Costa Rica 1949 Constitution (reviewed 2020)

Table of Contents


We, the Representatives of the People of Costa Rica, freely elected Deputies to the National Constituent Assembly, invoking the name of God and reiterating our faith in Democracy, decree and sanction the following:

Title I. The Republic

Sole Chapter

Article 1

Costa Rica is a democratic, free, independent, multiethnic and multicultural Republic.

Article 2

Sovereignty resides exclusively in the Nation.

Article 3

No one may arrogate the sovereignty; whoever does so will commit the crime of treason [against] the Nation.

Article 4

No person or group of persons may assume the representation of the People, arrogate their rights, or make petitions in their name. The infraction of this Article will be sedition.

Article 5

The national territory is included [comprendido] between the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Republics of Nicaragua and Panama. The limits of the Republic are those determined by the Cañas-Jérez Treaty of 15 April 1858, ratified by the Laudo Cleveland [Cleveland Decision] of 22 March 1888, with respect to Nicaragua, and the Echandi Montero-Fernandez Jaen Treaty of 1 May 1941 in what concerns Panama.

The Isla del Coco, situated in the Pacific Ocean, forms part of the national territory.

Article 6

The State exercises the complete and exclusive sovereignty over the aerial space of its territory, over its territorial waters within a distance of twelve miles from the line of low tide along its coats, over its continental platform and over its insular base, in accordance with the principles of International Law.

It also exercises, a special jurisdiction over the seas adjacent to its territory within an extension of two hundred miles from the same line, in order to protect, to preserve and to exploit exclusively all the natural resources and wealth existing in the waters, the soil and the subsoil of those zones, in accordance with such principles.

Article 7

The public treaties, the international agreements and the concordats, duly approved by the Legislative Assembly, will have from their promulgation or from the day designated by them, authority superior to that of the laws.

The Public treaties and the international agreements referring to the territorial integrity or the political organization of the country, will require the approval of the Legislative Assembly, by a vote of no less than the three-quarters part of the totality of its members, and that of two-thirds of the members of a Constituent Assembly, convoked to [that] effect.

Article 8

Foreign States may only acquire within the territory of the Republic, on a reciprocal basis, the real estate [inmuebles] necessary for the seat [sede] of their diplomatic representations, without prejudice to that established by international agreements.

Article 9

The Government of the Republic is popular, representative, participative, alternative and responsible. It is exercised by the People and three Powers distinct and independent between themselves. The Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial.

None of the Powers may delegate the exercise of the functions specific to them.

A Supreme Tribunal of Elections, with the rank and independence of the Powers of the State, has as its responsibility[,] in an exclusive and independent form[,] the organization, direction and supervision of the acts relative to the suffrage, as well as the other functions that this Constitution and the laws attribute to it.

Article 10

It will correspond to a specialized Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice to declare, by absolute majority of its members, the unconstitutionality of the norms of any nature and of the acts subject to the Public Law. The jurisdictional acts of the Judicial Power, the declaration of election made by the Supreme Tribunal of Elections and the others determined by the law[,] will not be impugnable by this way.

It will also correspond to it:

  1. To settle the conflicts of competence between the powers of the State, the Supreme Tribunal of Elections included, as well as with the other entities or organs that the law indicates.
  2. To take cognizance of the consultations on bills of constitutional reform, of approval of international agreements or treaties and of other bills of law, as provided in the law.

Article 11

The public functionaries are simple depositaries of the authority. They are obligated to fulfill the duties that the law imposes on them and they may not arrogate faculties not granted in it. They must take an oath to observe and fulfill this Constitution and the laws. The action to require penal responsibility of them for their acts is public.

The Public Administration in a broad [amplio] sense, will be submitted to a procedure of evaluation of results and accountability, with the consequent personal responsibility for the functionaries in the fulfillment of their duties. The law will specify the means for this control of results and accountability to operate as a system that covers all the public institutions.

Article 12

The Army as a permanent institution is proscribed.

For the vigilance and conservation of the public order, there will be the necessary forces of police.

Military forces may only be organized by a continental agreement or for the national defense; one and the other will always be subordinate to the civil power: they may not deliberate, or make manifestations or declarations in an individual or collective form.

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