Constitutional Provisions

Article 21 of the 1949 Constitution of Costa Rica states that human life "is inviolable". According to Article 40, no one will be subjected to cruel or degrading treatment.

Article 26 of the Constitution states that:

Everyone has the right to meet peacefully and without arms, whether for private business, or to discuss political matters and to examine the public conduct of civil servants.

Meetings in private premises do not need prior authorization. Those undertaken in public places will be regulated by the law.

According to Article 12, in order to preserve public order the necessary police forces will be ensured.

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1948 Charter of the Organization of American States State Party
1969 Inter-American Convention on Human Rights State Party
Competence of Inter-American Court on Human Rights Yes

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The Public Force of Costa Rica (Fuerza Pública) is the country's main law enforcement agency. It is a paramilitary force. Costa Rica does not have a standing army.

According to Article 5 of the Regulation of Ethics of the Members of the Police Forces Assigned to the Ministry of Public Security

During the procedures used to enforce the law, officials may only use force when strictly necessary, and to the extent required by the performance of their duties.

They will only use their weapons when there is a grave risk to their lives or physical integrity, or that of third parties.

In any case, actions of this type are governed by the principles of reasonableness and proportionality.

Article 75 of the General Law on the Police provides that any officer who abuses his or her authority, or ill treats one or more persons, commits an offence. 

Police Oversight

There is no independent civilian police oversight body in Costa Rica although allegations of excessive police use of force can be made to the national Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría de los Habitantes), which also serves as the national human rights institution.

The Ministry of Justice and not the Ministry of Public Safety investigate alleged wrongdoing by Costa Rican police.



Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In its 2016 Concluding Observations on Costa Rica, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern that Costa Rica

did not provide any information on the investigation and punishment of human rights violations committed by officials at detention centres or by members of the police, especially those involving torture and ill-treatment....


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is based in the capital of Costa Rica, San José.

There has not been a case adjudged by the Court involving alleged excessive use of force by police in Costa Rica.


Constitucion de Costa Rica (1949)

1949 Constitution of Costa Rica (as amended) (English translation)

Ley General de Policia de Costa Rica

Disposiciones de control de armas de fuego (2012)

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations on Costa Rica (2016)