REPORT No. 29/19
CASE 13.015
MERITS
EMILIO PALACIO URRUTIA AND OTHERS
ECUADOR
MARCH 19, 2019
I.

SUMMARY

1.
On October 24, 2011, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the
Commission" or "the IACHR") received a petition claiming the international responsibility of the Republic of
Ecuador (hereinafter "the State" or "Ecuador") for the alleged violation of articles 7 (Right to Personal Liberty),
8 (Right to a Fair Trial), 13 (Freedom of Thought and Expression), and 21 (Right to Property) of the American
Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter “the American Convention" or "Convention"), in relation to articles
1.1 and 2 thereof, to the detriment of Emilio Palacio Urrutia, journalist and editorialist of the newspaper El
Universo, Carlos Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, and César Enrique Pérez Barriga,
executives of said newspaper (hereinafter "the petitioners" or "the alleged victims").
2.
The Commission approved the Admissibility Report No. 66/15 on October 27, 2015 and
notified said report to the parties, being open to reaching a friendly settlement. The parties had the statutory
deadlines to present their additional observations on the merits. All the information received was duly
transferred between the parties.
II.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

A.

Petitioners

3.
The petitioners reported that the alleged victims were convicted for expressing opinions
about an elected official and regarding acts related to the exercise of their office, in a trial marked by
irregularities and with disproportionate sanctions incompatible with the standards of freedom of expression,
in addition to the fact that their rights to due process, to personal freedom, and to private property were
affected, in a context of "[systematic] use of the Public Power to persecute journalists and media and thus
censor them".
4.
With regard to the right to freedom of expression, the petitioners said that in this context, the
highest government authorities unleashed a political and judicial persecution against journalist Emilio Palacio
Urrutia and the directors of the newspaper El Universo of Guayaquil as part of a government policy aimed at
suppressing criticism, accountability through the press, and free democratic debate. They indicated that the
newspaper "El Universo and its directors, Messrs. Carlos Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga,
and César Enrique Pérez Barriga have been victims of a merciless persecution by the Ecuadorian State,"
through a series of sanction procedures that have resulted in "high fines and continue to harm the precarious
economic situation of the newspaper."
5.
The petitioners indicated that the alleged victims were sentenced to imprisonment for a crime
that protects public officials, which "it is not compatible with a democratic society" and that, in this sense, the
penalty imposed "was not necessary or proportional". They argued that the criminal offense applied becomes
more burdensome given the existence of "misuse of power, since this judgement was issued in response to a
direct request (complaint) from the [p]resident of the Republic" and that he himself requested that to typify
the crime it be taken in account "his role as ‘Head of State and government’”. Likewise, the petitioners alleged
that they were imposed an economic sanction for the crime of slanderous insult with exorbitant amounts that
violate the right to property, with the potential impact of the closure of the newspaper, the silencing of an
independent media, and the potential loss of employment of several people.
6.
They also alleged violations of the right to a fair trial due to the "lack of independence of the
Judiciary" in a context of "judicial harassment and persecution against journalists"; irregularities in the
appointment of temporary judges, in the issuance of the judgment of first instance, in the denial of evidence,
and in the preparation of the judge who issued the judgment of first instance. Finally, the petitioners argued
that although once the process was over, then President Correa pardoned the convictions, the fact that "[t]he
absolute extinction of the right was not materialize, it does not mean that it has not been violated through a

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