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(Washington, DC) – Ecuador should revoke a presidential decree that includes provisions that violate basic rights of refugees under international law, Human Rights Watch said today.

On May 30, 2012, President Rafael Correa adopted Presidential Decree 1182 to regulate asylum procedures in Ecuador, which has the largest number of registered refugees of any Latin Amercan country – approximately 55,000 as of September 2013. On June 16, 2014, Human Rights Watch submitted a joint amicus brief with the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law before the Constitutional Court of Ecuador, contending that the decree violates Ecuador’s international legal obligations to protect refugees and asylum-seekers.

“Ecuador should be giving refugees a reasonable chance to apply for asylum,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Ecuador has obligations toward refugees under its own laws and international law, and it needs to honor those obligations.”

The brief was submitted in a case brought before the Constitutional Court in 2012 by the nongovernmental organization Asylum Access Ecuador and the Public Interest Law Clinic of the San Francisco de Quito University. Both institutions challenged the constitutionality of several articles of the decree.

“Decree 1182 provisions violate an asylum seeker’s due process rights and jeopardize these and other fundamental rights – including the right to seek asylum… and the principle of non-refoulement,” the brief says, referring to the requirement of international law not to return anyone to a country where they would face persecution or torture.

The brief argues that the presidential decree imposes short, inflexible procedural time limits that make it difficult, if not impossible, for asylum seekers to apply for refugee status and, if necessary, appeal adverse status determinations. The decree also sets a high admissibility standard for applications to be considered for refugee status determination; allows officials broad power to exclude asylum seekers from the asylum procedure; and grants overly broad powers to authorities to revoke refugee status.

The decree’s procedures are incompatible with guidelines on basic safeguards adopted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Human Rights Watch said.

The implementation of these provisions could contravene Ecuador’s obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as principles Ecuador has accepted as binding in the 1981 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.

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