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Costa Rica to Punish Hate Crimes with up to 35 years in Prison

Costa Rica will punish “hate crimes” with prison sentences of between 20 and 35 years crimes according to a law enacted Monday and welcomed by civil rights groups.

“It seeks to strengthen and update human rights protection” said President Carlos Alvarado, who will leave power on May 8.

It is a reform to the Costa Rican Penal Code recently approved by the Parliament, which punishes anyone who “injures, assaults or kills for reasons of race, age, religion, nationality, political opinion, disability or sexual orientation”.

Alvarado signed the new law in a ceremony at the Presidential House, where he assured that this initiative protects those people “who have been historically violated and persecuted by the chance of being born with a certain nationality, ethnicity, disability or having a different sexual orientation”.

“This was a necessity in this country. The law assures those of us who are different are also equal before the law,” said Enrique Joseph, commissioner of the Afro-descendant population and was present at the ceremony.

“It represents the struggle of all those who have raised their voices demanding punishment for those who, out of hate, discrimination and racism, have perpetrated crimes,” he added.

For activist Jota Vargas, “legislating hate crimes is of vital importance, because Costa Rica tells the LGTBIQ+ population that it is okay to exist, to be, to love.”

He added that in recent years several people have been murdered “because of their sexual orientation, identity or gender”.

According to Enrique Sanchez, president of the legislative commission on Human Rights and author of the bill, Costa Rica had received, since 2019 at a forum in Geneva, multiple recommendations from participating countries and NGOs to criminalize hate crimes. 

“It is different a homicide, aggression or attack against a person because of their skin color, nationality, gender identity or religion. It is different because it is a sobering attack against a community,” commented the legislator.

Sanchez explained that with the reform “the authorities will be able to investigate whether hate is the motivation for a crime” and thus “the courts could impose higher penalties”.

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