Republic of Costa Rica

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 4.1 million (1.5 million under 18)
Government armed forces: no armed forces
Compulsory recruitment age: not applicable
Voluntary recruitment age: not applicable
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 24 January 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

The armed forces were abolished by the 1949 constitution. Reforms in 2001 reduced the previously military character of the police. The minimum age for recruitment to the police is 18.


Despite continued political stability, there were human rights concerns including the sexual exploitation of children. Restrictive laws establishing criminal penalties for defamation, libel, slander and calumny continued to affect the work of independent journalists. There was a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers, especially from Colombia, which soared to roughly 4,000 in 2002.1

On 22 April 2002, the Legislative Assembly passed Law 8272, modifying Article 7 of the Penal Code to make war crimes and crimes against humanity a criminal offence.2


National recruitment legislation and practice

The armed forces were abolished by the 1949 constitution, which states that the army as a permanent institution is proscribed, that vigilance and the preservation of public order will be carried out by the necessary police forces, and that military forces may be organized only through continental agreement or for national defence purposes and in either case they shall always be subordinate to civilian power (Article 12). The Government Council, made up of the President of the Republic and Ministers, may request from the National Assembly a declaration of a state of national defence and authorization to order military recruitment, organize the army and negotiate peace (Article 147).3

In March 2001 the police introduced civilian rankings, to represent a move away from the previously military character of the force, under the Law on the Strengthening of the Civilian Police, No. 8096 of 15 March 2001. This law amended the General Law on Police Forces, No. 7410 of 20 May 1994.4 Costa Rican citizens must be 18 to join the police, according to the General Law on Police Forces (Article 59).5

1 Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Activities Report 2002,

2 Amnesty International, Costa Rica Law 8272, legislation_costarica-eng.

3 Constitution,

4 Ley de Fortalecimiento de la Policía Civilista, No. 8096, Alcance no. 24, Gaceta no. 59, 23 March 2001,; Reseña histórica del Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública (History of the Ministry of Government, Police and Public Security),

5 Ley General de Policía, No. 7410,


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