Court Upholds Actions to Prevent Beach Camping

August 20, 2004

THE Constitutional Chamber of theSupreme Court (Sala IV) has declaredwithout cause an injunction filed by membersof the Costa Rican Federation for theConservation of the Environment(FECON) against the Costa RicanTourism Institute (ICT), the PublicSecurity Ministry and the Municipality ofCarrillo for actions the three governmentagencies took to prevent camping onPlaya Panamá, in Guanacaste, duringEaster Holy Week (Semana Santa).In the injunction, filed by Isaac Rojas,Pablo Cárdenas, Eduardo Aguilar and GadiAmit, the FECON members claimed theirrights to free transit and use of the publicsector of the Maritime Zone – the first 50meters of land from the shoreline on nearlyall Costa Rican beaches – had been violatedwhen police denied them access to thebeach via a traditional route and preventedcitizens from camping there.That right is guaranteed by Article 9of the Maritime Zone Law, a section ofthe law ICT officials have used to arguethe illegality of beach camping, claimingtents “interrupt” the passage of other citizenson the beach.According to an ICT statement, theSala IV decided that police did not blockthe FECON members’ free transit on thebeach, but it did not mention whetherpitching a tent on the beach is legal or not– an issue the country apparently has notmade up its mind about (TT, April 16).Amit told The Tico Times in April thata small group of FECON members wereable to pitch tents on the beach duringSemana Santa, and that police saw thembut did not prevent them from camping(TT, April 16).The statement said the Sala IV justifiedthe police action because the roadpolice blocked passed through a wetlandthat had suffered considerable damage.

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