WASHINGTON ó The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) carried out a visit to the Republic of Ecuador on May 19-21, 2010, in the context of a standing invitation extended to the IACHR by the State of Ecuador. The delegation was composed of the Rapporteur, Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, and staff of the Executive Secretariat. The Inter-American Commission would like to express its appreciation to the government and people of Ecuador for their cooperation and for the unrestricted access to prison facilities during the course of the visit, and to Ecuadorian nongovernmental organizations for the information and cooperation they provided.
The delegation met with the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Integration, Kintto Lucas; the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Josť Serrano; the President of the National Court of Justice, Josť Vicente Troya Jaramillo; the National Director for Social Rehabilitation, Alexandra ZumŠrraga; the Deputy Secretary for Social Rehabilitation, Leddy ZķŮiga; and technical staff from the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. The delegation also met with the Human Rights Advisor for Ecuador of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Guillermo FernŠndez Maldonado, and representatives of Ecuadorian civil society organizations that work on issues involving people in custody.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty recognizes that important progress has been made on prison matters. It views positively the advancement of public policies designed to address the main problems of the prison system, and the existence of four new projects to build social rehabilitation centers. The Rapporteurship also values the concrete measures that have been adopted to reduce overcrowding; the considerable increase in the number of public defenders; the adequate upkeep and staffing of the child-care centers at the Quito and Guayaquil Womenís Center for Social Rehabilitation; and the steps taken recently to reduce the rates of violence inside the Menís Prison of the Litoral Penitentiary.
In the legislative and institutional arena, the Rapporteurship views as positive the creation of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights; the recognition at the constitutional level of an important catalogue of rights of persons deprived of liberty; and the establishment of courts to supervise prison sentences. On this point, the Rapporteurship emphasizes the importance of adopting the necessary measures to implement and make these courts operational for the supervision of custodial sentences contemplated in the Constitution.
The Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty took the opportunity to visit the Quito Womenís Center for Social Rehabilitation and the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil. At the Litoral Penitentiary, the Rapporteur visited the Menís Prison, the Womenís Center, and the Center for Provisional Detention.
Notwithstanding the progress mentioned above, the IACHR Rapporteurship verified that situations that are incompatible with the effective guarantee of the rights of persons deprived of liberty continue to exist. Along these lines, the delegation observed that there is an overall shortage of resources to provide adequate nourishment to those who have been detained; the daily budget of one dollar per person in custody is insufficient to adequately cover the nutritional needs of the prison population. The delegation also observed that there is a shortage of medicine, medical supplies, and medical personnel, particularly specialists in gynecology and in mental health; that prisons are still overpopulated at the national level; that those who are charged are not segregated from those who have been convicted; and that it is necessary to implement effective rehabilitation programs. It verified in particular that the physical, sanitary, plumbing, and electrical installations of the Menís Prison and the Center for Provisional Detention of the Litoral Penitentiary are in poor condition and are inadequate for the number of inmates; and that the Womenís Center for Social Rehabilitation in Quito needs to increase its security staff. The Rapporteurship is also troubled that persons are being held in policy custody for up to several days for not carrying personal identity documents.
During the visit, the delegation held meetings with various nongovernmental organizations which provided information on the situation of persons deprived of liberty. Thus, for example, the delegation received information indicating the persistence of practices of torture for purposes of criminal investigation and of mistreatment committed by elements of the police. With respect to the practice of torture in Ecuador, the IACHR has addressed this in several of its prior reports and in decisions in contentious cases; hence it reiterates that international law absolutely prohibits torture. In this regard, the IACHR recognizes the importance of prevention as a method to eliminate violations of the rights to humane treatment of persons deprived of liberty, and urges the State of Ecuador to ratify the United Nationsí Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and to implements its prevention mechanisms.
Taking into account the delegationís observations during the visit, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urges the Ecuadorian State to take the necessary measures to ensure that the rights of persons deprived of liberty are fully respected and guaranteed. To this end, it recommends that the State: adopt concrete measures to improve the quality of nutrition for those in custody; repair or rebuild the installations and infrastructure of prisons that are in poor condition; ensure the adequate provision of medicine and medical supplies for prison facilities; increase the number of health-care professionals working in prisons, particularly specialists in mental health and in gynecology; continue taking steps designed to reduce prison overcrowding; and implement and make operational the courts for the supervision of prison sentences.
The visit was made possible thanks to the financial support of the government of Spain.
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 Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.