Press Release

IACHR Brings Peru Case before the IA Court

February 13, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On August 16, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 12.827, Héctor Fidel Cordero Bernal and others vs. Peru.

The case concerns a series of violations that took place as part of a disciplinary process that culminated in the removal of Héctor Fidel Cordero Bernal from his position as a judge of the Fourth Criminal Court of the city of Huánuco, Peru, in 1996, after issuing a ruling granting unconditional freedom to a defendant.

In Merits Report 115/18, the IACHR found that the state had violated the principle of legality, given the extent and vagueness of the grounds on which the victim was removed from office, which do not refer to specific conduct that is reprehensible from a disciplinary standpoint. The IACHR also determined that the principle of legality had been violated, as the grounds in question refer to a serious act that, while not a crime, compromised the dignity of the position in question, yet the victim was also facing parallel criminal proceedings for the same act.

Similarly, the IACHR deemed that the principle of most favorable legislation had been violated because two conflicting regulations were in place at the same time, one of which allowed dismissal to be applied as a sanction only when the official in question had first been suspended, while the other did not require prior suspension. However, the disciplinary body chose to apply the least favorable of the two rules.

Furthermore, the IACHR found that the state violated the principle of judicial independence and the right to reasoned decision, given that the victim was dismissed for issuing a decision granting a person conditional release, and the ruling issuing this sanction did not provide sufficient grounds as to why the ruling issued by the victim required disciplinary action nor why it suggested a lack of competence and suitability as a magistrate. Likewise, the IACHR deemed that the state had violated the right to appeal against the ruling and the right to legal protection, given that it was clear from both the regulatory framework and the content of the rulings that no appeals were filed through either the administrative or judicial systems seeking a review of the sanction by an appropriate authority and a comprehensive review of the decision to dismiss the victim on the part of the competent bodies.

Finally, the IACHR found that the state violated the victim’s political rights since he was dismissed from his position through a procedure which entailed violations of due process and of the principle of judicial independence, which affected his right to access and remain in public office under conditions of equality.

In its Merits Reports, the IACHR made the following recommendations to the state of Peru:

1. Provide Héctor Fidel Cordero Bernal with a similar position in the judiciary to the one he once held, if he so wishes, with the same remuneration and social benefits and a rank on par with the one he would have held today if he had not been dismissed. If there are reasonable grounds preventing him from being offered such a position, he must be provided with alternative compensation.

2. Provide comprehensive tangible and intangible redress for the human rights violations set out in the Merits Report.

3. Adapt the country’s domestic legislation to ensure that disciplinary proceedings against judicial personnel are compatible with the standards for judicial independence set out in the Merits Report and that these comply with all guarantees of due process and the principle of legality. Specifically, the necessary measures must be taken to ensure that proceedings guarantee judicial protection and the right to appeal the ruling containing the sanction. The state must also ensure that the grounds for disciplinary action and sanctions in relation to this comply with the principle of legality.

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 and to defend 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.

No. 036/20