Since February 1997, Ecuador has made important transformations both of its internal legal system and its political structure, which have influenced the functioning of the State and the protection of individual as well as collective rights of its citizens. Undoubtedly, this process has been materialized by the approval of Ecuador's new Political Constitution by theNational Constitutional Assembly of June 5th, 1998. It includes really innovative provisions that are worthy of detailed analysis and examination in order to determine their scope concerning the situation of human rights in Ecuador. Before a detailed examination, it is noteworthy that at the same time that the new Political Constitution was approved, the State and other social organizations, oninitiative by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prepared an unprecedented National Human Rights Bill that was passed by Executive Decree on June 1998. The content of the above-mentioned National Bill is similar to that included in the new constitutional provisions added to the current Political Constitution. Accordingly, I will refer to the later with hopes that those who are engaged in the applicationof the National Human Rights Bill could consider them as guide to an effective implementation in benefit of the basic rights of men, women and children in Ecuador.
New elements have been introduced in the Constitution with respect to the general principles of human rights protection. The phrase "without any discrimination whatsoever" has been added to article 17 (formerly 20) with regards to thefree exercise of rights. The new amendment also includes the obligation of the State to "take measures for the effective enjoyment of these rights through permanent and periodical plans and programs". This constitutional provision has given support to the implementation of the above-mentioned National Human Rights Bill. With regards to applicability of constitutional rights, article 18 (formerly21) of the new Constitution states that rights and liberties included in international instruments in force may be directly and immediately applicable by and before any judge, tribunal or authority". This amendment is intended to avoid the reticence shown by judges and tribunals to apply international rules directly on specific cases.
The new Constitution includes important principles in the secondand third paragraphs of article 18 which reads: "as regards rights and constitutional liberties, decisions shall abide by the most favorable interpretation of their effective force. No authority is entitled to demand requirements not provided by the Constitution or the law for the exercise of said rights." "Lack of norms may not be alleged to justify violation or ignorance of the rightsstipulated herein, to dismiss upon the merits or to deny recognition of said rights".
Requirement of laws, pre-requisites or conditions not provided in the Constitution for the exercise of constitutional rights has been an established practice by state institutions. The new regulations intend to reduce such practice and protect constitutional liberties more effectively. Additionally, article 19 of the newConstitution introduces, for the first time, a supralegal protection in favor of the individual's dignity by stating that "the rights and liberties provided herein and in the international instruments do not exclude others derived from the person's nature, which are necessary for his/her full moral and material development". This constitutional provision facilitates the application, in favor ofthe individual, not only of the positive principles in the Constitution and the international conventions, but also of those rights inherent to the human person which may not be expressly recognized by positive principles. This amendment contributes to consolidate the ius cogens principles in the Ecuadorian internal legal system, thereby hindering misdirected practices of lawyers and judges...