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Costa Rica: The Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), and whether its members would have immunity against prosecution or other judicial procedures resulting from alleged domestic abuse against spouses or daughters

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 August 1998
Citation / Document Symbol CRI29867.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Costa Rica: The Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), and whether its members would have immunity against prosecution or other judicial procedures resulting from alleged domestic abuse against spouses or daughters, 1 August 1998, CRI29867.E, available at: [accessed 25 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The information that follows adds to that provided in previous Responses to Information Requests.

The Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), a police agency of the Ministry of Justice, was created some 25 years ago to investigate and fight crime (La Nacion 18 Nov. 1997; 1 Aug. 1995). The OIJ has a Narcotics Section, a small anti-narcotics group that concentrates on international cases (INCS Mar. 1998). This section cooperates with other law enforcement units and with agents of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), routinely sharing information and conducting joint operations (ibid.). United States agencies have provided the newly-established Interagency Drug Task Force with training and equipment; the task force is composed of officers from the OIJ Narcotics Section, the Public Ministry, the Customs Police, the Drug Control Police (PCD), and the Joint Counternarcotics Intelligence Center (CICAD, which operates the country's Joint Information Coordination Center, JICC) (ibid.). A new criminal procedures code became effective in January 1998, providing for closer cooperation between OIJ police investigators and public prosecutors during both investigations and prosecutions (ibid.).

A new director of the OIJ was named by the Supreme Court of Justice in May 1997: Lineth Saborío Chaverri, the first woman ever to occupy that post (La Nacion 13 May 1997). She had previously worked in the judiciary for 15 years, where she was also an OIJ Internal Affairs assistant, General Secretary of the OIJ and OIJ regional chief for Alajuela (ibid.). She replaces Manuel Alvarado Blanco, who returned to private law practice after serving as director; other candidates for the post included lawyers Jorge Rojas, current OIJ regional chief in Alajuela, and Daniel Gonzalez, a prosecuting attorney of the Public Ministry (ibid.).

Before taking command of the OIJ, Lineth Saborío announced that fighting organized crime would become a priority of the OIJ (ibid.).

In September 1997 the OIJ sought Panamanian cooperation as part of a regional effort to fight Chinese organized crime, which was held responsible for a number of murders, extortion, gambling and kidnapping in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Panama (El Panama America 30 Sept. 1997). In May 1998 the sub-director of the OIJ, Jorge Rojas, announced after an investigation initiated in September 1997 the dismantling of an international drug-trafficking organization operating in Costa Rica, which included Colombians, and transported drugs to the United States and Europe (La Nacion 5 May 1998).

In November 1997 the director of the OIJ put forward a plan to improve the performance of the OIJ to counter organized crime, including improvements in training, the structure of stations, and police supervision and administration (ibid. 18 Nov. 1997). At that time, the director stated that although the OIJ solved only 50 per cent of cases that arrived before it, "in the case of homicides the figure is almost 95 percent" (ibid.). The plan included the creation of: an Office of Planning and Operations (OPO), to coordinate operational plans and oversee all investigations; a Unit of Information and Analysis, dependent of the OPO; a Tactical Support Unit for Surveillance, to assist in stationary, mobile and electronic surveillance; "functioning of internal disciplinary tribunals by zones, in charge of judging improper behaviour or intervention on the part of investigators" (ibid.). The improvement plan also included a new pay scale with salaries commensurate with "experience, performance and preparation," since a study had found that 67 percent of OIJ agents suffered "from problems of stress, a product of accumulated work and economic difficulties" (ibid.). In the first 11 months of 1997 the OIJ received 22,194, of which 10,130 were for robberies with violence, compared to a total of 17,760 cases for all of 1996 (ibid.).

A senior staff member at the National Centre for the Development of Women and the Family who has, among other duties, carried out police training on domestic violence, stated during a 14 August 1998 telephone interview that no police agent, be they from the OIJ or another police force, has immunity from administrative and judicial prosecution or other legal procedures arising from accusations of domestic violence presented against them. The senior staff member stated that administrative measures are those applied by their own institution, such as temporary suspension from duty or dismissal; judicial measures could include civil and/or penal procedures.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Centro Nacional para el Desarrollo de la Mujer y la Familia, San José. 14 August 1998. Telephone interview with senior staff member.

El Panama America [Panama]. 30 September 1997. Juan Manuel Diaz C.. "OIJ de Costa Rica pide información de mafia china." [Internet][Accessed 14 Aug. 1998]

La Nación [San José]. 5 May 1998. "Empresa en Zona Franca envuelta en tráfico internacional de coca." [Internet][Accessed 14 Aug. 1998]

_____. 18 November 1997. R. Moya and J. Boone. "Judicial Police to Receive System-Wide Improvements." [Internet][Accessed 14 Aug. 1998]

_____. 13 May 1997. Nicolas Aguilar R.. "Lineth Saborío, nueva directora del OIJ." [Internet][Accessed 14 Aug. 1998]

_____. 1 August 1995. "Editorial: Tétrico episodio policiaco." [Internet][Accessed 14 Aug. 1998]

United States Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Washington, DC. March 1998. "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for Costa Rica, 1997." [Internet][Accessed 14 Aug. 1998]

Additional Sources Consulted

Central America NewsPak [Austin, Tex.]. 1997-98.

Central America Report [Guatemala City]. 1997-98.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Reports. 1996-98.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1995-98.

Latin American Regional Reports: Central America & the Caribbean [London].1996-98.

Electronic sources: IRB Databases, Global NewsBank, NEXIS, Internet, Refworld, WNC.


             This list is not exhaustive. Country-specific books available in the Resource Centre are not included.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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