obligations regarding access to information and the truth of what happened to the Ecuadorian society, as well as to family members; IV) Advise and support the State in the adoption of structural measures wherever possible and avoid its repetition.

"The Office of the Special Rapporteur will participate permanently with the IACHR in this special team and hopes that this specialized follow-up modality will help ensure that these terrible crimes against journalists do not go unpunished and that both the family and society know the complete truth about what happened. We are aware that this mechanism can be a good example for a region with high rates of violence against communicators and impunity," explained Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR.

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. 165/18