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Can a public institution deny me access to information by simply indicating that it is «confidential»?

Access to information held by public institutions is a fundamental right. This information may be needed for reporting, investigative, or other purposes. However, there are certain cases in which access to the information may be denied because it is confidential or because there is a legal rule that expressly prohibits its disclosure. The Constitutional Court recently heard of an amparo against the Ombudsman in relation to this right. In this blog we briefly analyze this ruling.

In judgment 26671-2022, the Constitutional Court granted a writ of amparo against the Ombudsman. The amparo was filed by the union of the institution. The Court found that the Ombudsman had infringed upon two constitutional rights.

The first violation was regarding access to information. The union had requested two documents from the Ombudsman’s Office. The Office denied access to one of them because it considered that «what was said is the only thing that can be reported, since the rest is not publicly accessible.» The Ombudsman did not provide other reasons. In the ruling, the Constitutional Court concluded that the Ombudsman violated the plaintiff´s right of access to information because it did not indicate which content of the documents was confidential and which was not, nor did it explain the reasons why it considered that certain information was not of public access.

The second violation found by the Court was regarding the right to petition. The other document requested by the union was not in the Ombudsman´s Office. For this reason, the Office asked the union to direct its request to another office within the same institution. The Court concluded that the Office should have redirected the request to the corresponding office so that it could entertain the request and provide a response to the union. In this sense, the Court emphasized that «the fact of simply indicating to the union which organ of that same unit had the information of interest, does not imply that the content of ordinals 27 and 30 of the Constitution has been complied with.»

At CELIG we consider this judgment to be of particular interest because it establishes two important conclusions. The first one is that every institution is obliged to indicate the reason why it considers that certain information is not publicly accessible. The second one is that this judgment reiterates that if a person directs a request to the wrong office, that office is obliged to redirect the request to the competent office.

At CELIG we provide specialized services to the LGBTQI+ community. If you want more information or make an appointment with us, call us at 4800-0248/2245-0855 or write to

We are located in San José, Barrio Escalante.

M.Sc. Ana Isabel Sibaja Rojas

CELIG – Center for Equal Litigation