Report about violation of rights to health and to life. Budgetary priorities. Obligation to ensure progressive development of economic, social and cultural rights. Special obligation regarding vulnerable groups. Free access to basic healthcare services.
Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES), on behalf of the General Secretary of Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Ministerio de Salud [National Union of Health Ministry Workers] and the workers represented by the union, filed a report with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) against the State of Ecuador. The report claimed the State had failed to comply with the obligation to progressively develop economic, social and cultural rights under the American Convention on Human Rights due to systematic cuts in the national budget, particularly in the area of healthcare, with the resulting impact on the health and life of society's most vulnerable groups. Budgetary cuts led to mass reductions in payroll, infrastructure, equipment, materials and health programs. Furthermore, it was claimed that the State had violated its obligation to guarantee effective remedies to appeal and remedy violations of fundamental rights. Such budgetary cuts contravened the Constitution of Ecuador, which guarantees the whole population access to basic healthcare services and expressly prohibits reductions in budget allocations to the health sector. Moreover, the Constitution requires such allocations to be increased in direct proportion to the increase in national revenue. Faced with this situation, the petitioners filed two claims with domestic courts, requesting that the cuts be declared unconstitutional and denouncing the violation of international human rights standards and instruments. Both claims reached the highest venue, Tribunal Constitucional, which denied them without having conducted a substantive review. This led to the filing with the IACHR. So far the IACHR has not issued its decision.
This case illustrates the Judicial Power's ability to control budgetary allocation and execution in respect of social rights using the legal standard of progressiveness and non regression. Likewise, it shows that the IACHR can use such standards (set forth in Article 26 of the American Convention on Human Rights) as a basic criterion to decide on measures taken by States regarding social rights.
Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales (CDES) (www.cdes.org) on behalf of General Secretary of Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Ministerio de Salud, and the workers represented by the union.