Deciding body (English)
Deciding body (Original)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Further areas addressed
- Private and family life
Outcome of the decision
A group of people, who were deprived of their liberty, filed an amparo action requesting that their fundamental rights be protected through two primary measures: 1) that they be allowed to regain the right to conjugal visits, as these had been suspended since 2020, and 2) that they be provided with the booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Court indicated that this decision was not within its competence regarding the first request. Although the competent Ministry had already authorized the visits, it was up to each prison establishment to implement the measure. Regarding the second request, the Court indicated that the vaccination plan schedules should be respected. Therefore, the Court did not grant any of the Claimants' requests.
Facts of the case
A group of persons deprived of their liberty in a Costa Rican prison filed a writ of amparo against the Ministry of Justice and Peace for two reasons:
- First, they indicated that in 2020 the Ministry of Justice and Peace had suspended personal visits and general and minor visits to prison facilities due to the pandemic. They added that although, in 2021, general and juvenile visits had been allowed, they were limited and they were taking place with a reduced capacity of only one adult and one child for one hour and without being able to have any physical contact, that is, with social distancing. Intimate visits were still suspended. Therefore, they requested that the sanitary measures be made more flexible to allow personal visits to persons deprived of liberty and general visits with the possibility of physical contact.
- They requested that the possibility of applying the third dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 be evaluated to protect their right to health.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
- Relaxation of the measures restricting personal and general visits
- To evaluate the application of a third dose of vaccination
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
Regarding the first request, that is, the one related to the relaxation of the measures restricting personal visits and general visits for persons deprived of liberty, the Court indicated that it was not up to this Court to determine whether to maintain the suspension of personal visits and the restrictions on general visits.
This was because it indicated that this was a decision that the Ministry of Justice and Peace and the Ministry of Health had made based on technical criteria. Therefore, it was up to those same authorities to determine when it could be considered appropriate to resume conjugal visitation or lift any additional restrictions, as had previously occurred with general visitation.
Regarding the second request, the Court indicated that the third dose of vaccination against COVID-19 was to be applied to the population deprived of liberty, but according to prioritization criteria that put first at-risk groups and older adults in penal centers. Subsequently, the immunization of other inmates who had been deprived of their liberty would begin four months after the second dose was applied to them, according to the doses supplied by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court concluded that there was no justification to accede to the Claimants' requests because, on the one hand, it was not up to this jurisdiction to determine when the restrictions on intimate and general visits that existed in the penal center should be lifted and, on the other hand, because it could be verified that the vaccination of the third dose was being carried out following the prioritization criteria.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Prisoners’ rights
- Right to health (inc. right to vaccination, right to access to reproductive health)
- 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 implicitly applied the rule of law principle to determine that the Ministry of Justice and Peace and the Ministry of Health were the entities legally empowered to decide whether to lift the restrictions on personal visitation and general visitation.
On "type of measure challenged": the Claimants questioned the restrictions the Ministry of Justice and Peace imposed on the intimate and general visits of the population deprived of liberty. In addition, they questioned the government's omission to order their third dose of COVID-19 vaccination.