Cecilia Sánchez, ministra de Justicia y Paz. Foto: Prensa Asamblea Legislativa.
Cecilia Sánchez, ministra de Justicia y Paz

This week the Constitutional Court found in favour of the appeal by the Ministier of Justice, Cecelia Sanchez, against the most sold newspaper in Costa Rica, for its report claiming that the Minister was responsible for an inmate committing a rape after being given a conditional release.

In Costa Rica, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for the prison system.

The newspaper alleged that Sanchez, as a high public official and head of Justice, was responsible for an inmate raping a young girl in San Ramon after being awarded a conditional release.

The full Court, in a judgement (11306-2016) drafted by Magistrate Fernando Castillo Víquez, unanimously agreed to order the Diario Extra to pay costs and damages.

In the judgement, the Court said that report “contains serious inaccuracies that are even slanderous, intended to induce the reader into error and by cause and effect attributing responsibility of the alleged crime committed by the inmate to the Minister.”

The newspaper report alleged that Sanchez, as a high public official and head of Justice was responsible for the events that occurred.

“Attributing the act (rape) by another, is inaccurate, besides being in error, the news (report) suggests that the former inmate was given the benefit to commit the alleged crime,” says the judgement.

The Minister has insisted and now confirmed by the Constitutional Court, that the power to relocate inmates to a semi-institutional (half-way house) program is the sole responsibility of the National Institute fo Criminology (INC) and not the minister.

“There is a share of responsibility of the press when disseminating information that is inaccurate, biased and slanderous (…) especially when they direct attacks on public officials who are complying with the law,” said the Ministry of Justice in a “right to reply” sent to the newspaper, which was not published within the time established by law.

Minister Sanchez must not start a civil proceeding to enfore the judgement.

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