IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the Inter-American Court

July 14, 2021

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Washington, D.C. - On June 2, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed the case of Walter Gonzalo Huacón Baidal, Mercedes Eugenia Salazar Cuevas and family regarding Ecuador, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case refers to the extrajudicial execution of Walter Gonzalo Huacón Baidal and Mercedes Eugenia Salazar Cueva by State agents in March 1997, as well as the situation of impunity in which the facts remain.

In its Merits Report, the Commission considered that the use of lethal force employed by the police officers was unjustified, unnecessary, disproportionate and lacked a legitimate purpose, and therefore constituted extrajudicial executions. It also established that there is no dispute that the facts were investigated in the police criminal court, in the context of which two police officers were acquitted. In this regard, the Commission emphasized that, in the case of human rights violations and in particular violations of the rights to life and personal integrity, the facts cannot be considered crimes of function and that the investigation should have been carried out in the ordinary jurisdiction. It therefore concluded that the application of the police criminal justice system to the instant case violated the right to a competent, independent and impartial authority, as well as the right to an adequate and effective judicial remedy. The Commission also considered that the State did not demonstrate that it had carried out this process with due diligence or within a reasonable period of time. It also noted that to date, the families have not been able to obtain clarification of the facts and determination of all responsibilities in the ordinary criminal justice system.

The Commission also noted that, at the time of the events, the victims were being pursued by police officers. It also indicated that Mr. Huacón was shot in the right leg after being taken out of the vehicle and that he remained alive for a few minutes before being executed. The IACHR considered it reasonable to conclude that this situation generated great anxiety and fear, and therefore the State violated the right to humane treatment to the detriment of the two victims. The Commission also established that the State violated the right to humane treatment of the next of kin.

By virtue of the foregoing, the Commission concluded that the State of Ecuador is responsible for the violation of the rights established in Articles 4(1) (right to life); 5(1) (right to humane treatment); 8(1) (judicial guarantees) and 25(1) (judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to the obligations established in its Articles 1(1) and 2.

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

  1. Make full reparations for the human rights violations declared in the report, including fair compensation for material and non-material damages, as well as measures of satisfaction duly agreed upon with the next of kin.
  2. Provide the necessary physical and mental health care measures for the family members of Walter Gonzalo Huacón Baidal and Mercedes Eugenia Salazar Cueva. These measures should be implemented if the victims so wish and in agreement with them and their representatives.
  3. Conduct a full and effective investigation of the human rights violations stated in the report. This should imply i) that all necessary efforts be made to capture José Carbo to continue with the criminal proceedings against him, which should be completed in the ordinary courts, and ii) that all other responsibilities be investigated in the ordinary criminal justice system.
  4. Provide mechanisms of non-repetition that include: (i) ongoing training programs for police agents, as well as the establishment of protocols on the use of force, including the use of lethal force, in accordance with the standards established in the report; (ii) measures to ensure effective accountability in the criminal, disciplinary or administrative courts, in cases of alleged abuse of power by State agents in charge of public security in the framework of police operations such as the one that occurred in the present case; and iii) measures to strengthen investigative capacity, with due diligence and in accordance with relevant international standards, on possible extrajudicial executions in the context of the use of lethal force by police officers, so that effective protocols are in place to carry out such investigations.

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. 175/21

10:51 AM