IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Applauds the Signing of the Friendly Settlement Agreement for Case 13.017 A - Relatives of Victims of the Military Dictatorship in Panama

Junio 24, 2019

   Related links

   Contact info

María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
mrivero@oas.org

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the signing of the friendly settlement agreement for Case 13.017 A: Relatives of Victims of the Military Dictatorship in Panama (October 1968–December 1989). The agreement was signed by the Héctor Gallego Committee of the Relatives of Panama’s Disappeared and Murdered People (COFADEPA.HG) and the state of Panama, on June 21, 2019.

On October 23, 2003, the IACHR received a petition from the relatives of alleged victims of the military dictatorship that was in power in Panama between 1968 and 1969, against the state. The petition alleged that during the period of violence and abuse of power that prevailed during the military dictatorship that ruled Panama from October 11, 1968, to December 20, 1989, 109 people fell victim to extrajudicial executions or forced disappearances, allegedly at the hands of state security forces.

On October 27, 2015, the IACHR issued Admissibility Report No. 68/15. In the report, the IACHR concluded that it was competent to examine the alleged violation of articles: i) 3 (the right to recognition of juridical personality), 4 (the right to life), 5 (the right to personal integrity), 7 (the right to personal liberty), 8 (the right to a fair trial), and 25 (the right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights, in relation to the obligations established in articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument, to the detriment of 39 victims who were allegedly disappeared; ii) I, III, and XI of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, to the detriment of 39 victims who were allegedly disappeared; iii) 19 (the rights of the child) of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of the two minors who were allegedly disappeared; iv) I, XXV and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, to the detriment of 28 alleged victims allegedly executed before June 1978; v) 4 (the right to life), 5 (the right to personal integrity), 7 (the right to personal liberty), 8 (the right to fair trial), and 25 (the right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of 39 alleged victims allegedly executed after June 1978; vi) 19 (the rights of the child) of the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of a minor who was allegedly executed extrajudicially; vii) 5 (the right to personal integrity), 8 (the right to a fair trial), and 25 (the right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights in relation to the obligations set forth in Articles 1.1 and 2 of this instrument; and (viii) XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, to the detriment of the families of 106 alleged victims.

In December 2018, the IACHR was informed that the parties had decided on a bilateral basis to negotiate a friendly settlement agreement for case 13.017. Furthermore, the two parties reported that the Truth Commission of Panama had been in operation from 2003 to 2005 and that in 2010 a Working Group for Understanding was implemented by organizations representing victims’ families and the state, through which the two parties had moved toward drafting formulas for possible reparation measures for alleged survivors and victims’ families. The parties also asked the IACHR to provide a breakdown of the case so as to make progress on two friendly settlement agreements for cases 13.017 A and C, which entail different types of reparation measures and potential beneficiaries.

Applying new working methodologies, the IACHR facilitated working meetings and videoconferences with the parties and provided technical guidance to help them make headway on designing the agreement. As a result of this work, a friendly settlement agreement was signed on June 21, 2019, in Panama City, at a solemn ceremony which was attended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama and the relatives of 13 victims who signed the friendly settlement agreement. The IACHR’s Friendly Settlement Department attended via videoconference. The friendly settlement agreement signed by the parties includes 13 people. (See photos of the signing ceremony for the friendly settlement agreement.)

The agreement that was signed contains highly significant measures of satisfaction, including an act of recognition of responsibility, the implementation of a measure to preserve the memory of these events, the investigation and punishment of those responsible for them, the construction of a memorial to those who were murdered and disappeared, and financial compensation measures.

The IACHR also wishes to draw attention to the measure relating to the drafting of a leaflet on the Final Report of the Truth Commission, which will contain information on the events of the military dictatorship and is an important part of the agreement as it will ensure that the memory of the case is preserved and that these events are not repeated. The state also committed to including similar events that took place in Latin America in the secondary school curriculum to ensure that young people have access to information about this period in Panama’s history and its impact on the protection of human rights at the time. The agreement also includes a measure to implement a Civic Day of Reflection for Victims of the Military Dictatorship, as part of the efforts the state will make to prevent these events from being repeated.

The IACHR also wishes to draw attention to the emblematic legislative measure that obliges the state to establish the category of “disappeared” for victims of the 1968–1989 military dictatorship who have been recognized as such in the IACHR Admissibility Report, among other decisions reached by IASHR organs.

The IACHR wishes to underline that the inclusion of the justice clause in friendly settlement agreements and subsequent compliance with this by states has resulted in victims of human rights violations receiving moral satisfaction, which is a step toward restoring confidence in the state. Furthermore, by adopting measures of justice, states are sending a message to society that similar events will not go unnoticed, thus preventing human rights violations from being committed in the future. The IACHR values the fact that this friendly settlement agreement includes significant advances in the area of justice, as a measure to ensure that these events are not repeated in the future.

Also with regard to justice, the IACHR welcomes the fact that some skeletal remains of victims have been identified and returned to the families of the disappeared. It also acknowledges the state’s commitment to continue the process of returning victims’ mortal remains to their families.

At the signing ceremony for the friendly settlement agreement, the petitioners said that the agreement represents a step forward in the struggle they have been engaged in for all these years and that they hope that the incoming government will take steps to clarify the events of the dictatorship and thus heal the wounds and situations that have arisen since. They stressed that although the agreement was a major step forward, their struggle continues, as there are things they have yet to achieve. They requested support from the IACHR in the process of following up on the agreement until it has been fully complied with, in the hope that the enormous efforts that have been made will not be forgotten but will instead mark the beginning of a new era.

Commissioner Flávia Piovesan, IACHR rapporteur for Panama, said that “the IACHR is committed to doing everything in its power to follow up on the agreement to ensure that it can achieve its objective, namely for the victims and the states to be able to work together to rebuild the social fabric of Panamanian society and achieve reconciliation on this matter.”

The IACHR appreciates the willingness of the authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama to engage in constant, collaborative dialogue with the IACHR Friendly Settlement Department and the petitioners, which enabled the agreement to be negotiated swiftly. It also urges the relevant authorities to comply with the international obligations that ensue from the agreement. The IACHR appreciates the willingness of the petitioning party, COFADEPA-HG, to engage in this process and its tireless struggle to reach an agreement that will allow victims and their families access to full reparation.

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. 156/19