U.S. human rights report ducks some key issues for expats

The U.S. human rights report about Costa Rica appears to be significant for what was left out instead of what was included.

Although the report addresses overcrowded prisons and delays in civil cases in general, there is nothing about the frauds and battles expats have fought or are fighting to hold on to their real estate. The report did not overlook the low rate of convictions:

“The legal system faced many challenges, including significant delays in the adjudication of civil disputes and a growing workload. In 2010 approximately 235,000 criminal complaints were filed with the judicial branch, of which 4 percent (9,835 cases) went to trial with a conviction rate of 61 percent. Many cases filed did not have sufficient evidence to go to trial.”

In a summary the U.S. State Department said that principal human rights abuses reported during the year here included poor prison conditions, including overcrowding and cases of prisoner abuse, delays in the judicial process, and commercial sexual exploitation of minors. Other human rights problems reported were domestic violence against women and children, trafficking in persons, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and child labor, it said.

The case that got primary attention was that of 10 La Reforma prison guards being accused of beating to death a prisoner who engineered an attempted escape May 11, 2011. The criminal case has not yet been resolved.

The report covers the period from January to November, and the document is required each year by U.S. law.

The report states matter-of-factly and without comment the preventative detention for persons awaiting trial in Costa Rica:

“A criminal court may hold suspects in pretrial detention for up to one year, and the Court of Appeals may extend this period to two years in especially complex cases. Every three months the law requires court review of cases of suspects in pretrial detention to determine the appropriateness of continued detention. By law, if a judge declares a case is related to organized crime, special procedural rules apply that establish the maximum period of pretrial detention may not exceed 24 months (although the Court of Appeals may grant one extension not to exceed an additional 12 months); the statute of limitations is 10 years from the date of the last crime. The Ombudsman’s Office reported that authorities used pretrial detention often and not as an exceptional measure. According to the Ministry of Justice, as of June 30, there were 2,945 persons in pretrial detention, constituting approximately 13 percent of the prison population.”

Some detentions were attributed to pending investigations and others were due to court backlogs, the report said.

There are 23,046 in the custody of Adaptación Social of the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, said the report. Of these 11,534 are jailed full-time, it said. About 11,000 persons either spend
the nights and weekend in jail or are otherwise supervised by the correction system.

The report noted the legal and legislative dispute here over in-vitro fertilization:

“After a one-year extension to lift the ban on in-vitro fertilization, in August the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights determined that the country failed to comply with its recommendations and referred a case involving the country to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for trial and possible sanctions. In the report on the merits, the commission considered that the ban was an “’arbitrary interference in the right to private and family life and the right to found a family.’”

The report notes the absence of minorities in the political process: “Women were represented with a degree of visibility in government; indigenous people and people of African descent, representing approximately 4 percent of the population (2000 census), were not.”

The report did address corruption and the conviction of former president Miguel Angel Rodríguez. He continues to appeal.

In addition, the security ministry had suspended more than 1,000 uniformed officers in 15 months for various offenses out of a force of about 12,000, it noted.

The report also said that of 1,744 reported rape and attempted rape cases in 2010, the courts convicted just 215.

The report also addressed child labor, meaning anyone working under the age of 15 or anyone working at a dangerous job under age 18. “The worst forms of child labor also occurred in some service sectors, such as construction, fishing, street vending, and domestic service,” it said

The report noted that Costa Rica is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but it made no mention of North American fathers who have fought here without success to regain their children.

The report also said that the government, security officials, and child advocacy organizations acknowledged that commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem. From January to November, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare organization, reported 67 cases of commercial sexual exploitation of minors, said the report.

The government also identified child sex tourism as a serious problem, it added. However, there was no mention of any arrests of tourists or others. Nor was there a mention that prostitution is not penalized here.

The report also addressed problems by migrants and problems that their youngsters might have when their births are not recorded.

The country summaries in the report are prepared by State Department empoyees in the local embassy.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.