Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Situation in Juvenile Jail in Panama

June 22, 2011

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the serious injuries suffered by a number of juveniles in fires at the Arco Iris Youth Custody Facility in Tocumen, Panama. The IACHR calls urgently on the State to adopt any necessary measures to prevent this type of incident, and to duly investigate these events so that they do not happen again.

According to publicly available information, on June 19 and 20, 2011, at least 15 adolescents were injured in fires at the Arco Iris Youth Custody Facility (Centro de Custodia de Menores) in Tocumen.

The State holds a special position as guarantor when it comes to the rights of persons deprived of liberty, which means that the State has the obligation to guarantee their life and humane treatment. Its obligation as guarantor means that the State must take all necessary measures to diligently prevent situations of risk that, as in this case, may pose serious threats to the fundamental rights of those in custody. This obligation also carries special features with regard to minors, which means the State must work more intensely to prevent situations that could place incarcerated children and adolescents at risk.

The State has the duty to investigate and punish alleged violations of the right to life and humane treatment, particularly when these occur in correctional facilities. In this regard, the absence of a serious, diligent, and impartial investigation would lead to a situation of impunity and contribute to the recurrence of similar events.

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 human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 60/11