From Sat Jul 12 14:00:22 2003
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 18:03:47 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: [rapid-response] Costa Rican Constitutional Court annulled
Article: 161141
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Costa Rican Constitutional Court annulled international adoptions law

Casa Alianza, 8 June 2003

San Josi—Two key articles from the Csdigo de Familia (Family Law) referring to international adoptions were annulled by the Costa Rican Constitutional Court. Both articles were enacted in August, 2002, by the Congress but now are considered illegal.

None of the articles can be applied in any of the pending adoption cases.

Both articles were enacted by the Legislative Assembly last year. One of them allowed the biological parents to put their children up for adoption in justified cases. Foreign families only could adopt a Costa Rican child when no Costa Rican citizen was interested, after the Costa Rica Children Welfare Department (PANI) had declared the minor eligible for adoption.

Adoption was only possible, according to the annulled law, after the authorities had proven that adoption was the best option for the child, through psychological studies. Then, judges could declare the child abandoned as a prerequisite for the adoption process.

These laws regulated the adoption procedure and the circumstances which allowed foreign families to assume care for a Costa Rican child.

Casa Alianza fears that the legal vacuum left by the annulment decision of the Constitutional Court will permit people to profit from the commercial sale of babies for adoption—precisely the outcome which the annulled laws were designed to prevent. The members of the tribunal have not yet explained the reasons for their decision, and the norms which will regulate adoptions in the future remain unclear.

It is not appropriate for Costa Rica, and much less for children, that the commercial trade of babies be permitted. In Guatemala, one of the most successful, non-traditional export products has been the sale of children. There are people asking for USD $20,000 to arrange an adoption, said Bruce Harris, regional director of Casa Alianza programmes for Latin America.

In countries like Guatemala, that have just ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children, authorities have investigated many criminal baby-trafficking organizations that steal children from hospitals or from their mother's arms on the streets.

In a country like Costa Rica, where the abduction of children is punishable with two years in jail, legal controls are indispensable to prevent criminals from making a living off of children, added Harris.

The opinion of the Constitutional Court was presented by the Family Court of Liberia.

The recent reforms to the Family Code also established international agreements ratified by Costa Rica as the legal reference for family law. The Court's verdict is expected to clarify what rules will be implemented in the future.

For more information please contact Bruce Harris at +506- 253-5439 or email or .

To consult the judicial decision 02-13296-0007-CO of the Court:

To obtain a copy of the annulled law, visit the site: