Press Release

IACHR Takes Case Involving Ecuador to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

September 12, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on July 26, 2019 an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 11,587, César Gustavo Garzón Guzmán, with regard to Ecuador.

This case refers to the forced disappearance of César Gustavo Garzón Guzmán since November 9, 1990 in Quito, Ecuador, at the hands of National Police officers. These events happened in a general context marked by forced disappearances perpetrated by State agents against individuals identified as rebels, particularly alleged members of the groups known as Alfaro Vive Carajo and Montoneras Patria Libre. In the report issued by Ecuador’s Truth Commission, this case was documented as a forced disappearance perpetrated by the National Police. The IACHR found that there were sufficient grounds to conclude that César Gustavo Garzón Guzmán had been deprived of his liberty by State agents. The IACHR further concluded that the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge this detention, given when it happened and the evidence held in official records, amounted to a coverup of these events.

The Inter-American Commission considered that the State’s hypothesis in this investigation, alleging that the victim had been abducted by members of the rebel group he belonged to or that he fled abroad, matched the modus operandi in other cases of forced disappearances at the time.

In particular, concerning the legal investigation, the IACHR noted that all investigations had been based on three police reports, while there was no evidence that the State ever launched or formally supported a criminal investigation, although more than 26 years had passed since these events. The IACHR therefore concluded that the Ecuadorian State had failed to investigate events in this case with due diligence and in a timely manner.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR concluded that the State is responsible for violations of the right to recognition of juridical personality, the right to life, the right to humane treatment, the right to personal liberty, the right to a fair trial, and the right to judicial protection enshrined in the American Convention, and with Articles I.a) and I.b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons.

The IACHR recommended that the State adopt the following reparation measures:

1. Fully, impartially, and effectively investigating the whereabouts of César Gustavo Garzón Guzmán and, if appropriate, taking all necessary measures to identify him and hand his remains to his family, in accordance with the latter’s wishes.

2. Launching internal procedures in connection with the human rights violations mentioned in the Merits Report, and conducting the relevant procedures concerning the crime involving the forced disappearance of César Gustavo Garzón Guzmán; all these procedures should be conducted in a diligent, effective, and timely manner, in order to fully solve the case and to identify and punish anyone who may have been responsible for these events.

3. Providing adequate reparations—both material and immaterial—for the human rights violations mentioned in the Merits Report, including granting fair compensation, establishing and disseminating the historical truth in this case, holding a public event to acknowledge responsibility, and implementing an adequate program to assist the victim’s family, in agreement with the latter.

4. Taking appropriate administrative, disciplinary, and criminal measures with respect to the acts and omissions of State officials who contributed to the denial of justice and the impunity that have plagued events in this case, including any acts or omissions by the authorities that may have prevented an adequate investigation.

5. Adopting the necessary non-repetition measures to prevent similar events from occurring in the future. Non-repetition measures in this case should include legislative, administrative, and any other measures required for investigations into forced disappearances of persons in Ecuador to comply with the standards described in the Merits Report.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction on July 26, 2019, in the understanding that the State had failed to comply with the recommendations held in the Merits Report.

This case would provide the Inter-American Court of Human Rights with its first opportunity to address the specific context in which these events took place in Ecuador, with a very specific modus operandi, and it would enable a consolidation of evidence assessment standards concerning forced disappearances.

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. 223/19