Tuesday 2 March 2021

Why Is The Costa Rica Judicial Process So Slow Compared To Nicaragua?

In Costa Rica it takes years from arrest to investigation to trial to conviction.
In Costa Rica it takes years from arrest to investigation to trial to conviction.

Adrián Salmerón Silva, the perpetrator of the Matapalo Massacre, Santa Cruz, last February was arrested in Nicaragua on February 19, had a hearing on April 29 and this past week was sentenced to 183 years in prison for the crimes he had committed in Costa Rica.

Silva, a Nicaraguan national, fled Costa Rica for his native land, where that country’s constitution does not permit extradition, but it can try it citizens for crimes committed abroad.

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The rapidity of the Nicaraguan judicial system has left many in Costa Rica to ask why is the Costa Rica judicial process so slow compared to Nicaragua?

Alexander Rodriguez, a lawyer who took part in the creation of the Criminal Procedures Code of Nicaragua, says the answer is simple: “In Costa Rica there are no fixed deadlines for the duration of processes. The only thing there is, is the principle of reasonable process, but not stated is the time frame.”

Read here for another recent case of quick Nicaragua justice, the case of Costa Rica model Adriana Corella found guilty of money laundering.

Rodriguez explains that the current Nicaragua Criminal Procedures Code, in place since 2002, establishes a time frame for each stage of the process and if disobeyed it calls for an immediate release of the accused.

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The legal expert added that Nicaragua’s Article 134 of the Criminal Procedures Code requires, in the case of a major crime, a judge is to pronounce a verdict within a period of not more than three months from the first hearing. For lesser crimes, the period is two months.

The only exception to the rule is a “force majeure“.

According to Rodriguez, in Nicaragua, as in other countries such as Colombia and Ecuador, prosecutors receive the complaint, define what is admissible as evidence and map out a strict procedural time frame.

“This makes everything flow better and faster. Clearly, there are judicial controls, but everything runs smoothly,” added the lawyer.

However, the Criminal Procedures Code in Costa Rica, in the 1996 reform, included a the concept of a “meticulous control of an investigation”, with the objective that the inquiry would be flexible and quick, but, in reality, the trial is burdened with voluminous files of evidence.

“This is what is called bureaucratic or formal investigation. This occurs even though the most important evidence is during the public oral hearing,” criticized the legal expert.

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In addition, explains Rodriguez, the Costa Rica criminal process consists of three stages: the preparatory (gathering of evidence), intermediate (preliminary hearing for a judge to decide if the case is elevated to trial; and the trial.

Rodriguez said in Nicaragua there is no intermediate stage.

Carlos Chinchilla, president of Costa Rica’s Sala Tercera (Criminal Court), admits the intermediate stage slows the process. “If I remove that stage of the preliminary hearing, if I rip out that page, I save two years in the process,” said the judge.

Judge Chinchilla believes that the Costa Rica Criminal Procedures Code could be reformed to make it less cumbersome. In addition, he said he could present such a proposal for the reform.

For his part, Rodriguez added that in Costa Rica, the heavy case load of the prosecutor’s office (Ministerio Publico) and the courts (Tribunales) adds to prolonged trials.

Rodriguez that in Nicaragua, for example, the prosecutor’s office does not have the workload as Costa Rica’s. The lawyer added that courts (in Costa Rica) are saturated such that the earliest trial dates are in 2017.

Source La Nacion

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