IACHR refers case on Peru to the Inter-American Court

January 11, 2021

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Washington, D.C.- On November 16, 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) referred the case of Members of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de Ecasa (SUTECASA), regarding Peru, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case refers to the failure to comply with judicial rulings issued in favor of members of SUTECASA.

Within the framework of the process of privatization of state-owned companies in 1991, the Peruvian government liquidated the Empresa Comercializadora de Alimentos S.A. (ECASA), which generated the dismissal of more than three thousand workers. Through Supreme Decrees No. 057-90-TR and 107-90-PCM the government suspended the salary increases established by collective bargaining agreements. Faced with this situation, the members of SUTECASA filed an action of protection. After several instances, the process of protection culminated on February 16, 1993 with a ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice that Supreme Decrees No. 57-90-TR and 107-90-PCM were inapplicable. Likewise, the Constitutional Court ordered the execution of said company. From that moment on, a process of compliance with the sentence was initiated, which, after more than 26 years, remains open, despite the various attempted avenues.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission considered that, throughout 26 years, the Peruvian judicial authorities have allowed the process for the execution of the decision not to definitively resolve the main debates, resulting in a situation that is incompatible with the right to have final judicial sentences duly executed, through effective and timely mechanisms. The Commission concluded that the internal processes have proven to be totally ineffective in providing a definitive response to the victims on the scope of their rights and the patrimonial or labor effects of the decision of amparo in their favor, with a view to its due execution. By virtue of this, the Commission concluded that the Peruvian State is responsible for the violation of the right to judicial protection, specifically with respect to the execution of final judicial decisions, in the terms of Article 25(2)(c) of the American Convention.

The Commission established that the failure of the Peruvian State to comply with the judgments against state entities since the 1990s transcends the individual situation of the victims in the instant case and is part of a more general context in which both the Commission and the Court have ruled. The Commission emphasized that, despite being aware of this problem, the State has not adopted the general measures necessary to remedy it and avoid its repetition. Consequently, the Commission considered that the State is also responsible for the violation of Article 2 of the American Convention.

The Commission also concluded that the 26-year period of non-execution of the Supreme Court's February 1993 judgment exceeds a period that can be considered reasonable, and therefore the Peruvian State is also responsible for the violation of Article 8(1) of the American Convention.

The Commission determined that the State is responsible for the violation of the right to collective bargaining established in Article 26 of the American Convention, taking into account that the judicial uncertainty and lack of execution of decisions at the domestic level related to this right for more than 26 years has resulted in its failure to be enforced in practice. Finally, the Commission considered that the right to private property established in Article 21 of the American Convention had been violated, given that the victims had received a final court judgment in favor of their claim and, therefore, the possible amounts that they would have ceased to receive had entered into the patrimony of the victims, without any certainty as to the specific patrimonial effects of the judgment in their favor.

In its Report on the Merits, the Commission recommended that the State:

1. To comply as soon as possible with the judgment of the Supreme Court of Justice of February 16, 1993. The foregoing includes the adoption of all necessary measures to define as expeditiously as possible the amounts that would have been withheld as a result of the application of the decrees declared inapplicable in the aforementioned judicial decision. Taking into account the ineffectiveness of the judicial process of execution of the sentence for 26 years and the urgency of complying with the sentence given the advanced age of the victims, the Commission urges the State to immediately implement an expeditious mechanism so that the patrimonial effects of the sentence are established in the shortest time possible and its effective payment is arranged without further delays and obstacles.

2. To make full reparation for the violations declared in this report, including due compensation that includes the material and immaterial damage caused. This reparation should be implemented not only with respect to the members of SUTECASA who continue to live, but also with respect to those who died while waiting for the fulfillment of the ruling in their favor. In the case of these persons, the State must make reparation with respect to their families.

3. Adopt the legislative, administrative, or other measures necessary to avoid the repetition of the violations declared in the merits report. In this regard, the State should take the necessary measures to: i) Ensure that the processes of execution of the sentence comply with the conventional standard of simplicity and speed; and ii) Ensure that the judicial authorities that are familiar with such processes are legally empowered and apply in practice the coercive mechanisms necessary to guarantee compliance with the judicial decisions.

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. 006/21