Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Costa Rican Report Reveals Why Crime Continues to Rise

A report on crime justice statistics by the non-governmental organization, Jurisis Victomologia, has reported that homicides in 2010 cost Costa Rica (US$60 million). Additionally, only 1.6% of complaints to the police or the courts resulted in prison sentences, the highest rate of criminal impunity in Costa Rica’s history.

Juan Diego Castro, director of Jurisis Victomologia, summed up the findings: “For the second consecutive year we are in the international club of countries with rates of malicious homicides in the double digits. According to the World Health Organization when this phenomenon occurs in a country it is just before an epidemic of violence.”

The study used a matrix of direct and indirect costs of criminal activities to quantify the cost of certain crimes, said Luis Rivera, the economist who headed the study. Direct costs include costs to the victim of property or medical attention, the costs of controlling crime and opportunity costs such as lost productivity. Indirect costs include quality of life costs, effects on the business climate in the country and public trust in institutions.

Castro also emphasized that “The rise of impunity continues its upward tendency. Of the 145,284 complaints presented in the courts last year only 3,856 resulted in sentences. From 1998 to 2010 there has been an increase of 115% in criminal complaints.” Additionally, 2010 saw 506 homicides reported in Costa Rica, of which only 76 resulted in sentences – a rate of impunity of 85%. Those numbers combined with the numbers for other crimes reveal, according to the report, an overall impunity rate of 98.4%.

COMMENT: Jurisis Victomologia's learned report does not reflect well on Costa Rica's criminal justice system and yet, for the first time, offers observers something far more than anecdotal indicators of criminality in Costa Rica. Hence, they are complemented for their efforts and their contributions.

Unfortunately, I have for some time raised concern for escalating violence and crime in Costa Rica, which no doubt reflects adversely on the capacity of the Costa Rican criminal justice system to devote sufficient manpower, training, resources, investigative technology and 21st Century know-how in neutralizing the proliferation of unchecked violence, particularly as it relates to the crime of homicide. It is unsettling to even speculate that other Part 1 crimes [of violence] have similar levels of criminal impunity.

For clarification, The amended Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005, defines impunity as: "the impossibility, de jure or de facto, of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account – whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings – since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims."

The First Principle of the same document cited above states that:
"Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations."

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