Costa Rica, Supreme Court of Justice, 7 June 2022, Resolucion No. 13006-2022
Deciding body (English)
Deciding body (Original)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Outcome of the decision
Link to the full text of the decision
A person who was deprived of his liberty filed a writ of habeas corpus against the Ministry of Justice and Peace because he claimed that he was a victim of retaliation by the Police Headquarters of the penitentiary center where he was being held, since he was not being given food and was not allowed to have conjugal visits or participate in group activities, for which he considered that his rights to food security and privacy were being violated.
Upon investigating the case, the Court found that the measures had been taken because there were two positive cases of COVID-19 in the unit where this person was being held. Therefore the corresponding health measures were implemented, including the suspension of general and intimate visits, to protect the right to health of all prisoners.
Facts of the case
The Claimant was deprived of his liberty for having been sentenced to seventeen years in prison for the crime of homicide. He filed a writ of habeas corpus against the Ministry of Justice and Peace because he affirmed that he was the victim of retaliation by the Police Headquarters of the penitentiary center where he was being held, since he was not being provided with food and was not allowed to have conjugal visits or participate in group activities. He considered this a violation of his rights.
In this regard, the Defendant indicated that the measures related to the restriction of visits had been taken because, on the one hand, two positive cases of COVID-19 had been found in that penitentiary center. For that reason, the scheduled conjugal and general visits had been suspended, including those scheduled for the claimant, as well as group activities.
Regarding the Claimant's statement that food was not being delivered to him, the Defendant pointed out that he had received complaints from other inmates saying that he disrespected the line, so what the prison did was to warn this person that he should respect it and only eat once, so as not to affect the supplies of the other prisoners.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
First, the Court indicated that the Defendant in its report had clarified that it had received complaints of the irregular distribution of food by other inmates and, after supervising the food repartition, the Defendant noted that the Claimant was disrespecting the line and trying to get a second ration of food, so it was explained to him that he should respect his turn and the distribution of food to all inmates. In this regard, the Court determined that his right to food security was not being violated.
On the other hand, the Court noted that in the same building where the Claimant was held, there had been two positive cases of COVID-19. This was why the respective sanitary measures, determined by the Ministry of Justice and Peace in its protocols for these cases, were executed, which included the suspension of general and conjugal visits and the postponement of group activities with other prison wards until further notice.
The Court considered that the measures taken by the Ministry were not arbitrary, corresponded to previous guidelines, and were justified insofar as they sought to protect the health of all persons deprived of liberty in that penitentiary center.
Consequently, after analyzing the facts, the Court stated that the writ of habeas corpus should be dismissed because there was no fact or evidence to support the Claimant's allegations. On the contrary, the Court determined that the prison authorities had acted in the interest of safeguarding the health and integrity of the population deprived of liberty.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court considered that no discriminatory action against the Claimant could be evidenced in the actions taken by the Defendant since the measures taken by the penitentiary center sought to guarantee food for the entire population deprived of liberty, as well as to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Prisoners’ rights
- Right to health (inc. right to vaccination, right to access to reproductive health)
- Right to privacy
- Right to private and family life
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
- Right to health, Art. 46, Constitution of Costa Rica
- Right to privacy and intimacy, Art. 24, Constitution of Costa Rica
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
- Health v. right to privacy (private and family life)
- Health v. prisoners’ fundamental rights
General principle applied
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
The Court applied the principle of non-discrimination to determine that the treatment given to the Claimant was not discriminatory or arbitrary since it was based on the protocols to be followed in positive COVID-19 cases indicated by the Ministry of Justice and Peace.
In addition, the Court implicitly applied the principle of reasonableness by indicating that the measures used by the penitentiary were not arbitrary because they sought to protect the life and health of the population deprived of liberty.
On "type of measure challenged": the Claimant challenged the measures taken by the penitentiary center where he was held, which were part of the Ministry of Justice and Peace. He claimed that they prevented him from receiving his conjugal visits, participating in group activities, and receiving his food ration.