Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Adoption of Law on Creation of National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture in Costa Rica

April 2, 2014

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the Costa Rican State’s recent adoption of a law on Creation of the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Law No. 9204). According to this law, the mechanism aims to protect the rights of persons under State custody through the conduction of regular inspections on jails, prisons and every other place of detention nationwide. The IACHR views this as a positive and important step in the protection of the fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty and in the fulfillment of Costa Rica’s international human rights obligations.

The IACHR also urges the State to adopt the necessary measures so that the system established under this new law has sufficient resources and the necessary institutional support to carry out its functions effectively and with the autonomy and independence that the nature of its oversight role demands.

The Inter-American Commission considers that, in view of the fundamental nature of the human rights that may come into play with the act of confinement, the management of prisons in general should be governed by strict criteria of transparency, openness, and independent oversight. The Inter-American Court has established as a fundamental criterion that “the way a detainee is treated must be subject to the closest scrutiny, taking into account the detainee’s vulnerability.”

The essential condition for effective scrutiny of prison management is precisely the independent monitoring of its operations and of establishments for deprivation of liberty (in the broadest sense). In this context, oversight mechanisms created by virtue of treaties—such as the national preventive mechanism contemplated in the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture—are particularly relevant. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission once again calls on the OAS Member States to ratify this treaty, and in the case of those that already have done so, to implement and put into operation the national preventive mechanism contemplated therein.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 31/14