Costa Rica is known for its stunning natural beauty and as a beacon of democracy in Central America. However, recent findings by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) have highlighted a serious concern: the country’s failure to explicitly prohibit enforced disappearance in its domestic legislation.
Enforced disappearance is a severe human rights violation that occurs when a person is taken into custody by the state or its agents, and their whereabouts or fate are concealed, placing them outside the protection of the law. This heinous crime has been used as a tool of repression and intimidation by governments and non-state actors worldwide, leaving families and communities in anguish and uncertainty.
The CED, a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, has urged Costa Rica to take appropriate measures to make enforced disappearance an autonomous crime. The Committee lamented that the country does not have accurate statistics on missing persons, including disappearances of migrants or persons involved in trafficking.
Costa Rica has considered the Convention a binding instrument in domestic legislation, but the UN has stressed the non-existence of an autonomous crime of enforced disappearance. The Committee has urged the country to explicitly prohibit using a superior’s invocation of orders to justify the crime and to classify enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity, with appropriate punishments that consider its extreme seriousness.
The increase in the number of migrants passing through Costa Rican territory has also been a cause for concern. The CED has recommended that the country intensify its efforts to prevent migrant disappearances and support the search for missing migrants. It has also advocated for the establishment of an updated database of missing migrants and guaranteeing their relatives the possibility of obtaining information and participating in investigations and searches.
To prevent the disappearance of migrants, the Committee has asked Costa Rica to prohibit the expulsion, return, or extradition of persons when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they may be at risk of enforced disappearance. Such measures are crucial to ensure that Costa Rica upholds its obligations under international human rights law and protects the human rights of all persons, regardless of their legal status.
The UN concluded that “The Committee and its Secretariat strive daily to support victims, civil society organizations, national human rights institutions, and States in the search for and location of missing persons, as well as to eradicate, punish, and prevent this crime and to repair the damage inflicted on the victims.”
The issue of enforced disappearance is a pressing concern that requires the attention and action of governments worldwide. Costa Rica must take appropriate measures to address this issue and ensure that all persons within its territory are protected from this heinous crime. It is only through collaborative efforts and a commitment to human rights that we can build a world that is just, fair, and free from enforced disappearance.