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Rights Court Dismisses Case against Country

March 16, 2007

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has dismissed a case accusing the government of Costa Rica of discriminating against Nicaraguan immigrants, the Foreign Ministry announced this week.

The suit, filed by the Nicaraguan government in February 2005, accused Costa Rica of denying Nicaraguan immigrants their basic rights, and was based on the deaths of two Nicaraguans in Costa Rica in 2005.

In the first death, a Nicaraguan man was mauled to death by two Rottweiler guard dogs while emergency workers looked on for nearly an hour, allegedly unable to separate the animals from the victim (TT, Nov. 18, 2005). In the second incident, a Nicaraguan man was stabbed to death after a group of angry Costa Ricans chased him and friends from a bar, throwing rocks and allegedly yelling anti-Nicaraguan slurs (TT, Dec. 9, 2005).

The case was the first time the

Inter-American Court

heard a case presented by one country against another.

“We are pleased by this resolution,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno during a press conference Monday afternoon. The ruling sends “a conclusive message on the history of solidarity of the Costa Rican people with Nicaraguans, and proves wrong the unjust accusations of supposed xenophobia and discrimination made by the former Nicaraguan government,” he added.

President Oscar Arias told the press this week, “I would not say this is a triumph, but it is a recognition that this is a country that respects human rights.”

In a statement released later, the President said he hoped the ruling would improve relations between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which were damaged by arguments over the San Juan River that sits between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and plummeted after the two deaths and subsequent international court case.

Minister Stagno explained that the 72- page court ruling listed various reasons why Nicaragua’s case was inadmissible.

Among them, Nicaragua failed to prove “the existence of a generalized practice of discrimination in Costa Rica toward the Nicaraguan migrant population.”

Minister Stagno said one of the principal reasons the case was dismissed was because the internal means of justice had not been exhausted when the suit was presented in February 2006, which is a requirement for the rights court.

Stagno pointed out two months was not long enough to give the Costa Rican system a chance to act.

In the case of the dog attack, which has received the most attention, 23-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant Natividad Canda was finally pulled from the animals’ grasp, but died upon arrival at the MaxPeraltaHospital, in Cartago, east of San José. A local TV news team caught some of the attack on film, footage that received heavy play in Costa Rica and Nicaragua following the attack.

The victim’s mother traveled from her home in Nicaragua to file suit against the Costa Rican government, demanding it compensate her for the loss of her son (TT, Dec. 9, 2005).

Following various critical reports by government agencies, including one by the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) saying officials could have stopped the attack but didn’t (TT, Jan. 27, 2006), the Costa Rican Prosecutor’s Office filed criminal charges against two police officers present during the attack in November 2006 (TT, Nov. 17, 2006). Canda’s mother’s case was added to the government’s prosecution as a querella, or private prosecution.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled to begin Monday, the family’s lawyer, Luís Saénz, told the daily Al Día this week.

 

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