Global Freedom of Expression

Español العربية

Casas Cordero and Others v. National Customs Service

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Documents
  • Date of Decision
    August 9, 2007
  • Outcome
    Decision - Procedural Outcome, Remanded for Decision in Accordance with Ruling, Decision Outcome (Disposition/Ruling), Access to Information Granted
  • Case Number
    Sentencia Rol 634
  • Region & Country
    Chile, Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Constitutional Court
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information
  • Tags
    Commercial Confidentiality, Economic Information, harm, International Law, Open government principle, Third parties

Content Attribution Policy

Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:

  • Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
  • Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.

Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Constitutional Tribunal of Chile held that the right of access to government information is implicitly protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of expression and the constitutional principle of a democratic republic. The Court reasoned that information held by Chile’s Customs Agency regarding tariffs must be disclosed unless disclosure would clearly harm the legitimate commercial interests of an objecting third party.

This analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.


Facts

The Masprot Corporation, which makes protective masks, requested information from the National Customs Service of Chile (the Service) regarding the valuation of similar masks produced by transnational corporations such as MSA USA and 3M Corporation suspecting irregularities in the setting of custom tariffs. In 2003, the Service denied the request relying on Article 13 of the Organic Constitutional Law on General Rules of the Administration of the State, No. 18.575 (law No. 18575), which permits the Service to withhold information that affects the rights and interests of a third party. The Service did so without consulting any of the third parties involved.

After a failed suit by Masprot, Law Number 20.050 was passed in 2005, which amended Article 8 of the Constitution to provide for increased access to public information. In 2006, Mr. Casas Cordero (Cordero), as representative of Masprot, commenced a new proceeding in the Civil Court of Valparaiso under Article 14 of the Organic Constitutional Law, which was ultimately escalated to the Constitutional Tribunal of Chile. Before the Constitutional Tribunal, Cordero sought to have law No. 18575 declared unconstitutional as applied to his case.


Decision Overview

First, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Article 8 of the Constitution establishes that information regarding state acts, such as the valuation used for setting tariffs, is public information. The Tribunal looked to Article 19(12) of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression, and ruled that the right to access public information is implicit in the right to freedom of expression. Specifically, the Tribunal ruled that without this information a citizen cannot exercise the right to freedom of expression as an effective means of citizen participation in, and democratic control of, the government. The Tribunal also cited Article 13 of the Declaration of Principles of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in support of this principle. The Tribunal further held that any restrictions on the right of access must be defined and construed narrowly.

The Tribunal then examined the conflict with law No. 18.575, which permits public officials to withhold information where the rights or interests of third parties may be harmed. While the Tribunal rejected Cordero’s argument that the law is unconstitutionally vague and places too great a limit on the constitutional right to information, the Tribunal did rule that in order to deny access to public information, the third party must demonstrate specific interests that will be harmed by disclosure. The Tribunal emphasized that public agencies cannot withhold information unilaterally because this would allow requests for information to be denied arbitrarily. Instead, agencies must first consult with or receive objections from a third party before denying information on the basis of harm to that third party’s legitimate interest. With the constitutional question resolved, the Tribunal sent the case back to the Appeals Court of Valparaiso for its judgment to be entered.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:


Attachments:

Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback