15 June 2021. Today, Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), is appearing as an expert witness and presenting a written Statement before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Palacio Urrutia and Others v. Ecuador. The case challenges the conviction of journalist Urrutia and fellow defendants for defamation for a newspaper article in 2011 about then-Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The conviction resulted in sentences of three years’ imprisonment and a civil damages award of USD 30,000,000, as well as an additional damages award of USD 10,000,000 against the defendant newspaper, El Universo.
“It is an honour for me to have been asked by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to be its expert on freedom of expression in this case,” said Toby Mendel. “This case gives the Inter-American Court of Human Rights a chance to further its jurisprudence in a number of important freedom of expression issues regarding both civil and criminal defamation law.”
Some of the key points Mendel made in his written Statement and will stress orally before the Court today are:
- The key statements in the article were opinions on matters of public interest which are protected speech and should not attract any sanction in defamation law.
- Criminal defamation is, per se, a breach of the right to freedom of expression; reputations should be protected through the civil law.
- As an alternative to the above, imprisonment is never appropriate as a sanction for defamation.
- The civil damages award in this case was wildly excessive; non-material damages for protection of reputation, as such, should be modest and punitive damages should be applied only in highly exceptional circumstances and, in any case, not extend to the level of damages in this case.
For further information, please contact:
Centre for Law and Democracy
+1 902 431 3688
“the Inter-American Court of Human Rights — in Session” by enaduris is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0