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HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS THE REPORT OF COSTA RICA

17 March 2016

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Costa Rica on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Alejandro Solano, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Costa Rica had been the first country to ratify the Covenant in 1968.  Costa Rica had also recently hosted the first meeting of the United Nations Treaty Bodies in San Jose, and was one of the soundest democracies on the American continent.  The system guaranteed human rights and the constitutional text included comprehensive human rights provisions.  The promotion and protection of human rights had always been a constant aim, and the process to deepen and enlarge the democracy was ongoing.  The mechanisms of oversight had been strengthened, and constitutional case law recognised that the international human rights instruments were above the Constitution. The direct applicability of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ensured.

In the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts raised issues of the non-application of therapeutic abortion, obstetric violence, conditions in prisons and detention centres, pre-trial and incommunicado detention, informal child labour, and the rights of indigenous peoples, including their territorial rights.  They also asked about the freedom of expression, including the case of a Nicaraguan comedian banned from entering Costa Rica.  Experts stated that, in spite of positive steps on in-vitro fertilisation obstacles remained in the ParliamentExperts also inquired about the funding of the Ombudsman’s Office, the new HIV/AIDS Bill, the freedom of religion and positive measures concerning non-Catholic religions.  Information on a specific same-sex marriage case was also sought.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Solano reiterated that Costa Rica rested its policies on human rights and international law.  Encounters with human rights treaty bodies prompted the Government to redouble its efforts.

Fabian Omar Salvioli, Chairperson of the Committee, in closing remarks, said that Costa Rica had been a leader in fostering peace and human rights.  Challenges that remained incuded appropriate resources for the Ombudsman, freedom of expression, prison overcrowding, violence against women and incommunicado detention.

The delegation of Costa Rica included representatives from the main Political Opposition Party, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Palace, and the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m. to discuss the fourth periodic report of Rwanda (CCPR/C/RWA/4).

Report

The sixth periodic report of Costa Rica can be read here: C/CCPR/CRI/6.


Presentation of the Report

ALEJANDRO SOLANO, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs,  said that Costa Rica was the first country to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1968.  Costa Rica had also recently hosted the first meeting of Treaty Bodies in San Jose.  Costa Rica was one of the soundest democracies on the American continent.  The system guaranteed human rights and the constitutional text had comprehensive human rights provisions.  The promotion and protection of human right had always been a constant aim, and the process to deepen and enlarge the democracy was ongoing.  The mechanisms of oversight had been strengthened, and constitutional case law recognised that the international human rights instruments were above the Constitution.  Therefore, those were a direct source from which laws could be inspired, and they were directly applicable by courts.  In 1989, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court had been created to nullify laws that ran contrary to Constitution and international human rights treaties.  The direct applicability of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was thus ensured.

Since 1993, a National Human Rights Institution, called the Office of the Ombudsman, had been in place, ensuring protection, implementation and monitoring of human rights. In 2011, the Inter-Institutional Commission for the Monitoring of the International Human Rights Obligations had been established with the aim of coordinating international obligations in human rights.  A dialogue with civil society had also been put in place, to ensure that racism and xenophobia would be extinguished.  Costa Rica was also part of the pilot project launched by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to assert the efficiency of the Treaty Bodies.  In 2016, the Labour Law had been adopted, as the outcome of significant social dialogue, prohibiting any discrimination in the work place.  It speeded up labour cases in the courts, and regulated how the State managed industrial action.  Because lawsuits had been slow, formal, ineffective and costly, a new oral system in place meant that all citizens were on an equal footing, and no longer discriminated against in terms of access to justice. 

Much had been achieved in terms of making judicial officials more subject to the law.  The distinguished feature of the reform process was that institutions were strengthened, power was redeployed and there was a greater oversight over authority.  Costa Rica recognized the historical debt to groups that had been and still were marginalised and prejudiced, especially indigenous peoples.  A Plan of Action against Racism had been adopted, including awareness-raising programs to ensure that in areas of decision-making there was respect of human rights obligations.  A National Plan for Afro-Descendants had also been enacted, and it promoted proactive and inclusive policies.  The Migration Law of 2010 was humane in its approach and embodied the principles of equality.  Regarding Cuban migrants, which was a topic covered by the media, a huge people trafficking network had recently been uncovered.  Temporary transit visas had been enacted to ensure that Cubans could safely cross into Costa Rica.  The country was not able to provide proper care for all the migrants.  Flights to El Salvador and road channels to Guatemala and Mexico had been provided to mobilise migrants.  Minister Solano reaffirmed his country’s commitment to safe and orderly policies for migrants.

Indigenous peoples were protected by Costa Rica, and policies were in tune with indigenous customs and values. Costa Rica was party to the International Labour  Convention 169 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  An indigenous peoples advisor had been appointed and joint development of policies regarding the indigenous peoples was undertaken.  Challenges remained, including prior consent.  There were also structural difficulties in indigenous representation.  In order to overcome that, a process to develop capacity-building of indigenous peoples was needed, and a dialogue had been launched with them to that aim.  Affirmative action was established to ensure participation of women, young people and the elderly in the process.   
Mr. Solano explained that the reduction of overcrowding in prisons was a strategic objective.  The initial impact of initiatives in that respect had cut prison crowding without the introduction of new prisons.  The State Party was of the view that building of new prisons was not needed.  Rather, it focused on custodial sentences and remand as a last resort, which implied the promotion of a sensible use of justice and imprisonment.  The rights of the lesbian gay, bisexual, and transsexual community were strongly protected and promoted.  Measures in that direction included the legalisation of in vitro fertilisation, an inter-institutional commission working on the promotion of their rights, and the commemoration of 17 May as the National Day against Homophobia.  

Questions by Experts

An Expert commended Costa Rica for its commitment in human rights, and recognized the fact that Costa Rica had been one of the first State Parties to the Covenant, as well as to all of the Optional Protocols.

Could the State Party give examples where the Covenant was directly applied, and where that had made a real difference?  According to the information received by the Committee, the Inter-Institutional Commission was not fully operative. 

Regarding abortion and the protection of life, was it right that women could be prosecuted if they performed an abortion, even in cases of incest or rape?  How about foetus abnormality? What measures were in place for women to undergo legal abortion?  Was it right that therapeutic abortion was not granted unless there was a real risk to the mother’s life?  The Expert also asked if it was true that doctors sometimes refused to conduct abortion, for fear of prosecution, which could be up to ten years of imprisonment. 

Had contraceptives been made widely available at an affordable price?  The Inter-American Court of Human Rights had ruled that Costa Rica had not  respected its commitments regarding in-vitro fertilisation.  Could the delegation provide examples of true cases, not studies, of in-vitro fertilisation? 

An Expert observed that the number of complaints to the Ombudsman had grown, but was not matched by funding.  Could the delegation state why, in spite of an increase in the State budget, the Ombudsman’s budget had not increased?  Was the autonomy of the institution ensured?

What measures were envisioned to tackle discrimination against migrants and refugees and ensure their access to employment and education?  Difficulties with their integration were partly due to structural problems. For example, approximately 20 percent of those individuals had no identification documents, and the fees to obtain identification documents were high.  Would the Government address those problems and if so, in which way? 

Another Expert commended the efforts regarding the lesbian gay, bisexual and transsexual community.  Was there no violence-related data in that respect?  What was the scope of the Decree of May 2015 to outlaw discrimination against those persons?  The report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had highlighted concerns about discrimination committed by State officials. 

Details were also asked on the ongoing debate on the same-sex marriage.  The Expert was concerned regarding the independence of the judiciary, in particular regarding the case of Judge Carlos Miranda, who had recognized the union between members of the same sex and who was now being disciplined for that.

Regarding persons affected by HIV/AIDS, discrimination and difficulty of access to medicines were reported.   Allegedly, drug abusers, migrants, and persons of the lesbian gay, bisexual, and transsexual community who were affected by HIV/AIDS were doubly discriminated against. Could the delegation comment?  Was it true that the unemployment rate among persons with HIV/AIDS was unusually high, which indicated discriminations towards that group?  How many cases had been dealt with by the National Council on the Prevention and Control of Aids (CONASIDA) and what obstacles did it face?
Another Expert noted the new the initiatives to ensure the elimination of the gender wage gap. Despite the initiatives, there remained an overall underrepresentation of women, not only in the formal, but also in the informal employment sector.  Alhough it was too early to measure the impact of the new initiatives, the State Party was asked to provide them in the next periodic report.

No data had been provided on the questions by the Committee on forced sterilisation of persons with disabilities.  Why was such practice undertaken?   Did the national legislation provide for protection against discrimination against those persons and which measures were in place to improve their conditions?

The Expert recognized initiatives to better the rights of refugees and migrants.  However, there was still a need to better apply the laws and to reduce the time needed for processing refugee asylum claims. 

The Expert congratulated the State Party for all steps taken to combat violence against women, but noted that more information was needed on complaints filed and reparation measures.  Allegedly, only one percent of the complaints had resulted in convictions in 2014.  Could the delegation provide more statistics in this regard for 2015?   

Another Expert asked whether the Electoral Code, which provided that 40 percent of women were represented in political structures, elected posts, and so forth, was respected in practice?   Despite advances, the under-representation of women still persisted at national and local level.  Were further measures planned to remedy that situation? 

What measures ensured that indigenous women were not discriminated on two levels?   Disaggregated data based on ethnicity and ethnic origin in that regard was needed.

Costa Rica was a source, transit and destination route for sex trafficking and labour trafficking of men, women and children.  Child sex tourists coming from Europe and the United States were a particular problem as was the  use of children for drug trafficking.  How was the Act on Trafficking in Persons of 2012 enforced? What was the budget to enforce that Act, and to enforce the National Coalition against Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons?  What types of projects were intended to achieve those goals?  What were the exact penalties for perpetrators of trafficking?  Statistics was required on the number of complaints of trafficking of persons received, sentences, reparations and follow up to repatriate victims of trafficking.  Could that data be provided in disaggregated terms, including the sex, age and nationality of the victims?   More information was needed on the National Fund, and the kind of services it provided for child victims.  The Expert asked if psychological help was also provided.  

Replies by the Delegation

Regarding in-vitro fertilisation, the delegation informed that the State had adopted effective measures to ensure abidance by the Covenant; however, a normative void or a loophole had been interpreted as prevention of in-vitro fertilisation.  Due to that, a number of individuals had complained to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which had resulted in a 2012 a ruling accusing Costa Rica of prohibiting in-vitro fertilisation.  To give effect to the lifting of the prohibition, the Government had put a law before the Assembly.  Despite progress, the law had not yet been discussed by the plenary of the Parliament.  In September 2015, an executive decree had been issued to correct that legislation.  The decree had been validated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as giving effect to its 2012 ruling.  Currently, the Government was ensuring how the Law would be implemented; technical regulations and standards were needed.  In that regard, thanks to a technical regulation, private centres had started submitting requests for licenses to be able to conduct in-vitro fertilisation in the private sector.

The rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community were fully respected.  In the last few years, several efforts had been embarked upon, including: a 2015 policy that eradicated discrimination from State structures; a 2011 policy respectful of sexual diversity designed to promote awareness raising and training; a 2012 Constitutional Chamber decision which ordered penitentiary authorities to allow visits by partners of the same sex; a National Institute for Criminality act which allowed for intimate visits;  a bill which recognized the right to an identity before the law;  a code which recognized access to social and inheritance rights of de-facto unions; a decree which prohibited discrimination in the workplace; and a 2015 family chamber decision recognizing a same-sex couple.  

The delegation informed that there had been an 80 percent increase in the use of the Ombudsman’s Office since 2010.  That increase had also seen an increase in budget allocation by 7 percent, taking 2006 as the baseline and bearing in mind the inflation rate.

Regarding HIV/AIDS, a bill had been tabled before the Parliament, which had stated that public and private institutions should enable all persons to exercise all their rights and that all persons should enjoy the right to live without the stigmatising attitudes.  Solidarity, equality and non-discrimination were all embraced by the law. The Bill ensured the full support for persons affected by HIV/AIDS,  including care, preventive treatment and retroviral treatment.  The text also prohibited discrimination at the workplace.

Regarding religious discrimination, the delegation stressed that the freedom of religious belief was provided by the law, as was the secularity of the State. 

The work of journalists in the country was regulated by the Law on Broadcasting, which promoted the freedom of expression and prohibited censorship.  The blanket prohibition and penalization of transmissions of false or alarming information or vulgarity had been repealed been by this Law.  

Ways to strengthen the right to a fair trial were currently under discussion.   An initiative had also been undertaken in response to the report by the High Level Commission on Prison Overcrowding.  

The Constitutional Chamber provided for an equal representation of women.  In 2009, the Electoral Code had included the notion of parity, but women were still underrepresented in elected posts.  The introduction of alternating men and women candidates in practice meant that if one province was headed by a man, the next would have to be headed by a woman.  That rule would come into effect as of the next elections. 

Regarding therapeutic abortion, the delegation informed that the Inter-American Court on Human Rights was hearing cases on that topic.  A draft standard for therapeutic abortion had been prepared after a series of consultations.
The Law on Persons with Disabilities prevented discrimination against them, and enabled their access to programs and possibilities.  In addition, all discrimination in the workplace, including on the ground of disability, was prohibited by the law.  The National 2021 Disability Policy was in place, including guidance and a Steering Body responsible for those issues. 

The delegation said that the State had initiated a number of measures to improve education and employment among the indigenous population.  Currently, there were 80 indigenous students at the National University and 10 at the Technological University.

Obstetric violence was being addressed by a technical committee, which drew up guidelines on childbirth and post-partum.  In 2015, the media had reported two cases of obstetric violence, which had then been heard in the Constitutional Chamber.  As a result, women were being informed and told to report any situations to the oversight services.
In agreement with the Inter-American Human Rights Court, a technical committee would soon start a process dealing with the right of a woman to get an abortion with an obstetrician. There had been two cases of non-application of therapeutic abortion.  Any woman had the right to access contraceptives, and could use State social security in that regard.

On migrants and the labour situation, the delegation informed that refugees were free to work in any occupation.  If a work application was not addressed within three months, a work permit was issued.  Identification documents did not state the status of the person (i.e. refugee), so as not to spark stigmatisation.  The National Council of University Chancellors had enacted a programme to promote training for refugees and asylum seekers for better and quicker access to work.

On the topic of HIV/AIDS, a study had been undergone in order to cover for persons who needed anti-retroviral treatments.  Valid identification documents had to be presented, regardless of the social security situation.  If individuals did not meet various requirements, the State would pay for those under the HIV Act.  The National Council on the Prevention and Control of Aids (CONASIDA) was made up of academic, civil society and state representatives as well as persons living with HIV/AIDS, and their task was to guide the Ministry of Health policy in that area.

The delegation explained that the 2018 Action Plan on National Equality and Gender Equality launched in May was a major document.  A new Observatory on access to justice for women  had been created.  A website addressing violence against women was in place with information on where to complain, how to seek measures and other information.  Another initiative was Costa Rica’s participation in the sixtieth meeting of the Commission of Legal Status of Women.  With regard to discrimination against women in the labour market, a system was in place to ensure labour equality, with a programme  offering childcare for women who had to work at night,  and trainings for young women seeking employment.  The Seeds of Life Programme promoted training of indigenous women.

Sterilisation of persons with disabilities was illegal.  The delegation emphasized that it was essential to have free and informed consent.

The Prosecutor on Indigenous Affairs travelled and trained indigenous women on how to make complaints against violence and provided them with social and psychological support.  In 2015, there had been two pending convictions, while other cases awaited awaiting hearings. 

With regard to non-discrimination of women and their access to high level posts, it was said that political measures, particularly the quota and parity system, had led to a notable increase in women participation.  However, challenges remained, and in municipal elections, 81 posts were held by men while only 12 by women.  Over the previous 15 years at least one or two of 57 members of the Parliament had been of Afro-descent.  Currently there were two, and only one male indigenous Member of Parliament.

Turning to the issue of illegal trafficking of migrants, a delegate said that the National Auditor had adopted 10 projects worth USD two million to strengthen data collection, communal security and mapping.  The Act of Criminal Code for Deprivation of liberty and trafficking of minors and persons with disability addressed that major issue.  A total of 931 women and three men had been pinpointed as potential victims of trafficking and 38 persons had been arrested.  In the Cuban Migrant Crisis, a gang of 28 persons had been arrested for involvement in the trafficking.

Regarding the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the internal judicial order, the delegation said that various Costa Rican judicial bodies applied it on a daily basis.  Several examples were provided, which indicated that Costa Rica had been intensively and continuously applying provisions of the Covenant.

Questions by Experts

Regarding budget of the Ombudsman, an Expert wanted to know if it was also used for funding the activities of the National Preventive Mechanism.  The issue of the appointment of Ombudsman Deputies had not been addressed. 

Another Expert asked what had motivated the Government to ban a Nicaraguan comedian from entering Costa Rica.  Was public safety and security the motivation?

The delegation was asked to provide information and clarification on incommunicado detention and measures to eliminate such detention.  Article 44 of the Constitution, said that a person could be held for up to 48 hours, and an additional maximum of 10 days was possible with an order from the judge.  Could grounds for incommunicado detention be explained, how frequently was it used, and how many persons were detained during the year?    Information was also sought on the number of prisoners in high security prisons.  Had there been reports of abuse by police officers?  Why were  human rights groups not allowed to visit those prisons?

Regarding mortality rates in prisons, in 2013 there had been 34 instances of death, but there were also discrepancies in the figures.  Some of them had been reported as natural, others as homicide or suicide.  What measures were taken to investigate the cases of homicide and suicide and what were the results of those investigations, asked an Expert.  What was meant by accidental deaths?  Mortality rates seemed to be quite high, at 14 deaths per 1,000 inmates.  Why was that the case?

The Expert raised the issue of violence and the excessive use of force in prisons.  After receiving over 30 complaints for beatings, a court had ordered installation of cameras in the prison to prevent instances of abuse. What steps were made to implement that decision of the court?

Regarding prison overcrowding, 22 new units were reportedly planned, with a total capacity of 1,400.  Could the discrepancy in those numbers be clarified, and could the time-frame for the construction be provided in that respect? 

An Expert commended the efforts in terms of the underrepresentation of women.  Could the disaggregated data by ethnicity (Afro-descent and indigenous), with regard to high political or other high positions, be provided? 

Turning to the issue of trafficking in persons, question was asked about projects to combat human trafficking.  Did they mainly focus on assistance to prospective victims, or did they aim at training police and prosecutorial action?   More information was sought on the Creation of a Special Police Unit and a Special Prosecutorial Unit.  What penalties were in place for trafficking of persons?   It was important to have statistics disaggregated by sex, age, and country of origin, of victims of trafficking, not only for 2015 but for the previous years as well.

An Expert stated that conditions for administrative detention facilities for irregular minors remained a concern, especially with regards to the overcrowding and the failure to identify victims of trafficking, or provide for alternative and setting maximum days of detention.  The law still failed to set a limit on the time of detention for irregular migrants - could the delegation confirm that?   What measures were taken to improve conditions of those centres, in particular, the temporary detention facility for irregular migrants in the Atilio neighbourhood of San Jose?

Regarding the short term detention facility of Juan Santa Maria near San Jose, the delegation was asked to provide information on whether minors, especially unaccompanied minors, were also detained, and on whether there was separation between women and men. Under which authority did the facility operate?

The Expert reminded that pre-trial detention should be an exception to the rule.  Were there statistics on the average pre-trial detention in Costa Rica?  What measures were undertaken to reduce pre-trial detention?

The State party’s efforts to reduce child labour were commendable.  What was the actual percentage of minors who were working?  What measures had been taken for implementing the National Child Protection System to protect children that were working?  Indigenous families moved with their children to Costa Rica to work in the agricultural sector, which caused problems in the educational process.  What measures and initiatives had been taken to ensure that their education was not interrupted, and to ensure that health assistance and education was provided? What birth registration systems were in place for migrant children?

Another Expert noted that violence against women and children, despite legislation, remained a problem and even led to the death of victims.  The Committee had received information that out  of over 1,000 reported cases of rape, only about 300 had been tried.  What measures had been taken in that regard?   

What benefits was the Roman Catholic Church granted as a result of the fact that Catholicism was the State religion?  Was it right that the Government paid the salaries of the clergy?  To what degree did other religions benefit from subsidies and tax exemptions, asked an Expert.

Draft Law of Self Development of Indigenous peoples initiated in 2001 had still not been adopted, which was yet another example where the implementation of human rights standards was prolonged. To what degree were indigenous peoples consulted before legislative measures affecting their rights were undertaken?  Could concrete examples of consultation be provided? Was there a formal process for consultation?  Social and economic development programmes could not substitute the consultation of indigenous peoples.

What measures ensured that stereotypies in textbooks were not contained, especially regarding indigenous and Afro-descendants?   Allegedly, up to 95 percent of territories of indigenous peoples were occupied by non-indigenous peoples, sometimes with tacit Government approval. What was the legal basis for recovery of those lands? What measures were taken for eviction of those, and what measures were taken to protect indigenous peoples from harassment?

Another Expert asked whether a unified umbrella law, tackling all specific discrimination issues, was in the plans of the Government, including on issues faced by lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual persons.  Could the delegation reply to the question regarding Judge Carlos Sanchez Miranda?  What were the results of the disciplinary finding?  Was there information on inter-sex persons and on gender realignment operations carried out on children? 
The delegation was requested to expand on the Bill on HIV/AIDS. Did the CONASIDA institution still exist and what was its current status?

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Costa Rica were in general to be praised.   The Cybercrime Law contained “anti-Wikileaks” provisions, seeking to criminalize disclosure of state secrets and information covered by secrecy laws.  An amendment act had been adopted in 2013 to rectify this, in terms of freedom of expression.  What was the current status?  Had the constitutionality of the law been breached, and was the Cybercrime Law entirely in line with the Covenant?

Regarding the Nicaraguan humourist who had been banned for entering Costa Rica due to his “bad humour” regarding the Costa Rican Government, the Expert said that there was no “right to not be shocked” in the freedom of expression, especially if humour was being used.  That was part and parcel of freedom of expression. 

Regarding the La Reforma Institutional Centre, an Expert inquired about the conditions there and also whether rehabilitation and reintegration of minors was practiced in detention centres.  Were there programs for reintegration of minors held in those institutions? The Committee on the Rights of the Child had found that integration was an exception rather than a rule. Was that true?

No information had been provided on the dissemination of the Covenant and participation by non-governmental organisations in the preparation of the report. 

Another Expert asked, in relation to birth registration for migrant and indigenous peoples, if the delegation could provide a clarification for the figures it had given.  How did the State make people aware that there was an activity of the State Party in terms of registration of births?  What was the mechanism to register births?  Was there an indication of how many people had not registered by birth, and was there a procedure to identify such stateless persons?  

The case was brought up of a same-sex marriage between two women, where an annulment had been tired and the case was opening before the Constitutional Court.  What was the status of that case and what steps were taken to eliminate discrimination against the same-sex marriage?

Regarding non-application of therapeutic abortion, how was the Government contemplating to define therapeutic pregnancy, including in consideration of psychological and physical help?

The Inter-American Commission had established that pre-trial detention was the rule rather than an exception, and that it was in some cases lengthy and in one case lasted to 8 years.  What measures were planned to address issues in the report, and what were the plans to use alternatives to pre-trial detention, such as electronic monitoring?


Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that there was a deficit of 6.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and all budgets had been cut, except for the Ombudsman’s Office.  Appointment of the Ombudsman was a participative process, and a list of candidates was given to the Parliament. 

Approximately 25 percent of the population of Costa Rica  were migrants from Nicaragua, and the State’s priority was integrating migrants.  Therefore the Nicaraguan comedian’s shows, which promoted ideas counter to peaceful coexistence, were unwelcome and dangerous for domestic security.  Additionally, due to his homophobic discourse, he had received threats, and thus, the decision of the Government to ban him from entering Costa Rica was also based on ensuring his personal security.

Regarding pre-trial remand, the delegation said that there were two factors: presumption of guilt that was sufficient to justify remand, and risk – if the person or the victim might be at risk.  That was why remand was seen as an exceptional measure. It always needed to be justified and meet the criteria.

Incommunicado detention was also an exceptional measure, for a maximum period of ten days.  The law said that the detained person had to have contact with his defence lawyer. 

There were over 2,000 inmates in remand, which was 19.9 percent of the total inmates.  Prison overcrowding was decreasing and was being dealt with, including by building additional units.  Since 2010, the rate of deaths of inmates per 1,000 were 0.9 percent, while 3.6 percent died of natural causes.  The information that the Committee had was not accurate.

The rate of child labour had been reduced from 11.6 in 2011 to 7.6 percent in 2013.  Child labour was prevalent in poor rural areas.  Over a seven year period an increase in education had been detected, and there was a scholarship programme in place to foster school attendance in poor rural areas.  A network of 179 child care centres was available with the aim to make Costa Rica child-labour free, working hand in hand with the International Labour Organisation.  Regarding informal child labour, an act was in place seeking to decriminalise begging in the streets.  The idea was to take a preventive stance rather than criminalize that manifestation of poverty. 

In Costa Rica, about 99 percent of births took place in hospital settings and, as such, registration of births was automatic.   For the 1 percent of births, the traveling system of registration went out to communities where there was a lower rate of registration.  In indigenous areas in 2015, 75 registrations had been done.  Mobile units went to farms and worked with Panamanian communities to check the nationality of persons with a view to addressing potential statelessness.

Regarding minors, specialist courts, prosecutors and the Ombudsman for Juvenile Justice were available.  In addition, plans were in place to update the juvenile justice system.  Cameras were used to be able to hear statements, and there was an appropriate interview procedure that attended to the needs of minors.  With regard to supervision in youth detention facilities, the Juvenile Prosecutor provided for inspections in the facilities, carried out since 1996, and was strengthened since 2005 with the adoption of the Law on Juvenile Sentences.

The new HIV/AIDS Bill sought to align with all international provisions, and stipulated that all persons had a right to live in an environment free from stigma. 

The Law on the Freedom of Religion protected interests of religious organisations other than the Catholic Church and ensured their legal personality. The principle of self-regulation was strictly heeded.

The delegation explained that the reason for slow adoption of laws in the Parliament was that there were nine parties in the Parliament, which was the price to pay for democracy.  However, efforts were made to expedite the process of debating. 

Regarding the same-sex marriage case, the delegation said that, at the time, one of those persons had been registered in the civil registry as a man, and the marriage was consequently registered as a heterosexual marriage.  The process had later been initiated to nullify what actually was the same-sex marriage.  Disciplinary proceedings against Judge Carlos Sanchez Miranda would be decided by the courts and the delegation would come back to the Committee on that matter subsequently.

The delegation stressed that the property of indigenous peoples was invaluable. Indigenous peoples were being compensated and the Government was putting together a handbook for the return of indigenous lands, which was the first step to return land and territories and resources to indigenous peoples. The National Plan for Indigenous Territories had been adopted with the same purpose.  In the Terraba and Salitre communities, there had a been a conflict between indigenous and non-indigenous persons, and the Government was giving priority to indigenous persons and resolving those issues.

Concluding Remarks

ALEJANDRO SOLANO, Deputy Minister of Justice,  thanked the Committee for the rich dialogue.  Costa Rica rested its policies on human rights and the international law.  Encounters with human rights treaty bodies allowed the Government to do a self-assessment and address its weak points so that it could make it possible for each citizen to live in a truly inclusive society.  Those forced the Government to redouble efforts, and the Minister hoped that next time they met those challenges would have been addressed. 

FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, Committee Chairperson, said that Costa Rica had been a leader in fostering peace and human rights.  The dialogue was rich and useful and a huge amount of information was supplied.   The effective operation of the Office of the Ombudsman with appropriate resources was very important.  He invited the delegation to study General Comment 34 to ensure freedom of expression.  Other matters of concern included prison overcrowding and violence against women.  In relation to incommunicado detention and remand, Mr. Salvioli highlighted the need to comply with Article 10 of the Covenant.  There was a need to scrutinize possibilities of torture or ill-treatment.  Non-application of therapeutic abortion was a problem and, as long as it was not addressed, women would continue to suffer.  Having to resort to unsafe abortions might put their lives to risk.  Perhaps a presidential decree could be issued on in-vitro fertilization, said Mr. Salvioli.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CT16/009E