Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Peru to the Inter-American Court

December 8, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12.795, Alfredo Lagos del Campo, with regard to Peru.

The case has to do with the dismissal of Alfredo Lagos del Campo on June 26, 1989, as a result of certain statements he made as president of the Electoral Committee of the Industrial Community of the company that, at the time of these facts, was Ceper-Pirelli*. The Industrial Community was an association of workers designed to encourage employee participation in the ownership and management of the company. Statements made by Alfredo Lagos del Campo denounced acts of improper interference by the employers in the workers’ organizations at the company and in the internal elections of the Industrial Community. The dismissal was later upheld by Peruvian domestic courts.

The Commission determined that the dismissal of Alfredo Lagos del Campo constituted an arbitrary interference into the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, as it failed to meet the requirements established in Article 13.2 of the American Convention with respect to subsequent imposition of liability. As to the strict legality requirement, the Commission found that the terms of the law on which the dismissal was based are vague and imprecise, particularly because they do not define the scope of application for purposes of protecting speech about matters of public interest or the speech of workers’ representatives acting in their capacity as such. The IACHR also concluded that the penalty imposed was not proved to be truly necessary in a democratic society to protect the stated objectives, as Alfredo Lagos del Campo’s statements were of clear public interest. Although some of his statements could potentially affect the company’s reputation, they constituted permissible criticism in the context in which they were made. The Commission also determined that there were other, less harmful measures that the company could have used to defend the honor of those who felt they were adversely affected. Finally, the Commission determined that the most severe punishment provided for by law was applied, with noticeable effects on the right to freedom of expression of the victim as a leader of workers and on the right of all workers to access information on matters that concern them.

Taking into account that the punishment was imposed by a non-State actor, the Commission examined the case from the standpoint of the duty to ensure human rights. The national courts play a fundamental role as guarantors of the right to freedom of expression. A complaint before the courts alleging the violation of freedom of expression by private individuals requires the courts to resolve the dispute bearing in mind the relevant human rights obligations assumed by the State. The Commission determined that in this case, the judicial authorities failed to examine whether the restriction on the freedom of expression was compatible with applicable standards. In this regard, the Commission concluded that the State, through its judicial authorities, failed to fulfill its duty to guarantee human rights by upholding a sanction that is incompatible with the America Convention.  

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State of Peru provide comprehensive reparation to Alfredo Lagos del Campo for the violations that were found, in both the pecuniary and non-pecuniary aspects; adopt measures of non-repetition to guarantee that workers’ representatives and labor union leaders can enjoy their right to freedom of expression in accordance with the standards established in the merits report; and adopt measures to ensure that the application and interpretation of laws by the domestic courts are consistent with the principles established by international human rights law with respect to freedom of expression in labor-related contexts.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on November 28, 2015, because it found that the State of Peru had failed to comply with the recommendations contained in the Report on the Merits.

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

(*) This information was modified on May 6, 2016

No. 145/15