Press Release

IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

July 10, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On June 14, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) referred the case of Gonzalo Orlando Cortez Espinoza, regarding Ecuador, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The case relates to the illegality and arbitrariness of three detentions carried out against retired military officer Gonzalo Orlando Cortez Espinoza in 1997 and 2000, affecting his physical integrity and violating due process in the framework of a criminal proceeding followed by “infractions against property”.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission determined that the first detention was illegal because the State did not explain the reasons why the Military Prosecutor's Office had jurisdiction to issue the arrest warrant for Mr. Cortez, especially given his status as a retired military officer. Regarding the second and third detentions, the IACHR considered that they were also illegal since the State was not shown an arrest warrant and was not informed of the reasons for his detention. The Commission also identified that Mr. Cortez was in pretrial detention between July 30 and December 19, 1997, and between February 28 and May 11, 2000. The IACHR concluded that none of these pretrial detentions had individualized reasons for the procedural purposes they were intended to serve. The Commission identified that they were based on the existence of indications of responsibility. Consequently, the Commission concluded that both pretrial detentions were arbitrary.

Likewise, regarding the detention that began in July 1997, the Commission noted that Mr. Cortez did not file a writ of habeas corpus. However, the Commission recalled that, according to the legislation in force at the time of the events, such an application should be filed with the Mayor. In this regard, the IACHR emphasized that a habeas corpus before an administrative authority does not constitute an effective remedy under the standards of the American Convention. Consequently, the IACHR considered that Mr. Cortez did not have the possibility of presenting a judicial remedy that met the characteristics required by the American Convention to review the legality of the detention. With respect to the detention of February 28, 2000, the Commission observed that, although Mr. Cortez was released on May 11 of that year as a result of a decision by the Constitutional Court, this occurred after he had filed two habeas corpus appeals that were rejected by the Mayor and more than two months after the detention. In this regard, the Commission concluded that the writ of habeas corpus in respect of the 2000 arrest did not meet the standards of simplicity and speed.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State:

  1. Make full reparation for the human rights violations declared in the report, both in the material and immaterial aspects. The State should adopt measures of economic compensation and satisfaction.
  2. To provide for the necessary measures of non-repetition to: i) ensure that both the applicable regulations and the respective practices regarding preventive detention are compatible with the standards established in the report; and ii) ensure that military criminal jurisdiction is not applied to civilians under any circumstances, including retired military personnel.
The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 161/20