I/A Court H.R., Case of Lagos del Campo v. Peru. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of August 31, 2017. Series C No. 340.

Non official brief

 

[This summary was developed by the Secretariat of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It relates only to the merits and reparations aspects of the judgment. A more detailed, official abstract (in Spanish only) is available on that Court’s website: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/.]

 

Facts - The applicant, Mr. Alfredo Lagos del Campo, was the elected President of the General Assembly of the Electoral Committee of a private company. During a magazine interview, I have made several statements denouncing irregularities within the directorate of the company during the elections. He was subsequently dismissed due to work misconduct on July 1, 1989. I have submitted a complaint to the Labor Court, which ruled the dismissal "inadmissible and unjustified." However, the Court of Second Instance overturned that decision and confirmed that his dismissal was lawful and justified. All the subsequent remedies filed by the applicant were declared inadmissible or denied on the merits.

 

Law

 

(a) Articles 13(2) (freedom of thought and expression) and 8(2) (right to fair trial) of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the ACHR – The Inter-American Court stressed the applicability of the right to freedom of thought and expression to the labour sphere, with the State having a duty to respect and guarantee that right so that workers and their representatives could exercise it. In cases where a general and public interest was involved, a higher standard of protection was required, especially for those exercising representative elected positions. The Court determined that the statements expressed by the applicant in his capacity as a representative of the workers referred to matters of public interest. It concluded that the State had endorsed the restriction placed on the applicant´s right to freedom of thought and expression through an unnecessary sanction that was not adequately reasoned. In the circumstances of the case, there had been no imperative need that could justify his dismissal.

 

Conclusion: violation (unanimously).

 

(b) Article 26 (right to labour stability), in conjunction with Articles 1(1) (obligation to respect and guarantee rights without discrimination), 13 (freedom of thought and expression), 8 (right to fair trial) and 16 (freedom of association) of the ACHR – The Inter-American Court asserted its jurisdiction, in accordance with the ACHR and the principle of iura novit curiae, to analyse the initial petition and the impact on the applicant´s labour rights. In this regard, the Court reiterated its position on the interdependence of and indivisibility between civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights. Both sets of rights had to be understood integrally as human rights, without any hierarchical distinction between them and enforced by the competent authorities.

 

For the first time, the Inter-American Court went on to analyse Article 26 of the ACHR, which establishes economic, social and cultural rights in this treaty. It found a specific violation of the right to work, in particular, of the rights to labour stability and association. The Court derived the scope and content of the right to labour stability under Article 26 of the ACHR from the Charter of the Organisation of American States and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the rules of interpretation established in Article 29 of ACHR, the international and regional corpus iuris, and from Peruvian legislation. It determined that the protection of the right to labour stability in the private sphere translated into specific duties for the State, such as adequate regularisation and audit; the protection of workers against unjustified dismissal; the provision of remedies in case of unjustified dismissal; and the stipulation of effective claim mechanisms.

 

The Court concluded that the State had not adopted adequate measures to protect the applicant from the violation of his right to work by third parties because it had endorsed the improper dismissal through its judicial authorities. The applicant had not been reinstated in his position and had not received any compensation or the corresponding social benefits. He had thus lost his job, as well as access to a retirement pension, and lost the ability to exercise his rights as a workers´ representative. Therefore, the State had not ensured his right to labour stability.

 

Conclusion: violation (five votes to two).

 

(c) Articles 16 (freedom of association) and 26 (right to labour stability), in conjunction with Articles 1(1) (obligation to respect and guarantee rights without discrimination), 13 (freedom of thought and expression), and 8 (right to fair trial) of the ACHR – The Inter-American Court stated that freedom of association does not apply only to trade unions but also to any organisation intended to represent the legitimate interests of workers. It reiterated that freedom of association entails an individual and a social dimension. On the one hand, it includes the right to freely associate and to use any appropriate means to exercise this freedom. On the other, it is a mechanism that allows the members of a labour community or group to achieve certain objectives together and to obtain benefits for themselves. In the instant case, the applicant’s irregular dismissal had prevented him from continuing in his position as a representative of the workers and from attending the meeting of the Electoral Committee. Therefore, taking into account the dual scope of the right of association, the Court found that the violation of the applicant´s rights as a workers’ representative could also have had an intimidating and chilling effect on the other workers, given that he was dismissed as a reprisal for his statements in that capacity.

 

Conclusion: violation (five votes to two).

 

(d) Reparations - The Inter-American Court established that the judgment constituted per se a form of reparation and ordered the State to: (i) publish the judgment and its official summary, and (ii) pay compensation in respect of pecuniary damage ( including loss of earnings, retirement pension and social benefits) and non-pecuniary damage, and to pay costs and expenses.