Court: War Support Unconstitutional

September 10, 2004

PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco’s decision to declaremoral support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last Marchhas been declared unconstitutional by the nation’s highestcourt, meaning Costa Rica must ask the United States toremove its name from the “Coalition of the Willing.”The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court(Sala IV) this week voted unanimously to side with thecountry’s Ombudsman and two lawyers who had filedthree cases against the President, alleging that support forthe Iraq invasion violates the nation’s Constitution.The seven Sala IV judges ruled that “for going againstthe Constitution; the international system of the UnitedNations, and the international system accepted by CostaRica, the agreement of the nineteenth day of March of2003, relating to the warlike conflict in Iraq, is annulled, asis all acts or action related to it.”The cases were filed by Ombudsman José ManuelEchandi, lawyer Luis Roberto Zamora, and lawyer DuniaChacón, representing the Costa Rican Lawyers’Association.The President said yesterday he will respect the ruling,though he continued to deny that he ever supported the war.FOREIGN Minister Roberto Tovar announced in astatement Wednesday that he would comply with the ruling,and send a “diplomatic note requesting the exclusionof the name of Costa Rica on the list of countries of thenamed coalition.”Tovar was careful to point out that to his understanding,“the court did not accept the theory that the governmentdeclared war or supported the war in Iraq, becauseit never did.”President Pacheco echoed Tovar’s response during an emergency Cabinet Meeting held yesterdaymorning (see separate article).However, the copy of the Sala IV resolutionsent by the Judicial Branch to TheTico Times makes no such specification.DESPITE publicly announcing hismoral support for the invasion – going sofar as taking out a full-page ad in LaNación – the President continues to denyhe ever supported the war, and has carefullyavoided using that word when referringto the invasion of Iraq.Pacheco will only concede he supportedthe “defense of…the citizens of anally.”When questioned by The Tico Times inMay whether his decision to support thewar had changed after the revelation of theprisoner abuse scandal, Pacheco said,“You are misinformed. I never supportedany war” (TT, May 14).However, the White House Web site,www.whitehouse.gov, explicitly explainsthe purpose of the coalition is to conduct“military operations” to disarm Iraq of itsweapons of mass destruction, and that contributionsto the coalition range from“direct military participation” to “politicalsupport.”ONE of the arguments presented duringthe Aug. 11 Sala IV hearing on thematter was that the decision had resulted ininternational embarrassment for the country:Costa Rica is named as a coalitionmember in the anti-war film “Fahrenheit9/11” (TT, Aug. 13). Pacheco later toldreporters that Michael Moore, the film’sdirector, had lied (TT, Aug. 27).Government Attorney Farid Beirute,who was required to attend the hearing torepresent the state’s interest, had alreadysaid in a statement sent to the court onMay 12, 2003 that he believed thePresident’s decision is unconstitutional(TT, June 18).A representative of the U.S. Embassyin San José said the United States willrespect the Sala IV decision.“Costa Rica is a democracy in whichthe rule of law prevails. We respect thatthe government of Costa Rica must takeappropriate steps to conform to its highestcourt’s rulings,” spokeswoman ElaineSamson told The Tico Times onThursday.

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