IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Signing of Friendly Settlement in Case 13,017 C-Families of Victims of Panama’s Military Dictatorship

June 4, 2019

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the signing of the friendly settlement in Case 13,017 C-Families of Victims of Panama’s Military Dictatorship (October 1968-December 1989). The agreement was signed on May 23, 2019 by the Committee of Relatives of Persons Who Were Murdered or Disappeared in Chiriquí (COFADECHI, by its Spanish acronym).

In October 23, 2003, the IACHR received a petition from relatives of alleged victims of the military dictatorship that ruled Panama in 1968-1989, concerning that State. The petition alleged that, in the context marked by violence and abuse of power during the military dictatorship that ruled Panama from October 11, 1968 until December 20, 1989, a total of 109 people were subjected to extrajudicial executions or forced disappearances that could allegedly be blamed on agents of the State’s security forces.

On October 27, 2015, the Commission filed Admissibility Report No. 68/15. In its report, the IACHR concluded that it had competent jurisdiction to assess alleged violations of the following articles: i) Articles 3 (Right to Juridical Personality), 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial) and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, concerning the obligations held in Articles 1.1 and 2 of that instrument, against 39 alleged victims of forced disappearance; ii) Articles I, III and XI of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, concerning 39 alleged victims of forced disappearance; iii) Article 19 (Rights of the Child) of the American Convention, concerning two children who were allegedly victims of forced disappearance; iv) Articles I, XXV and XXVI of the American Declaration, concerning 28 persons allegedly executed before June 1978; v) Articles 4 (Right to Life), 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 7 (Right to Personal Liberty), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial) and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention, concerning 39 persons allegedly executed after June 1978; vi) Article 19 (Rights of the Child) of the American Convention concerning a child who was allegedly executed extrajudicially; vii) Articles 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), 8 (Right to a Fair Trial) and 25 (Right to Judicial Protection) of the American Convention, concerning the obligations held in Articles 1.1 and 2 of that instrument; and viii) Article XVIII of the American Declaration, concerning relatives of 106 alleged victims.

In December 2018, the Commission was informed that the parties had bilaterally started negotiating a friendly settlement on Case 13,017 A. Further, the parties noted that a Panamanian Truth Commission was in place over the period 2003-2005, while a Roundtable for Understanding was in place in 2010; that roundtable brought together the State and organizations of victims’ families, and the parties worked to develop formulae for potential reparation measures in favor of surviving victims and victim families. Further, the parties asked the IACHR to break down the case so they might pursue two different friendly settlements, with different types of reparations and different potential beneficiaries in Cases 13,017 A and C.

Applying new work methodologies, the Commission facilitated working meetings and videoconferences with the parties and provided technical assistance so they could make progress on the design of that friendly settlement. Such facilitation efforts led to the signing of a friendly settlement agreement on May 23, 2019 in Panama City, at a ceremony that brought together high authorities of the Panamanian State and 66 relatives of 15 victims. Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, IACHR Rapporteur for Panama, took part in the event remotely. In that context, the friendly settlement agreement signed by the parties involves 81 people. (See photos of the signing of the friendly settlement)

The friendly settlement that was signed includes major satisfaction measures, such as an event to accept responsibility and a monument in the memory of people who were executed or were victims of forced disappearance, as well as financial compensation measures. The Commission also highlights recognition by the parties to that friendly settlement of the positive overall impact of State actions to investigate and to implement court convictions in the following cases:

a. Everett Clayton Kimble (Case CV-D-049-01), where the Supreme Court of Justice issued a criminal-law sentence.

b. Edwin Eredio Amaya (Case CV-D-007-01), where the Second Criminal-Law Chamber at the Second High Prosecutor’s Office in the First Judicial District issued a criminal-law sentence.

c. Julio Mario Villarreal De las Casas (Case CV-D-102-01), where a criminal-law sentence for a “crime against human life” was issued by the High Court in the Third Judicial District of Chiriquí on September 19, 2012, and where subsequent sentences were issued by the Second Criminal-Law Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice on August 31 and November 27, 2015.

d. José Manuel Morantes Madrid (Case CV-D-066-01), where a criminal-law sentence for a “crime against human life” was issued by the High Court in the Third Judicial District of Chiriquí on September 19, 2012, and where subsequent sentences were issued by the Second Criminal-Law Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice on August 31 and November 27, 2015.

The Commission stresses that, as a consequence of including a justice clause in friendly settlement agreements and of subsequent compliance with that clause by States, victims of human rights violations obtain moral satisfaction, which is one step toward restoring trust in State structures. Further, the adoption of justice measures sends society the message that similar events will not go unnoticed, which helps to prevent new human rights violations from being perpetrated in the future. The Commission values the fact that this friendly settlement entails significant progress in terms of justice, as a tool to prevent such events from happening again in the future.

“In the context of prioritizing the friendly settlement mechanism, the Panamanian government’s participation in this and other cases that are being negotiated has shown its political will to cooperate and its commitment to the Inter-American System as an early-warning mechanism to identify human rights issues that require State action to provide comprehensive reparation for victims of human rights violations. By signing this agreement, the Panamanian State has made progress toward developing a public policy based on friendly settlements and on compliance with commitments made in such agreements,” said Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, IACHR Rapporteur for Panama. Commissioner Piovesan also asked the State “to start executing the reparation measures included in this friendly settlement agreement, particularly the one requiring an event to accept responsibility.” (See Commissioner Piovesan’s speech)

The Commission values the good disposition of Panama’s Foreign Ministry to streamline negotiations toward this agreement, in constant cooperative dialogue with the IACHR’s Friendly Settlement Section and with the petitioning party. The IACHR calls on the relevant authorities to comply with the international obligations that stem from this agreement. The Commission also values the good will of the petitioning party and its tireless struggle to reach an agreement that allows victims and their families to access comprehensive reparations.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 141/19