Global Freedom of Expression

Gutiérrez v. President

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Documents
  • Date of Decision
    January 29, 2003
  • Outcome
    Access to Information Granted
  • Case Number
    1797-2002-HD/TC
  • Region & Country
    Peru, Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Constitutional Court
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information
  • Tags
    Access to Information Law, Open government principle, Members of the Executive Branch

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The First Section of the Constitutional Court of Peru accepted a habeas data action filed by the petitioner and held that the Executive Branch should provide him with proper information regarding the former president’s international trips and travel expenses. The First Instance and the Appellate Court dismissed the action because they considered that the information had already been delivered and that the habeas data was not the appropriate action to challenge whether the data was complete and accurate.

The Constitutional Court affirmed, firstly, that the purpose of the habeas data action is to analyze the content of constitutional rights, in order to determine whether there is a manifestly and arbitrary violation of them, and, in that case, to provide an adequate form of reparation. Secondly, the Court held that the right of access to information includes the right to receive truthful, updated, accurate, clear, and complete data; thus, it could be violated not only when public offices explicitly reject to deliver the requested information, but also when they provide data that is incomplete, false, mistaken, inadequate, or inaccurate. The Constitutional Court considered that the delivered information was inadequate and ordered the Executive Branch to provide the requested information in a proper manner.


Facts

On February 9, 2001, the petitioner, Wilo Rodríguez Gutiérrez, filed a habeas data action requesting information about the travel expenses and international trips made by former President, Alberto Fujimori Fujimori, during his mandate.

The Public Prosecutor, the public officer who had to respond to the claim, argued that the information was already made public by the local newspaper “El Peruano,” with data provided by the General Direction for the Administration of the Presidential Office (Dirección General de Administración del Despacho Presidencial). It also delivered report N°.001-2001-CMPR/DGADM, with information related to the travel expenses and international trips made by the former president.

The First Public Law Court of Lima dismissed the applicant’s action. It considered that the information had already been delivered through report N°.001-2001-CMPR/DGADM, and that the habeas data was not the appropriate action to challenge whether the response satisfied the request or not. The plaintiff lodged an appeal arguing that the information was incomplete and inaccurate, but the Sixth Civil Section of the Superior Court of Lima confirmed the decision.


Decision Overview

There were two main issues before the First Section of the Constitutional Court of Peru: (i) whether the habeas data was the appropriate action to challenge the quality of the information received and (ii) whether the delivered information satisfied the petitioner’s request. 

The petitioner claimed that the information he received was incomplete and inaccurate. For its part, firstly, the Public Prosecutor responded that the data provided by the General Direction for the Administration of the Presidential Office through report N°.001-2001-CMPR/DGADM was enough to satisfy Mr. Gutiérrez’s request. Secondly, the First Public Law Court of Lima held that the requested information had already been delivered, and that the habeas data was not the appropriate action to challenge whether the information was correct because that would require an instance to present extensive proof, which is not available in that type of summary procedure. Thirdly, the Sixth Civil Section of the Superior Court of Lima, after the plaintiff’s appeal, confirmed the decision with the same arguments.

Regarding the first issue, the Constitutional Court indicated that the habeas data does not allow the parties to present extensive proof not because of its brief nature but because of its purpose, which is mainly the restitution of a constitutional right. In this sense, the habeas data action intends to determine whether there is a manifest and arbitrary violation of a right, and which is the adequate form of reparation. In order to address if there is a manifest and arbitrary violation of a right, every tribunal should analyze the content of the right, which lead to the second issue. 

The Constitutional Court asserted that the constitutional right of access to information includes the right to receive truthful, updated, accurate, clear, and complete data. These are the minimum criteria required to ensure that the right of access to information can truly guarantee better social scrutiny over governmental acts and foster transparency and public participation. Consequently, the Constitutional Court held that the right of access to information is violated not only when the public offices explicitly refuse to deliver the requested information, but also when they provide data that is incomplete, false, mistaken, inadequate, or inaccurate. In this case, the tribunal held that the information given to the petitioner was not complete, updated, or accurate. 

Hence, the Constitutional Court concluded, firstly, that the habeas data was the appropriate action to determine whether the provided information satisfied the petitioner’s request or violated his right of access to information. Secondly, it held that the governmental response was inappropriate. Thus, it ordered the Executive Branch to properly provide the requested information.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

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

Expands Expression

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court expanded the right of access to information by holding that it included the right to receive truthful, updated, accurate, clear, and complete data. Furthermore, it stated that the habeas data was the appropriate action to challenge the quality of governmental responses to access to information requests. Thus, it promoted a better social scrutiny over public acts, and fostered transparency and public participation.

Global Perspective

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

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Peru, Constitution of Peru (1993), art. 2
  • Peru, Administrative Procedural Law, Law No. 27.444
  • Peru, Constitutional Court, STC 0976-2001-AA/TC
  • Peru, Constitutional Court, STC 410-2002-AA/TC

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.

Since it is a decision of a high court, it must be taken into account by the Judiciary when making decisions in similar cases.

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:


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