IACHR Files Case Concerning Ecuador with IA Court on Lack of Guarantees in an Immigrant Visa Revocation Process

August 17, 2023

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Washington, D.C. - On May 20, 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted Case 12.592, concerning Ecuador, for the violation of the rights of Elías Gattass Sahih during an administrative process to revoke his migrant visa in 2001.

According to the information presented, Mr. Gattass Sahih obtained an immigrant visa in 2001 after marrying an Ecuadorian citizen. However, his partner filed a complaint months later alleging that Mr. Gattass Sahih was exhibiting hostile and threatening behavior and subsequently filed a petition for his visa to be revoked.

The Migration Policy Advisory Council decided to revoke Mr. Gattass Sahih's visa on the grounds that his conduct was inappropriate and disturbed the peace and well-being of his family. The Council ordered that a deportation process be initiated, as a result of which he was detained by the police and transferred to the Guayas Province Migration Department. Subsequently, through a constitutional appeal, the effects of the administrative act were suspended, and his release was ordered.

Despite legal appeals, the decision to revoke the visa was upheld by the Criminal Court and the Constitutional Court in 2002, after which Mr. Gattass Sahih had to leave Ecuador for the United States.

The IACHR analyzed the case and ruled that the visa revocation process did not comply with the due process guarantees established in the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission concluded that Mr. Gattass Sahih was neither notified nor allowed to participate in the revocation process, which constituted a violation of his rights to be heard and due process guarantees. There was also no analysis of the possible impact that the revocation of the visa and eventual expulsion would have on the victim, who had been living in the country for years and had a daughter. The IACHR also deemed that the judicial remedies were ineffective at preventing the human rights violations committed in this case.

It also found that Mr. Gattass Sahih was automatically detained as a result of the revocation of his visa and that there was no individual assessment of his case to consider the impact on his right to personal liberty. This contravenes article 7.3 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to personal liberty.

The IACHR also noted that there is no evidence that Mr. Gattass Sahih was informed of his right to consular assistance as a foreigner during his detention, which is a violation of article 7.4 of the American Convention and affected his right to defense, as set forth in article 8.2.

Based on these findings, the IACHR concluded that the Ecuadorian State violated the rights established in articles 7 (personal freedom), 8 (judicial guarantees), 22 (the right to movement and residence), and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention, in relation to the obligations established in articles 1 and 2.

In the light of the above observations, the IACHR made the following recommendations to the State of Ecuador:

  1. Provide comprehensive redress for the human rights violations described above, including financial compensation and other forms of redress.
  2. Adopt measures to ensure that visa revocation processes that result in the expulsion of the individual comply with inter-American standards of due process.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate stems from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has the mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as an advisory body to the OAS on the matter. The IACHR is made up 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. 183/23

3:53 PM