Sanchez Villalobos, Ana Victoria and Others v. Costa Rica

Sanchez Villalobos v. Costa Rica, Case 12.361, Inter-Am. Comm’n H.R., Report No. 25/04, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.122, doc. 5 rev. 1 (2004).
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Petitioner, a man seeking treatment for infertility, alleges on behalf of others seeking treatment that the Government of Costa Rica’s prohibition on access to in vitro fertilization, one of the treatments available, constitutes violations of Articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11(2), 17, 24, 25, 26 and 32 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Articles 3, 10 and 15 of the Protocol of San Salvador, and Articles 1 and 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará. The petition was submitted upon the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica’s judgment declaring Presidential Decree 24029-S of February 3, 1995, regulating the practice of in vitro fertilization in Costa Rica, unconstitutional. Petitioner seeks admissibility to the Commission for the latter to analyze the substance of the issues.

The petition is admissible with respect to the alleged violations of rights protected in Articles 1, 2, 11, 17 and 24 of the American Convention. The petition is inadmissible as it relates to the companies Costa Rica Ultrasonografia S.A. and Instituto Costarricense de Fertilidad, as well as it relates to Articles 4, 5, 8, 25, 26 and 32 of the American Convention, to Articles 3, 10 and 15 of the Protocol of San Salvador and to Articles 1 and 7 of the Convention of Belém do Pará.

"To accept the argument of the State that the complaint should be inadmissible because the individual victims were not identified in the initial petition, although they were subsequently identified, would imply a formalistic decision inconsistent with protecting the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and would place the presumed victims in a position of defenselessness. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared that it is a commonly accepted principle that the procedural system is a means for seeing that justice is done, and that it is not sacrificed for the sake of mere formalities."


The Commission has repeatedly declared that it is not enough for the State simply to allege failure to exhaust domestic remedies in order for that exception to prevail. On this point, the Inter-American Court has ruled that a State invoking this exception must also identify those domestic remedies that should have been exhausted, and demonstrate that they would have been effective under the circumstances"

"At the merits stage, the Commission will examine the general right to found a family set forth in the American Convention and other international human rights treaties, as well as in many constitutions, along with the right to protection for private and family life in light of the issues raised in the present petition.

The rights at issue are not absolute; the particular question to be examined is whether State action to restrict individual access to measures in favor of family planning and childbearing is compatible with the terms of the American Convention referred to above. The petition is not, in this sense, manifestly groundless under the terms of the Convention."