IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) signed a technical cooperation agreement with the State of Ecuador in the context of a working and technical cooperation visit conducted in September 26–28. This agreement was signed following intensive talks with various State institutions. It seeks to create a framework for cooperation to enable the IACHR to provide technical assistance and to support capacity-building in the promotion, defense, and protection of the rights of persons who are deprived of liberty and in efforts to incorporate the applicable inter-American standards into Ecuador's public policies and other measures.
"The Commission notes that the cooperation agreement that has been signed provides a framework for further efforts to protect and enforce the human rights of persons who are deprived of liberty. We therefore thank the government for its openness during this visit, and in particular for its commitment to continuing to work to protect the rights of persons who are deprived of liberty and their families," said Stuardo Ralón, IACHR Commissioner and Vice President and Commission Rapporteur for Ecuador and on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty.
Beyond the signing of this cooperation agreement, this visit enabled further monitoring of recommendations made during the working visit held in December 1–3, 2021. It also led to the identification of aspects that might call for the application of its technical cooperation mechanism concerning the human rights of persons who are deprived of liberty.
The Commission acknowledges major progress in the implementation of these recommendations. These are some of the measures taken with a human rights focus: 1) the adoption of a new public policy regarding prisons; 2) the launch of a process to recruit and train 1,300 new prison officers and 100 educational advisors; 3) the reduction of overcrowding, by issuing pardons and ensuring swifter penitentiary benefits in the context of the Renacer project; 4) the launch of a prison census that has reached a 45% completion rate, with the simultaneous implementation of administrative inmate registration; 5) an expansion from 14 to 25 in the number of magistrate judges who specialize in prisons, an end to hearings in requests for prison benefits, and the restoration of Ombudsperson Office delegations within incarceration facilities.
At the same time, during the visit, the IACHR was informed about persistent structural challenges for the protection of persons who are deprived of liberty, that require the following measures: 1) ensuring that the State takes effective control of the 36 penitentiaries, particularly those holding the most inmates, to counter persistently high rates of violence within those facilities (at least 90 individuals have died in this context so far this year); 2) designing public policies to enable rehabilitation and reintegration into society, based on prison census data once this study has been completed (these policies will need to be permanently monitored to address the remaining challenges, including corruption within incarceration facilities); 3) addressing regulatory and procedural aspects to enable swifter decisions concerning requests for prison benefits; 4) taking measures to provide comprehensive reparations for the families of people killed in violence inside prisons ; 5) deepening strategies to dismantle criminal structures active within penitentiary facilities; and 6) implementing pathways to ensure civil society involvement in the adoption of measures to overcome this crisis
During this visit, the delegation led by IACHR Vice President Stuardo Ralón met with Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso, as well as with the country's foreign minister and human rights secretary, with the head of the Ecuadorian prison service (the SNAI), and with the ombudsperson, the president of the National Court of Justice, the chair of the judicial council, the attorney general, and the chair of the National Assembly Committee on Sovereignty, Integration, and Security, as well as with representatives of the Constitutional Court and the Public Prosecutor's Office. The IACHR also met with representatives of civil society organizations. The Commission delegation further visited the Cotopaxi 1 penitentiary facility in Latacunga, with the aim of verifying progress made in efforts to draft a prison census.
With its visit to Ecuador, the IACHR sought to monitor the results of its previous working visit to the country, in December 1–3, 2021, aimed at observing and gathering information on the serious violence that took place in several Ecuadorian prisons in 2021, as well as the measures taken by the State to address that violence. Based on this, the Commission published its report on the , presenting its findings, conclusions, and recommendations. The report noted that the country is currently immersed in a serious, structural prison crisis that features high levels of violence and unprecedented corruption inside prisons, both of them consequences of years without a comprehensive crime policy and of the decades-old neglect of the penitentiary system by the State.
The report makes 84 recommendations aimed at providing more targeted tools to protect the rights of persons who are deprived of liberty. These recommendations focus on the following aspects: i) ending violence; ii) reducing prison populations; iii) addressing pretrial detention and implementing alternatives; iv) reforming the prison system; v) improving conditions of detention; vi) enabling social reintegration; vii) ensuring investigation and adopting measures for non-recurrence; and viii) taking cross-sectional action including joint measures agreed by the three branches of government, a gender perspective and differential treatment with an intersectional approach, and the participation of inmates, their families, and civil society organizations in the design of any relevant measures.
This agreement entails an opportunity for further progress in the implementation of the recommendations made in the 2021 thematic report.
The Commission's delegation was led by IACHR Vice President Stuardo Ralón, the Commission's Rapporteur for Ecuador and on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty. Commissioner Ralón was supported by María Claudia Pulido, Assistant Executive Secretary for Monitoring, Promotion and Technical Cooperation, and by specialized staff from the Commission's Executive Secretariat.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region, based on the Charter of the OAS and the American Convention on Human Rights. 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.