In Dialogue with Costa Rica, Experts of the Committee against Torture Praise the State’s Legal and Institutional Safeguards against Torture, Ask about Prison Overcrowding and Attacks on Indigenous Human Rights Defenders
The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Costa Rica, with Committee Experts praising the State’s legal and institutional safeguards against torture and raising questions about prison overcrowding and attacks on indigenous human rights defenders.
Claude Heller, Committee Chair and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that if there was a State in Latin America where torture was not a central component of discussions, that State was Costa Rica. Costa Rica had a strong institutional framework, safeguards against torture, and a broad array of constitutional protections, including the right to not be subjected to cruel or degrading treatment or to be subjected to life sentences. Further, the Constitution provided the right to habeas corpus and amparo.
Mr. Heller noted that the Costa Rican prison system was built for a population of 13,000, but currently there were more than 15,000 people in prisons. The penitentiary system reportedly was not receiving an adequate budget for operations. Further, preventative detention seemed to be automatically resorted to for persons charged with drug crimes. This contributed to overcrowding and poor prison conditions that could lead to the use of torture. What measures would the State party take to address the problem?
Mr. Heller also said that the Costa Rican Ombudsperson’s Office had reported an increase in violence in indigenous communities and backsliding in efforts to protect the land and environmental rights of indigenous peoples. Two indigenous community members had been murdered since 2019, and the perpetrators of the murders had reportedly been unpunished to date. Recently, there had been a rise in attacks and threats against defenders of indigenous rights, and barriers against lodging complaints regarding such attacks remained. The Committee called on the State party to carry out an independent investigation of all complaints of abuse of indigenous human rights, particularly of murders of such persons, and to hold perpetrators to account.
Introducing the report, Christian Guillermet Fernandez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said the judiciary of Costa Rica had taken measures to reduce the use of closed regimes; to relocate persons deprived of liberty to semi-institutional programmes or provide alternatives to detention; and to humanise prisons through the construction and remodelling of detention centres and the creation of a post-prison reintegration office. Costa Rica had also implemented the "System of Registration, Communication and Comprehensive Care for Victims of Institutional Prison Violence" in 2022, which incorporated visits to penitentiaries; follow-up and monitoring; and reporting, mapping and registration of cases of institutional prison violence.
In the ensuing dialogue, the delegation said prison overcrowding was a major problem faced by Costa Rica. The State had been making constant attempts to invest in prison infrastructure, but such attempts had often been opposed by the public. Costa Rica had recently opened new units to promote social reintegration and was currently constructing new prison facilities. Extraordinary budgets had been put forward to increase funding for security staffing by 100 million United States dollars in 2023.
The delegation said that reports of abuse of indigenous human rights defenders were saddening. The Prosecutor’s Office had investigated all reported incidents and worked to identify those responsible. The family members of victims had been provided with support. The best possible security and protection was provided to threatened human rights defenders. The State was taking all measures necessary to protect indigenous peoples and publicly condemned all acts of discrimination against them.
Mr. Guillermet Fernandez added that the State had also promoted access to justice for indigenous populations by adopting Act 9593 on access to justice for indigenous peoples. In addition, the Public Defender's Office had developed a “Virtual Station Project” which guaranteed access to justice in rural areas.
In closing remarks, Mr. Hellersaid that the dialogue had been positive, focusing on the key challenges for Costa Rica. The Committee acknowledged Costa Rica’s excellent performance in terms of its compliance with its international obligations, including the Convention. The Committee was interested in maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the State party to support it in implementing the Committee’s recommendations.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Guillermet Fernandez thanked the Committee for its attention, kindness and patience throughout the dialogue, and thanked all who had contributed to the constructive dialogue.
The delegation of Costa Rica consisted of representatives from the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue concluding observations on the report of Costa Rica at the end of its seventy-eighth session on 24 November. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, and webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 6 November at 10 a.m. to begin its examination of the initial report of Kiribati (CAT/C/KIR/1).
The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Costa Rica (CAT/C/CRI/3).
Presentation of Report
CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET FERNANDEZ, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said one of the main lines of action of the Costa Rican State was the protection of human rights and respect for the dignity of all persons, and its legal framework attested to this. Like all democratic societies, Costa Rica had challenges, but its solid institutional framework was a testament to the efforts that had been made in more than 100 years of democracy and in being the most solid, stable and long-lived democracy in the region.
Costa Rica had a broad constitutional and legal framework that guaranteed the protection and full equality of rights for all persons, including the right to physical and moral integrity and the right not to be "subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, life sentences or to the penalty of confiscation". Under the Constitution, any statement obtained by means of violence was deemed to be null and void. The Constitution also provided for the right of every person to the remedies of amparo and habeas corpus, as well as rights of a fundamental nature established in international human rights instruments. The Constitution further established that international treaties had a higher rank than the law and the Constitution itself.
Costa Rica had ratified several international and regional human rights instruments, including the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture in 1999 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in 2005. Executive decree no. 33568 of February 2007 recognised the functions of the Office of the Ombudsman to carry out visits for the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in prisons, detention centres or administrative detention centres. Law 9204 of February 2014 created the national mechanism for the prevention of torture. The mechanism was responsible for inspecting detention centres, making recommendations to State authorities and making proposals and comments on existing legislation or draft laws. Its recommendations were mandatory.
The judiciary of Costa Rica had taken measures to reduce the use of closed regimes and relocate persons deprived of liberty to semi-institutional programmes or provide alternatives to detention; and to humanise prisons through the construction and remodelling of detention centres and the creation of the post-prison reintegration office. Costa Rica had also implemented the "System of Registration, Communication and Comprehensive Care for Victims of Institutional Prison Violence" in 2022. The system incorporated visits to penitentiaries; urgent judicial, administrative and medical measures; follow-up and monitoring; intersectoral communication; and reporting, mapping and registration of cases of institutional prison violence.
The State had also promoted access to justice for indigenous populations by adopting Act 9593 on access to justice for indigenous peoples. The law guaranteed technical, specialised legal support that respected the worldview of each people and territory. The State had strengthened its capacities to provide care to the cross-border migrant indigenous population, particularly the Ngäbe people in the southern part of the country. In addition, the Public Defender's Office had developed a “Virtual Station Project” which guaranteed access to justice in rural areas. An executive decree was approved that recognised Afro-descendant peoples as tribal, thus granting them special protection. In addition, training in human rights was provided by the Access to Justice Unit, as well as assistance in the creation of learning modules on access to justice, people of African descent, minors and disabilities.
With regard to gender, Costa Rica was currently implementing the National Policy for the Care and Prevention of Violence against Women of All Ages for the period from 2017 to 2032. The policy promoted equality and non-violence, as well as measures to address multi-dimensional poverty, violence against women, sexual violence and femicide. It aimed to provide comprehensive care to victims and to prevent re-victimisation. The State also had a national strategy to combat sexual harassment and harassment against women that was launched in October 2022. It aimed to strengthen security mechanisms and ensure greater access to justice for women.
The State had also implemented protocols for boarding and transferring migrants safely and for protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons from discrimination. Training was provided for police academy staff on human rights and State obligations, with a view to ensuring that the approaches taken by personnel complied with Costa Rica's international and national obligations.
Costa Rica was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, and to the eradication of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Questions by Committee Experts
CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chair and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that if there was a State in Latin America where torture was not a central component of discussions, that State was Costa Rica. Costa Rica had a strong institutional framework and safeguards against torture. In 2015, Costa Rica had reformed article 1 of the Constitution, which aimed to protect the cultural diversity of the State. Costa Rica had a broad array of constitutional protections, including the right to not be subjected to cruel or degrading treatment or to be subjected to life sentences. Further, the Constitution provided the right to habeas corpus and amparo. Further, the State had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention. The Ombudsperson’s Office was charged with ensuring that public bodies fulfilled their international commitments and human rights instruments. It had been accredited with “A” status from the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions since 1996. There were plans to reform legislation to allow the Office to investigate private bodies and to provide it with more financial and human resources. The Ombudsperson’s reports had been greatly beneficial to the Committee. The State party had provided training to police and detention personnel on the Istanbul Protocol.
It was important that in 2019, the State had created the national preventive mechanism, which answered to the Ombudsperson’s office. The mechanism had unrestricted access to all detention centres, and had undertaken visits to such centres, including psychiatric wards, and shelters for children and for migrants with irregular migratory status. The Committee appreciated that the mechanism had access to information on detention centres and the treatment of persons deprived of liberty. No one could be punished for having communicated with the national preventive mechanism. All State bodies were required to comply with the recommendations of the mechanism. In 2022, the mechanism undertook six visits of military bodies and four of mental health care wards.
The prison system was built for a population of 13,000, but currently there were more than 15,000 people in prisons. In 2022, the State had introduced legislation that criminalised torture as a stand-alone crime. It provided for three to 15 years imprisonment for the crime. The Committee had received reports that crimes of torture had been tried under “abuse of authority” legislation. The legislation on torture seemed to lack clarity regarding the definition of the actors who committed the crime, and it did not explicitly establish that the crime could be committed at the behest of people working in the public sector.
Legislation on the penitentiary system prohibited all acts that amounted to torture or cruel or degrading treatment. It banned the use of “dark cells” and sexual abuse of prisoners by public personnel. There had been 10 reported cases of abuse of persons deprived of liberty since the last report. From these, five persons had been convicted and issued with prison terms. What was the current number of cases of torture being assessed by the State?
Last year, 2022, was the most violent year in the history of Costa Rica and the trend had continued in 2023. There had been an average of 2.5 deaths daily in 2023. The violence had been attributed to increased drug trafficking, unemployment, particularly for young people, and extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. Last April, the President announced the “Save Costa Rica” initiative, which bolstered the size of the police force.
The penitentiary system reportedly was not receiving an adequate budget for operations. Overpopulation violated the rights of persons deprived of liberty, since it affected their ability to access health and other rights. There was a disproportionate relationship between technical and security personnel in prisons. What measures would the State party take to address the problem? The Ombudsperson’s Office had called for a comprehensive criminal policy to address the factors that gave rise to crime. The State needed to allocate appropriate resources to this aim. The fight against crime required comprehensive action from different stakeholders. Costa Rica had promoted the use of alternatives to detention, which the State said led to the reduction of prison overcrowding from 46 per cent in 2016 to 31 per cent in 2019. Preventative detention seemed to be automatically resorted to for persons charged with drug crimes. This contributed to overcrowding and poor prison conditions that could lead to the use of torture.
Under State legislation, no asylum seekers could be rejected at the border. Costa Rica had a high number of asylum seekers. The deterioration of the situation in Nicaragua had led to massive migration flows into Costa Rica. This year, more than 27,000 Nicaraguan migrants had formalised asylum requests. The situation of asylum seekers in the State was a cause for concern. The asylum process reportedly had high costs and took over a year in some cases. These measures gave rise to refoulement and torture of asylum seekers.
The conditions at migrant shelters were reportedly poor, increasing the risk of torture. Some migrants were reportedly pressured to rescind their asylum applications. The Ombudsperson’s Office had raised concerns regarding the situation of vulnerable persons in shelters. What was the current situation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica? How many unaccompanied minors were housed in temporary shelters? The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had recommended that the State party provide sufficient resources to the relevant migration authorities and amend legislation to remove barriers to submitting asylum requests. Had any progress been made in this regard? Had the State party considered signing intra-regional agreements to address the situation?
There were reports of increasing numbers of attacks and hate speech against migrants from Nicaragua and other States in 2023, including discriminatory posts on social media and protests. The State had rolled out a campaign to address hate speech and raise awareness of the rights of migrants and refugees. What impact had these campaigns had? Had persons who promoted violence against such groups been punished?
There was reportedly no system to guarantee reparation for the victims of torture. Was there an initiative underway to address these issues? The State had ratified International Labour Organization Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples. It had also created a mechanism for consultation with indigenous peoples on any issue that affected them. The Ombudsperson’s Office had reported an increase in violence in indigenous communities and backsliding in efforts to protect the land and environmental rights of indigenous peoples. Two indigenous community members had been murdered since 2019, and the perpetrators of the murders had reportedly been unpunished to date. International organizations had launched an appeal to end violence against indigenous human rights defenders and impunity for perpetrators. Recently, there had been a rise in attacks and threats against defenders of indigenous rights, and barriers against lodging complaints regarding such attacks remained. There was reportedly no State plan for promoting the rights of indigenous human rights defenders. The Committee called on the State party to carry out an independent investigation of all complaints of abuse of indigenous human rights, particularly of murders of such persons, and to hold perpetrators to account.
NAOKO MAEDA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said 2007 legislation on violence against women had been declared unconstitutional in 2008 by the Supreme Court, which had ordered the legislation to be annulled. What was the wording of the articles declared unconstitutional and how had the legislation been reformed? Had the Ombudsperson’s Office been provided with sufficient financial and human recourses to fulfil its mandate?
The Committee commended legislation on domestic violence, which provided for protection measures for victims. How many protection measures had been provided since 2018? The Committee appreciated the detailed data provided by the State party on violence against women. The Committee called for updated data that showed the impact of the pandemic on domestic violence and violence against women.
Ms. Maeda said the Committee was concerned by reports that the prison administration was not taking into consideration the needs of women prisoners. There were reportedly inadequate facilities for women prisoners and lack of protection from sexual harassment for them. There was a high number of women incarcerated for drug offences in the State party. What structural reforms had been made to address the sanitation needs of women and provide improved psychiatric care for women? What measures were in place to abide by the Tokyo Rules in the context of drug crimes?
The Committee welcomed training programmes on trafficking in persons and programmes to prevent labour exploitation. Further, it welcomed the national coalition and national fund for tackling trafficking in persons. What was the size of the fund and what support was provided to shelters for victims of trafficking? Could the delegation provide details on the State’s anti-trafficking policy?
The Committee noted training provided to prison staff on the prevention of torture and on the Istanbul Protocol. Had the State party established methods of assessing the impact of training programmes in preventing incidences of torture? How effective were training programmes? What progress had been made in implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention?
The Expert called for information on steps taken to ensure compliance with legislation on habeas corpus. How would the Government incorporate civil society in the process? How did the State define “victims of torture”? What was the legal framework for compensation of victims, and how was compensation provided in practice? In how many cases had courts ordered compensation for victims of torture by public officials?
What measures were in place to respond to allegations of ill-treatment of juveniles deprived of liberty and to prevent such acts from occurring? The Committee was concerned that the minimum age of criminal responsibility was 12 years. Pre-trial detention could be applied to juveniles for three months, and this period was extendable. Were there plans to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility?
The State party had adopted decrees and programmes tackling discrimination of sexual minorities. Had the Government recognised cases of abuse of sexual minorities by public officials? Had it taken necessary measures to investigate and punish persons who committed such crimes?
Another Committee Expert welcomed the 2022 system for registration and comprehensive care for victims of institutional violence. This initiative had a great potential for success if implemented effectively. Could more information on it be provided?
There were reports of interesting initiatives to address drug use in the prison environment. What drug rehabilitation programmes were implemented in prisons? How many prisoners had drug addictions? Was the State party experiencing difficulties in staffing prisons, particularly their medical units? Inmates had complained that they were unable to receive medical treatment or other services owing to a shortage of guards in prison facilities. What measures were in place to increase the human resources in such facilities?
One Committee Expert said Costa Rica was named as one of the happiest countries in the world. Safe and legal access to abortion was a controversial topic in the country. Legislation dating from 1970 strictly prohibited abortion, and this legislation had not been revised. In 2019, the Costa Rican President enabled public hospitals to perform therapeutic abortions up to six months of pregnancy. What enforcement mechanisms were in place to ensure the provision of abortions? There was one reported case of a 12-year-old girl, who had been raped by her father, who was not allowed to receive an abortion. The number of abortions had reportedly decreased in recent years. What measures were in place to promote access to abortions?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that reports of abuse of indigenous human rights defenders were saddening. The Prosecutor’s Office had investigated all reported incidents and worked to identify those responsible. The family members of victims had been provided with support. In one case, a suspect had been brought before court, however, there was insufficient evidence to convict the suspect. In another case, the Criminal Court had issued a punishment of 22 years imprisonment for the murder of an indigenous leader. A third case was currently under appeal. The best possible security and protection was provided to threatened human rights defenders. The executive branch was holding roundtable discussions with indigenous leaders on the restoration of lands, which unfortunately had encouraged violence against indigenous individuals. The State was taking all measures necessary to protect indigenous peoples and publicly condemned all acts of discrimination against them.
The State party had adopted a technical norm for the implementation of therapeutic abortion. Awareness campaigns on abortion were provided for staff working in healthcare. The State was providing youth and adolescents with free access to modern contraceptives. Reproductive health care was provided to all equally, including women deprived of liberty.
In 2021, the law on criminalisation of violence against women was reformed. Under the reformed legislation, threats against a woman or her family were sanctioned with prison sentences of six months to two years. Sexual abuse carried penalties of three to five years imprisonment. Crimes of economic exploitation of women were also punished with imprisonment. The State was required to provide protection for women victims of violence.
Prison overcrowding was a major problem faced by the State party. The State had been making constant attempts to invest in prison infrastructure, but such attempts had often been opposed by the public. The State had ratified the Bangkok Rules and other relevant international norms. All persons deprived of liberty were participating in a programme aiming to support their reintegration into society. The national social reintegration programme promoted access to work, education and training. The State had recently opened new units to promote social reintegration, including three Comprehensive Care Units and women’s facilities, and was currently constructing new prison facilities. Costa Rica faced a significant tax deficit that inhibited funding of the prison system. Extraordinary budgets had been put forward to increase funding for security staffing by 100 million United States dollars in 2023.
The delegation said that since 2018, the domestic situation in Nicaragua had led to a significant rise in refugee applications from Nicaraguans in Costa Rica. The Nicaraguan opposition had set up free media outlets in Costa Rica. Nicaraguan individuals who had been stripped of their passports had relocated to Costa Rica. Over 500,000 Nicaraguans currently lived in Nicaragua. Costa Rica had received around 180,000 asylum applications. There were over 60 officials working in the refugee unit, dealing with the files of these individuals. It could take up to nine years for an asylum application to be processed and resolved. The State was working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to address the issue. It had created “temporary protection status” for asylum seekers, which gave them access to work and State services, and was giving people options for regularising their status. In February 2023, a decree that made asylum processing stricter was declared null and void by the Constitutional Court. The State had since returned to its former processes for assessing asylum claims. During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the State’s offices were closed. An internet system was set up for lodging asylum requests.
Currently, 6,000 migrants were travelling through the Darien Gap into Costa Rica every day. Migrants who reached the border were moved to a migrant shelter with kitchens, bedrooms and sanitation facilities. Every day, 70 buses left for the border with Nicaragua to move these people. The buses ensured that migrants were not taken by smugglers. An emergency fund was used to address the situation. The national welfare system provided support to unaccompanied minor migrants. The Government was taking all necessary steps, in coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other United Nations entities, to provide migrants with access to asylum applications. The State party had an agreement with the United States to set up mobile migration offices that allowed migrants to seek protection from the United States from within Costa Rica. The State sought to ensure the safety and security of migrants and to protect their human rights.
Costa Rica was trying to increase its capacity to provide support to asylum seekers. There was no airport detention centre, only a room for processing asylum requests in airports. The number of national migration police had recently been increased from 30 to 52. Various domestic and international entities were cooperating to control migration and ensure national security in airports. The State had a special protocol for care and protection of unaccompanied minors. Migratory services needed to provide privacy and safety of minors and promote the best interests of the child. All individuals that were kept in custody were given an identification number, which allowed the State to trace their location.
Between 2019 and 2022, there had been six complaints of torture by public officials. No public officials had been convicted of torture.
Draft law 22937 on fighting corruption and trafficking in persons regulated the investigation of these crimes and strengthened legal and institutional protection for such crimes. Phone tapping was only permitted in exceptional circumstances.
Costa Rica had a bilateral agreement with Nicaragua that allowed for agricultural enterprises to import labourers in a safe and organised manner. The agreement had expired on 13 October, and processes to extend it had been launched. A tracking system was in place for agricultural migrants. Ninety-eight per cent of migrants who entered Costa Rica from Nicaragua ended up returned to their country of origin. Costa Rica was also in the process of establishing bilateral agreements with Guatemala and El Salvador to ensure orderly migration.
Costa Rica condemned discrimination in all its forms. Hate speech was completely incompatible with human rights. Digital platforms could promote violence and hate speech. Costa Rica was fighting hate speech through its educational system. It had established an education programme that promoted inclusive, healthy learning environments. The State had developed a manual with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on combatting hate speech within the education system. The manual was a reference for teachers, policy makers and all stakeholders. Next year, the State would assess whether the manual had had an impact on reducing hate speech. Xenophobic insults did occur at football matches. Some football teams had banned the entry of fanatics into stadia after such actions.
Between 2017 and 2021, there were 247,000 requests for protection measures in the context of sexual and gender-based violence; that is, 136 requests per day. Most requests related to domestic violence. In 2022, infractions against the law on violence against women were the second leading cause of detentions. In 2022 and 2023, over 8,000 people were detained for such crimes. There had been 27,000 protection measures issued in 2022.
Outside of the greater metropolitan area, there were no detention facilities exclusively for women. An investigation had been carried out into one women’s facility which had poor infrastructure, and the State would address the issues identified in the investigation. There was no overcrowding in women’s facilities.
If inmates had serious health conditions, they were sent to State hospitals to receive care. The State had untaken many actions to improve prison conditions, prevent overcrowding and increase staff. All penitentiaries received visits from the Ombudsperson’s Office twice a year, as well as from the Public Defence Service. These visits assessed the state of facilities, water, sanitation, hygiene, institutional violence and overcrowding. In some cases, judges issued corrective measures. Investigators assessed the capacity of administrative staff to deal with complaints lodged by persons deprived of liberty.
A national commission and fund to deal with trafficking in persons had been set up. Money from the fund was used to investigate and prosecute the crime of trafficking in persons, provide support to victims and combat the practice. The fund did not depend on the national budget.
In February 2023 in San Jose, a training day was conducted for prison sector health care workers on the Istanbul Protocol. The training was conducted by international experts in human rights. The judiciary body had provided training to its staff on managing cases related to human rights and trafficking in persons and preventing torture. Suspects needed to be guaranteed legal aid.
There were currently no cases of abuse on the basis of sexual orientation against Costa Rica before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. There had been just one such case lodged this year, which had been concluded with the Court finding that the State was not at fault. The State party had set up a roadmap and working group for collecting data on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons in detention. This data would inform support policies.
Since February 2022, Costa Rica had set up a system to provide support to victims of institutional violence. The State hoped that the system would ensure better protection of people in prisons and prevent torture and ill-treatment. There had been no cases of abuse of prisoners by State officials brought before the International Criminal Court.
Questions by Committee Experts
CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chair and Country Co-Rapporteur, said it was important that the State party acknowledged the problems it faced, particularly regarding indigenous human rights defenders. There was a social dimension behind this issue, which was linked to the recovery of indigenous land.
Mr. Heller welcomed that the State had implemented measures such as electronic equipment and restorative justice to address the issue of prison overcrowding. There were six complaints of torture by State officials since 2019. Could more information on these cases be provided? Were trials underway or had a decision been reached?
Costa Rica had undertaken efforts to support migrants from Nicaragua and other countries in the region. The number of migrants that the State was dealing with per day was alarming. Were there flows of Costa Ricans leaving the country? What could Costa Rica do to tackle migration issues and protect migrant workers and their families?
NAOKO MAEDA, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that she appreciated the delegation’s frank assessment of the challenges the State faced and for the comprehensive answers provided. The Virtual Stations Project reportedly used technological tools to guarantee access to justice in rural areas. What kind of actions were taken through this system? Was it used for first communications by police authorities? Online tools presented challenges to the right to a fair trial. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had published guidelines for online hearings, which Ms. Maeda called on the State to take into account.
The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment had identified several shortcomings with the complaints procedure for persons deprived of liberty. Could the delegation provide more information on the complaints’ mechanism in law and in practice?
The participation of Costa Rican civil society in the reporting process was quite low. How did the State party encourage the participation of civil society and disseminate the Convention to the public?
Costa Rica had made voluntary contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture in the early 2000s, but had not made contributions since then. Would the State party consider making further contributions?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the State party had been successful in reducing the prison population through implementing alternatives to detention and placing drug addicts in addiction centres rather than prison.
Costa Rica had been vocal in international fora about pressing migration issues that the State was facing. There needed to be a comprehensive overview of the asylum process. The State had been calling for cash resources to help deal with the issue. In the 1970s, many Costa Ricans had migrated to the United States and a certain number continued to migrate there each year.
The Virtual Stations Project provided legal advice using digital tools. It did not involve virtual court hearings.
Costa Rica had an inter-institutional commission on human rights and humanitarian law that reviewed recommendations from treaty bodies and sent them to relevant State entities. The commission was also tasked with preparing State reports in cooperation with relevant State agencies. After reports were drafted, they were submitted to civil society, which provided feedback on the reports. The State party also invited civil society to submit shadow reports and provided civil society with information on the recommendations of treaty bodies.
Costa Rica could not currently provide financial support for the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the Victims of Torture but would continue to promote and support it.
CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chair and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the dialogue had been positive, focusing on the key challenges for Costa Rica. The Committee acknowledged Costa Rica’s excellent performance in terms of its compliance with its international obligations, including the Convention. The participation of civil society, including in the reporting process, was important. The Committee would issue concluding observations and recommendations for the State that it believed could be achieved within one year. The Committee was interested in maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the State party to support it in implementing the Committee’s recommendations.
CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET FERNANDEZ, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for its attention, kindness and patience throughout the dialogue, and thanked all who contributed to the constructive dialogue.
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