Costa Rica Plans Organized Crime Court to Halt Corruption

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Costa Rica has set in motion a plan to establish a specialized organized crime and drug trafficking court in an attempt to stop organized crime infiltrating the country’s judicial system.

The Costa Rican Court of the Judiciary has approved plans to create a new court with exclusive jurisdiction over investigating and prosecuting cases involving organized crime groups and drug trafficking, reported La Nacion.

The body will operate out of a single site in San Jose, where information related to investigations such as wiretaps and search warrants will be concentrated in order to prevent it being leaked to criminals.

The court will include judges specialized in organized crime cases, who will be closely vetted and will receive special security measures, one of the judges involved in the process told La Nacion. The proposal will now be presented to the country’s Congress.

Plans for the court were drawn up the Supreme Court’s Investigatory Commission on the Penetration of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking, set up in May following a corruption scandal involving a judge accused of accepting bribes in exchange for releasing drug traffickers.

The commission has also proposed establishing a unit to investigate the background of judge candidates, to ensure that they do not have ties to criminal groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

Organized crime networks and drug traffickers looking to take root in a country generally attempt to corrupt state institutions to gain protection for their activities. If they penetrate the judicial system, criminals may be able to ensure impunity for their actions.

This has been evident in numerous countries across the region that have an established organized crime presence, such as Guatemala, where anti-impunity campaigners publicly named and shamed 18 “judges of impunity,” accused of making illegitimate decisions in favor of traffickers. In Mexico, dubious decisions to release top-level traffickers have been traced back to allegedly corrupt judges and magistrates.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica

There is evidence to suggest that Costa Rica is firmly in the sight of organized crime groups, with rising violence in some areas and reports of a growing presence of Mexican cartels. The country is attractive to these groups as it can act as a convenient drug transit nation and offers an easier operating environment than countries such as the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, which are going through security crises.

If Costa Rica is to stem this criminal migration then decisive actions to prevent corruption of state institutions such as the planned judicial reforms will be as important as drug interdictions and arrests, if not more so.

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