IACHR refers case on Peru to the Inter-American Court

September 23, 2021

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Washington, D.C. - On August 20, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed the case of Leónidas Benezú Tuncar regarding Peru before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case refers to the violation of Mr. Bendezú's rights in the context of his dismissal from his position as Office Assistant at the Faculty of Financial and Accounting Sciences of the Universidad de San Martín de Porres.

Mr. Leónidas Bendezú Tuncar joined the Universidad San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru, a private institution, on January 20, 1981, as an office assistant in the Faculty of Financial and Accounting Sciences with functions of control and registration of teachers and was a member of the university's employees' union. Following a complaint filed on March 21, 1996, with the Dean for alleged adulteration of documents, the University initiated disciplinary proceedings against the victim for serious misconduct. On April 15, 1996, the University sent him a "notarized letter of notice of dismissal" in which he was summoned to present his defense.

Mr. Bendezú presented his defense, disputing the facts, denouncing that he had been changed in his position in the last few months, that there was a will to dismiss him, and that the notice indicated that he had already incurred in the cause for dismissal. On April 29, 1996, the University sent a notarized letter of dismissal for serious misconduct. After an appeal for annulment was filed, the 15th Labor Court of Lima declared the lawsuit admissible, considering invalid the document accusing the victim of the alleged misconduct as well as Mr. Bendezú's affiliation to the Employees' Union. Subsequently, the Second Labor Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice upheld an appeal filed against this judgment, resulting in the dismissal of Mr. Bendezú. The cassation appeal was declared inadmissible.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission considered that the notice of dismissal with the indication that the victim incurred in serious misconduct entailed reversing the burden of proof in a manner contrary to the principle of presumption of innocence. The Commission also concluded that this implied a violation of the right of defense. It also emphasized that, within the framework of the proceedings brought by the victim, the courts did not carry out a substantive review to remedy these violations, but rather, on the contrary, validated them.

The Commission also considered that the decisions that resolved the appeals and cassation appeals in the nullity action against the dismissal did not analyze the reasons why the victim's conduct constituted serious misconduct that merited her dismissal, or that would allow for an analysis of the legality of her dismissal. The IACHR observed that the absence of a substantive review of the procedure through unmotivated decisions allowed for their validation and affected the right to effective judicial protection.

On the other hand, the Commission noted the existence of a series of indications that the proceedings against the victim constituted a misuse of power. The Commission took note of the victim's allegation of retaliation and that the first instance decision noted his membership to the University's employees' union and his participation in union activities, as well as the existence of reprisals. The IACHR considered that the aforementioned violations of due process constituted an additional indication of the misuse of power.

Finally, the Commission determined that the dismissal of the victim in a process in which a series of due process violations were committed, through which the dismissal was determined without proper evidence and through unmotivated decisions, corroborates that the State did not offer adequate protection to the victim with respect to his right to employment stability.

Based on these considerations, the Commission concluded that the State of Peru violated the rights enshrined in Articles 8(1), 8(2), 8(2)(c) and 9 of the American Convention, in relation to Articles 25(1), 26 and 1(1), to the detriment of Leonidas Bendezú Tuncar.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended the State:

1. Make full reparation for the violations declared in the merits report in both the material and moral aspects. In particular, the competent authorities, considering what was established in the report, should verify whether the victim should be reinstated or, if appropriate, receive alternative compensation.

The IACHR is a principal and autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The IACHR is composed of seven independent members who are elected by the OAS General Assembly in their personal capacity, and do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 251/21

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