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
In the context of the criminal proceeding against him, a person deprived of liberty filed a writ of habeas corpus because he considered that the Judge's decision to hold an in-person hearing with his online participation violated his rights to due process, defense, and the principle of contradiction.
The Court said that although the action used by the Claimant was not the proper one, it found that the law allowed hearings to be held remotely in the context of COVID-19, so it did not consider that the Claimant's rights had been violated.
Facts of the case
In the context of a criminal proceeding, a hearing was scheduled in person, ordering the accused to be linked by videoconference. The accused filed a writ of habeas corpus because he considered that this decision jeopardized his rights to due process, defense, and the principle of bilaterality of the hearing since he could not be in the same place with the parties to the proceedings, which put him at a disadvantage.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
In the first place, the Court indicated that the writ of habeas corpus was not the appropriate procedural instrument to request the claims of the Claimant since its purpose is to guarantee personal liberty and integrity against acts or omissions coming from an authority of any order, including judicial, against threats to such freedom and the disturbances or restrictions that the authorities unduly establish concerning it, as well as against illegitimate limits of the right to move from one place to another in the Republic, and to remain, leave and enter its territory freely. Thus, the Court pointed out that this remedy does not have the purpose of creating another instance of the criminal process.
On the other hand, the Court indicated that it supports using videoconferencing in criminal proceedings, especially in the context of the pandemic.
In this regard, it indicated that the pandemic imposed a challenge on the Justice Administration System and the Penitentiary System since the it had to adapt to the limitations implied by the health measures and design and implement the necessary actions to avoid paralyzing the criminal proceedings and to guarantee compliance with the constitutional and procedural rights and guarantees of the accused persons who are deprived of their liberty.
In this regard, the Court noted that technology has ensured that hearings or debates are held with persons deprived of their liberty without unreasonable delays in such proceedings. The above implies that although the accused person's presence in the hearing is the norm so that he can exercise his material defense, in extraordinary cases, his physical or direct presence can be dispensed with, replacing it with his participation through technological means. Therefore, the judicial system has designed and implemented a series of protocols and guidelines to implement video conferencing in criminal proceedings efficiently.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court concluded that in the existence of an exceptional situation such as the pandemic, the Criminal Courts, such as the defendant, have the possibility of using technological means to carry out the respective hearings and thus guarantee the continuity of the criminal process, always in observance of the rules of due process.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Prisoners’ rights
- Right to access to justice, to a fair trial and to jury trial
- Right to due process
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
- Right to due process, Art. 40, Constitution of Costa Rica
- Right to defense, Art. 40, Constitution of Costa Rica
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
- Health v. access to justice
- Health v. prisoners’ fundamental rights; Health v. right to due process
General principle applied
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
The Court applied the principle of due process to determine whether a person's appearance at a hearing by virtual means respected his due process rights and his right to a defense.
On "type of measure": the Claimant questioned the judicial authority's decision to summon some people in-person to a hearing and others virtually. In addition, he questioned the government's omission to take measures to ensure the right of contradiction and defense in judicial proceedings during the pandemic.