I/A Court H.R., Case of Huilca Tecse v. Peru. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of March 3, 2005. Series C No. 121.

Non official brief

This summary is also published in the website of the Council of Europe in the following link: https://www.venice.coe.int/files/Bulletin/B2006-1-e.pdf




A State that has taken a specific position that produces legal effects, cannot subsequently, based on the principle of estoppel, assume another conduct contrary to the former.


When there is a pattern of human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, promoted or tolerated by the State, this gives rise to a climate that is incompatible with the effective protection of the right to life. The right to life is fundamental, so that the realisation of the other rights depends on its protection. If the right to life is not respected, all the other rights are meaningless.


Compliance with Article 4 ACHR, in relation to Article 1.1 ACHR, not only presumes that no one shall be deprived of their life arbitrarily (negative obligation), but also requires States to take all appropriate measures to protect and preserve the right to life (positive obligation), in accordance with their obligation to ensure the full and free exercise of the rights of all persons subject to their jurisdiction.


Those who are protected by the Convention not only have the right and freedom to associate freely with other persons, without the interference of the public authorities limiting or obstructing the exercise of the respective right, which thus represents a right of each individual, but they also enjoy the right and freedom to seek the common achievement of a licit goal, without pressure or interference that could alter or change their purpose.


The execution of a trade union leader, in a context such as that of this case, not only restricts the freedom of association of an individual, but also the right and freedom of a determined group to associate freely, without fear.


In its individual dimension, labour-related freedom of association is not exhausted by the theoretical recognition of the right to form trade unions, but also corresponds, inseparably, to the right to use any appropriate means to exercise this freedom. When the Convention proclaims that freedom of association includes the right to freely associate "for [any] other purposes," it is emphasising that the freedom to associate and to pursue certain collective goals are indivisible, so that a limitation of the possibilities of association represents directly, and to the same extent, a limitation of the right of the collectivity to achieve its proposed purposes. Hence the importance of adapting to the Convention the legal regime applicable to trade unions, as well as the State's actions, or those that occur with its tolerance, that could render this right inoperative in practice.


In its social dimension, freedom of association is a mechanism that allows the members of a labor collectivity or group to achieve certain objectives together and to obtain benefits for themselves.


The content of freedom of association implies the power to choose how to exercise it. In this regard, an individual does not enjoy the full exercise of freedom of association, if, in reality, this power is inexistent or is limited so that it cannot be implemented. The State must ensure that people can freely exercise their freedom of association without fear of being subjected to some kind of violence; otherwise, the ability of groups to organise themselves to protect their interests could be limited.


Impunity means the overall lack of investigation, tracing, capture, prosecution and conviction of those responsible for violations of the rights protected by the American Convention, and that the State is obliged to combat this situation by all available legal means.


When a State declares its acquiescence, it acknowledges its responsibility by accepting the occurrence of the facts, or the violation of the rights the parties claim, or both.




I. On 12 March 2004, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed an application with the Court against the State of Peru in relation to the alleged extrajudicial execution of a Peruvian trade union leader, Pedro Huilca Tecse, on 18 December 1992. The Commission alleged that this execution was carried out by members of the Colina Group - a death squadron linked to the Peruvian Army's Intelligence Service. The application also referred to the alleged lack of a complete, impartial and effective investigation into the facts. Based on the above facts, the Commission requested that the Court decide whether the State had violated Article 4 ACHR (Right to Life), in conjunction with Article 1.1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights), to the detriment of Pedro Huilca Tecse, as well as Article 8 ACHR (Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 25 ACHR (Judicial Protection), in conjunction with Article 1.1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights), to the detriment of Mr Huilca Tecse's next of kin. The representatives of the victim and his next of kin alleged there was also a violation of Article 16 ACHR (Freedom of Association), in conjunction with Article 1.1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights).


II. The State of Peru submitted its acquiescence, but later withdrew said acquiescence, arguing that the agent appointed by the State to represent it in this case did not have the authorisation to do so. The Court considered that the acquiescence was binding, based on the principle of estoppel.


In its judgment of 3 March 2005, the Court held that the extrajudicial execution of Pedro Huilca Tecse was politically motivated, and the result of a covert operation carried by military intelligence and tolerated by different national authorities and institutions, which constitutes a violation of right to freedom of association, in relation to trade union rights. The Court considered that the execution of Pedro Huilca Tecse had a chilling effect on the workers of the Peruvian trade union movement and thereby reduced the freedom of a specific group to exercise this right.


The Court held that the State violated Article 4 ACHR (Right to Life) and Article 16 ACHR (Freedom of Association), in conjunction with Article 1.1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights), to the detriment of Pedro Huilca Tecse, as well as Article 8 ACHR (Right to a Fair Trial) and Article 25 ACHR (Judicial Protection), in conjunction with Article 1.1 ACHR (Obligation to Respect Rights), to the detriment of Mr Huilca Tecse's next of kin.


The Court, having partially accepted an agreement on reparations submitted by the parties involved, declared that the State had the obligation to pay moral and material damages to the victim and his next of kin, as well as costs and expenses.


The Court also ordered the State, inter alia, to organise a public act acknowledging its responsibility in relation to the case, establish a course on human rights and labor law, called the "Cátedra Pedro Huilca", praise the work of Pedro Huilca Tecse in favor of the trade union movement in Peru during the official celebrations of 1 May (Labor Day), erect a bust in memory of Pedro Huilca Tecse, and provide psychological care and treatment to the victim's next of kin.