Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

Country Details

Costa Rica

  • Expediente 07-200123-0306-PE, Costa Rica, Tribunal de Apelación de Sentencia del Tercer Circuito Judicial de Alajuela, Sección Tercera, 2013.
    The public defender is appealing a conviction of sexual assault on behalf of his client. The appeal argues that (1) the facts alleged are imprecise and ambiguous (e.g., how is it possible to restrain someone’s arms while touching them at the same time?) and (2) the sexual contact was consensual because there was no evidence of the victim’s fighting back, she didn’t scream for help, had no injuries or physical signs of assault. Given the alleged failure to show that the contact was not consensual, the public defender argues that a charge of sexual harassment would be more appropriate, since the defendant was the victim’s employer. The court rejected the appeal, stating that the burden is not on the victim to show physical or objective signs of nonconsent; rather, the burden is on the defendant to show that the victim consented, which he failed to do. The court notes that victims are not obligated to display certain actions or behaviors to prove they did not consent to sexual contact. The court also notes that it is important to analyze each case on an individual basis, and not to reinforce stereotypes regarding victims’ behaviors. The court also dismissed the argument regarding the imprecise nature of the facts presented at the initial proceeding on the basis that the incident occurred six years ago, when the victim was 18 years old.
  • Expediente 12-000123-1283-PE, Costa Rica, Tribunal de Apelación de Sentencia del Tercer Circuito Judicial de Alajuela, Sección TerceraTribunal de Apelación de Sentencia Penal. Segundo Circuito Judicial de San José, 2013.
    The prosecutor is appealing a ruling of not guilty in a sexual abuse case. The not guilty ruling had been based largely on inconsistencies between the initial testimony of the victim and her testimony at trial. This court found that, because the victim was not provided appropriate and comfortable conditions to give oral testimony (she was made to testify in front of a public audience and with the defendant in view), her testimony entailed a re-victimization, which influenced her ability to provide complete and accurate facts. On this basis, the court remands the case to be re-heard at the lower court.
  • Expediente 12-0001488-0396-PE, Costa Rica, Tribunal de Apelación de Sentencia Penal. Segundo Circuito Judicial de Guanacaste, Santa Cruz, 2013.
    The public ministry is appealing a previous ruling, which found the defendant not guilty of violating an order or protection that prohibited the defendant from, among other things, nearing or entering the home, place of work or place of study of the complainant. Police found the defendant approximately one or two meters from the complainant’s home, armed with a knife. He had broken down the front door and forcibly entered the home. The judge in the previous ruling found the defendant not guilty of violating the order of protection because the facts alleged by the public ministry had not been sufficiently demonstrated. The court also found that the protective order was vague (e.g., what does “near” the house mean?) and that it had not been demonstrated that the defendant was at the victim’s home without her consent. The victim declined to testify. This court overturns the ruling and remands the case to the lower court. The judge found that the investigation was deficient and the public investigators should have looked to other evidence notwithstanding the victim’s refusal to testify), including the fact that the victim called authorities for help and that the door to the house had been broken. The principle of reasonableness should govern, and here, there was clearly a violation of the intent of the protective order. The judge notes that while protective orders do limit rights of the individual subject to the order, their purpose is to provide equal rights to the protected individual. These limitations on the accused’s rights, while important, are less important than the ultimate goal of protecting the other person(s). The goal of public officials should be to provide tools to individuals so that they can enjoy their constitutional and human rights, including equality. In examining these cases, judges should look at the core purpose of the protective order and determine whether the order has been violated, and here, the facts were sufficient to show such a violation. In his discussion, the judge cites the Intra-American Convention to Prevent Violence Against Women, which requires that states take all appropriate measures with respect to legislation, judicial practices and common law in order to prevent violence against women and to establish judicial and administrative procedures for this purpose.
  • Expediente 04-001375-0166-LA, Costa Rica, Sala Segunda de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2008.
    This case relates to sexual harassment in the workplace. The relevant facts are as follows. The victim was a receptionist at her company, and experienced sexual harassment by her superior, as evidenced by lascivious emails he sent her. She reported the harassment to supervisors, who suggested that they work together to find a solution, which resulted in the employer suggesting that she resign. The victim resigned and the harasser was sanctioned with three days docked pay. The court found that the employer did not respond to the sexual harassment appropriately, resulting in the victim’s continued harassment and eventual loss of employment. The court notes that employers and supervisors have an obligation to maintain good working conditions for their employees, including preventing sexual harassment. Pursuant to this obligation, employers and supervisors must: (1) communicate to all employees about relevant policies, (2) establish procedures to guarantee the effectiveness of such policies and (3) protect any whistleblowers (including victims) with respect to sexual harassment. The court also notes that sexual harassment is a form of sexual violence and a form of discrimination because it denies victims of their fundamental human rights of freedom, respect, physical, sexual and emotional integrity, the right to work in a safe environment and equality under the law.
  • Sentencia 12142, Expediente 08-009174-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2008.
    The Plaintiff sued a local prosecutor's office, alleging he was illegally detained and held, arbitrarily violating his constitutional right to personal liberty. Plaintiff's wife had filed a complaint against him with at the prosecutor's office, alleging spousal abuse, although she did not ask that he be detained. Plaintiff was asked to report to the prosecutor's office, at which time he was detained without being given reason for his detention. The prosecutors' office argued that the plaintiff was only held for eight hours, well within the 24 hours a prosecutor is allowed to hold someone without bringing charges. The Court rejected Plaintiff's allegations, finding that the plaintiff's rights had not been violated because his arrest was based on a suspected violation of Article 22 of the Criminal Law against Violence toward Women. The Court emphasized that spousal abuse was a matter not only of individual concern, but of societal concern. 
  • Sentencia 12224, Expediente 08-010638-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2008.
    Defendant asked the Court to release him from a three-month "preventative" jail sentence he was serving for sexually, physically and emotionally abusing his wife. He argued that he no longer posed a danger to his wife, thus the "preventative" jail measure was unnecessary. The Court disagreed, holding that the threat the defendant posed to his wife had not ceased. 
  • Sentencia 15547, Expediente 08-009127-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2008.
    Defendant in a criminal prosecution challenged the constitutionality of Articles 22, 25 and 27 of the Criminal Law Against Violence Toward Women, arguing that the law's vague language allowed for arrests and convictions to be made based on vague, non-specific allegations and was thereby inconsistent with the Costa Rican Political Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Court held Article 22 and 25 to be unconstitutional, but upheld Article 27. The ruling had retroactive power.
  • Sentencia 17692, Expediente 08-015875-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2008.
    Criminal defendant, who was arrested for violating a protective order his wife had against him (thereby violating Article 43 of the Criminal Law Against Violence Toward Women), asked the Court to release him from a two-month "preventive" jail sentence, given that his wife was dropping the charges against him. The Court refused to grant the request, saying that despite the wife's refusal to cooperate, the prosecutor had sufficient probable cause to keep the defendant under arrest. 
  • Sentencia: 01383, Expediente: 06-011087-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2007.
    The Court ordered defendant, a hospital, to rehire a pregnant worker who was fired one week after informing the hospital of her pregnancy. The Court reasoned that the short period of time between plaintiff's announcement and her firing established a causal relationship between her pregnancy and her firing, thereby violating plaintiff's constitutional right to remain employed while pregnant. 
  • Sentencia 14572, Expediente: 05-002606-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2005.
    Plaintiff, a pregnant school teacher, asked the Court to order the General Director of Personnel of the Department of Public Schools to rehire her after her employment was not renewed when she became pregnant. Plaintiff had been employed in that position for six years. Plaintiff argued that failing to rehire her violated her right to employment stability and motherhood. The Court ordered the defendant to rehire the plaintiff and to provide her with paid maternity leave. 
  • Sentencia 10341, Expediente: 04-006937-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2004.
    Plaintiff claimed that she was dismissed from her employment as a psychologist because she was pregnant, thereby violating her constitutional rights. The Court disagreed, finding that her position was of a temporary nature, her employer replaced her with a more qualified psychologist, and that plaintiff's dismissal was not based on her pregnancy.
  • Sentencia 09076, Expediente 02-006271-0007-CO, Costa Rica, Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, 2002.
    Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of Articles 8, 9(a), 9(c), 10 and 19 of the University of Costa Rica's Regulation against Sexual Harassment, arguing that they were inconsistent with the Costa Rican Political Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights. The Court rejected the Plaintiff's challenge, affirming the constitutionality of the provisions.
  • Proposed Amendments to the Naturalization Provisions of the Constitution of Costa Rica, Costa Rica, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 1984.
    Challenge to gender-based nationality law.