Press Release

IACHR Announces the Publication of Report No. 91/19 on Case 13.017 C, Relatives of Victims of the Military Dictatorship in Panama, October 1968 to December 1989

June 28, 2019

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced its decision to approve the friendly settlement agreement for Case 13.017 C: Relatives of Victims of the Military Dictatorship in Panama (October 1968–December 1989) and to publish its Approval Report. It also announced that it would be including this case in its Annual Report to the OAS General Assembly and would continue monitoring the implementation of it until full compliance has been reached, as described in the Approval Report. The IACHR wishes to congratulate the state and the petitioners for their hard work.

The case relates to the state of Panama’s international responsibility for serious violations of the rights to life, personal integrity, and personal liberty, the rights to a fair trial and judicial protection, and the rights of the child, to the detriment of 109 people who were victims of extrajudicial executions or forced disappearances that were allegedly carried out by members of state security forces.

In December 2018, the parties informed the IACHR that they had begun bilateral negotiations toward a friendly settlement, which was facilitated by Commissioner Flávia Piovesan in her capacity as rapporteur for Panama at a working meeting that took place during the IACHR’s 171st Period of Sessions. The process came to fruition on May 23, 2019, when a friendly settlement agreement was signed in favor of 15 victims and 66 relatives of theirs.

The agreement responds to the petitioners’ main claims regarding comprehensive reparation for victims and their families for the human rights violations they suffered during the military dictatorship and particularly contemplates public acknowledgment of the state’s responsibility for the events that transpired. The agreement signed includes the following reparation measures:

• With regard to material damages, the state will swiftly implement the procedure for paying financial obligations that derive from the damage or harm suffered by the 15 victims of the military dictatorship who are the subject of this agreement, which it will do through the Ministry of the Economy and Finance. The amounts of the reparation for material damage will be defined based on the expert technical appraisals required by the state for this end.

• The state undertook to make a public announcement asking for forgiveness and recognizing and accepting its international responsibility as a state for the events that occurred. As part of this announcement, the state has undertaken to ask for public forgiveness from the families of victims through COFADECHI for the crimes reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This event will take place in the province of Chiriquí and will be attended by state authorities and relatives of victims who are part of COFADECHI or COFADEPA and who wish to participate.

• This the state also undertook to publish this announcement in a national daily newspaper and in the Official Gazette and to deliver a copy of it to each of the petitioners for the Friendly Settlement Agreement that are members of COFADECHI.

• The state committed to placing a new plaque on the obelisk monument in the main square in Volcán, Chiriquí province, which was built in memory of those who were murdered and disappeared during the military dictatorship in Panama.

Both the state and the petitioners acknowledge the progress that has been made on investigating these events and punishing those responsible for them. Specifically, in the agreement, the two parties acknowledged that headway had been made on various investigation processes that had culminated in convictions for some of the perpetrators of these crimes.

The IACHR monitored the development of this friendly settlement closely and praised the two parties for the efforts they made during the negotiations toward reaching an agreement that would be compatible with the objectives of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR also congratulates the state of Panama for its efforts to develop public policy on friendly settlements and alternative forms of dispute resolution.

Finally, the IACHR commends both parties for their willingness to move toward settling this issue through nonadversarial means and will continue to monitor implementation of the remaining measures until they have been fully complied with.

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. 163/19