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Amnesty International Report 1996 - Costa Rica

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1996
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1996 - Costa Rica, 1 January 1996, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
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.
Police were alleged to have beaten detained demonstrators. An environmental activist and a juvenile detainee died in suspicious circumstances. Four police officers were brought to trial for killings and "disappearances" committed in 1994.

There were widespread protests over the privatization and structural adjustment policies of President José María Figueres Olsen, who took office in 1994. There was also a sharp rise in allegations of human rights abuses by the police. The victims included peasants involved in land disputes and people suspected of involvement in the drugs trade.

In August plainclothes armed police and civilian collaborators allegedly infiltrated crowds of demonstrators in order to provoke violence. Five people were reportedly badly injured and eight, including two juveniles, were arrested. Police sources told local human rights activists that they had been instructed to use force when they were detaining demonstrators. Radio journalists who reported sympathetically on the demonstrations were allegedly threatened and censored. After widespread protests, the eight detainees were released and some of the police officers involved were dismissed after being identified in video and films showing them beating demonstrators. The Centro de Información Policial, Police Information Centre, which despite having no legal powers of arrest was responsible for the majority of the beatings and arrests, was officially dissolved.

In early August the Asociación Ecologista Costarricense-Amigos de la Tierra Internacional (AECO), Costa Rican Ecology Association-Friends of the Earth International, announced that an AECO activist, David Maradiaga, had been found dead, three weeks after going missing. The Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), Judicial Investigation Unit, maintained that his body had been in the morgue customarily used for unidentified bodies. However, family and friends had checked that morgue twice and had been told his body was not there. The official autopsy report stated that he had died of a heart attack, although he was a young man with no history of heart problems. A police investigation into his death was continuing at the end of the year.

In September a juvenile offender, who was reportedly arrested as he tried to steal a car in the capital, San José, was killed. Witnesses saw him being taken into custody and being beaten. The initial police account was that he had died as he attempted to escape from an official vehicle transporting him after his arrest. Later, the police said that they had found his body in a street where he had been run over by a vehicle. Inquiries into the case were closed.

Four members of the OIJ were tried for the killing of two people during 1994 and the "disappearance" of three more. One victim, landowner Ciro Monge Mena, was detained in July 1994 by the OIJ and found dead four days later; he had reportedly been decapitated and had his hands amputated. Ciro Monge Mena had allegedly been involved in drug-trafficking. The outcome of the trial was not known by the end of the year.

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