Inter-American Court of Human Rights judgment of 31 August 2017 in the case of Lagos del Campo v. Peru (Series C, no. 340).
The applicant was assisted in preparing a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Washington, USA).
Subsequently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights referred the applicant's complaint to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica). The complaint was then communicated to Guatemala.
The case successfully addressed a complaint about the obligations of the state in relation to the rights to labor stability, association and freedom of expression.
State obligations in relation to the rights to labor stability, to association and freedom of expression.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The applicant, Alfredo Lagos del Campo, was elected chairman of the General Assembly of the electoral committee of a private company. In an interview with a periodical, he made several statements denouncing the shortcomings in the company's management during the elections. Subsequently, on 1 July 1989, he was dismissed for violation of labor discipline. The applicant lodged a complaint with the labor tribunal, which found the dismissal “unacceptable and unjustified”. However, the court of second instance overturned this decision and confirmed that his dismissal was lawful and justified. All subsequent remedies used by the applicant were declared inadmissible or he was denied on the merits.
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Articles 13 (2) (freedom of thought and expression) and 8 (2) (right to a fair trial) of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) in conjunction with its article 1 (1). The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereinafter - the Inter-American Court) has emphasized the applicability of the right to freedom of thought and freedom of expression in the workplace, while the state has a duty to respect and guarantee this right so that workers and their representatives can exercise it. In matters involving general and public interest, a higher standard is required, especially for existing representative elected offices. The Inter-American Court ruled that the statements made by the applicant as a representative of the workers were matters of public interest. It concluded that the State had accepted the restriction applied to the applicant's right to freedom of thought and expression as a result of the application of an optional sanction, which had not been adequately justified. In the circumstances of the case, there was no imperative need to justify his dismissal.
The case violated the ACHR requirements (adopted unanimously).
(b) Article 26 (right to labor stability) in conjunction with Articles 1 (1) (obligation to respect and ensure rights without discrimination), 13 (freedom of thought and expression), 8 (right to a fair trial) and 16 (freedom of association ) ACHR. The Inter-American Court has upheld its jurisdiction under the iura novit curiae principle to analyze the initial appeal and the impact on the applicant's labor rights. In this regard, the Inter-American Court of Justice recalled its position on the independence and indivisibility of civil, political and economic, social and cultural rights in the ACHR. Both groups of rights should be taken together as human rights without any hierarchical division between them and respected by the competent authorities. For the first time, the Inter-American Court has begun to analyze Article 26 of the ACHR, which sets out economic, social and cultural rights in this treaty. He concluded that there was a specific violation of the right to work, in particular the rights to labor stability and association.
Iura novit curiae (lat.) - judges know the law, a provision of Roman law, meaning that the court independently determines which laws should be applied to resolve the dispute.
The Inter-American Court has deduced the scope and content of the right to labor stability under Article 26 ACHR from the Charter of the Organization of American States and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Human Rights, the rules of interpretation set out in Article 29 ACHR, international and regional corpus iuris, and Peruvian law. It found that protecting the right to employment stability in the private sphere is consistent with specific government responsibilities, such as adequate regulation and auditing, protecting workers from unjustified dismissals, providing remedies in the event of unjustified dismissals, and establishing effective legal mechanisms.
The Inter-American Court concluded that the State authorities failed to take adequate measures to protect the applicant against violations of his right to work by third parties, as they approved his improper dismissal by the judicial authorities. The applicant was not reinstated and received no compensation or related social benefits. Thus, he lost his job and access to old-age pension, could not exercise his rights as a representative of workers. Consequently, the state authorities did not ensure his right to labor stability.
The case violated the ACHR requirements (adopted by five votes in favor and two against).
(c) Articles 16 (freedom of association) and 26 (right to labor stability) in conjunction with Articles 1 (1) (obligation to respect and ensure rights without discrimination), 13 (freedom of thought and expression) and 8 (right to a fair trial ) ACHR. The Inter-American Court has indicated that freedom of association applies not only to trade unions, but also to any organization that intends to represent the legitimate interests of workers. He recalled that freedom of association entails individual and public assessment. On the one hand, it includes the right to freedom of association and the use of any adequate means to exercise such freedom. On the other hand, it is a mechanism that allows members of a work collective or group to jointly achieve certain goals and derive benefits for themselves. In the present case, the applicant's unlawful dismissal prevented him from retaining his position as an employee representative and from attending an election committee meeting. Therefore, taking into account the dual nature of the right to association, the Inter-American Court found that the violation of the applicant's rights as a workers' representative could also have a frightening and dissuasive effect on other workers, as he was fired for speaking out in that capacity.
(d) Compensation. The Inter-American Court has found that this Order is itself a form of compensation and has invited the State to (i) publish the Order and its official summary, (ii) pay compensation for pecuniary damage (including loss of earnings, old-age pensions and social benefits) and non-pecuniary damage, and also reimburse legal costs and expenses.