Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report No. 102/19, on Case 13,017 A—Families of Victims of Panama’s Military Dictatorship (October 1968–December 1989)

July 24, 2019

   Related links

   Contact info

IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has decided to approve the friendly settlement agreement concerning Case 13,017 A—Families of Victims of Panama’s Military Dictatorship (October 1968–December 1989)—and to publish the relevant approval report. At the same time, the Commission announces its decision to include this document in its Annual Report to the General Assembly of the OAS, and to continue to monitor its implementation until it is complete, in keeping with the assessment included in the approval report. The IACHR congratulates petitioners and the Panamanian State for their efforts to achieve these results.

The case is linked to the State of Panama’s international responsibility for the serious violations of the rights to life, security and personal integrity, personal liberty, judicial safeguards and judicial protection of 109 people who were victims of extrajudicial executions or forced disappearances allegedly committed by officers of the State’s security forces.

In December 2018, the parties told the Commission about the start of the bilateral friendly settlement process, facilitated by Commissioner Flávia Piovesan—the IACHR’s Rapporteur for Panama—, in a meeting held during the Commission’s 171st Period of Sessions. The process was formalized later, as a friendly settlement agreement was signed on June 21, 2019 by the State of Panama and the Héctor Gallego Committee of Relatives of Persons Who Were Murdered or Disappeared in Panama (COFADEPA–HG, by its Spanish acronym), in favor of 13 victims and 84 relatives.

This is the second friendly settlement agreement signed by the Panamanian State concerning cases linked to events that took place during the military dictatorship. The Commission notes that the Panamanian State already signed a friendly settlement agreement on May 23, 2019, with the Committee of Relatives of Missing Persons from Chiriquí (COFADECHI, by its Spanish acronym), in favor of 15 victims and 66 relatives. This agreement was approved by the IACHR on July 13, 2019.

The agreement signed by COFADEPA–HG and the Panamanian State is a response to the petitioning party’s main demands, concerning comprehensive reparation for victims and their families for violations of their human rights committed during the military dictatorship. In particular, it provides for public recognition of the State’s responsibility for the events in question, and it acknowledges progress made to identify and hand over the remains of six victims—Bettzy Mendizabal, Hipólito Quintero Delgado, Reynaldo Sánchez, Ever Quintanar Guzmán, Gerardo Olivares and Gerónimo Díaz—to their families. The agreement provides for the following reparation measures:

• Concerning material and immaterial damage, the State commited to executing—in a diligent and timely fashion, through its Economics and Finance Ministry—payment for the financial obligations that stem from the damages suffered by relatives of the 13 victims of the military dictatorship that are the subject of this agreement. The agreement considers technical reports issued by experts (as required by the Ministry) to establish the reparations required for material damage—which includes emerging damages and loss of profits—and immaterial damage.
• The State committed to implementing measures to restore historical memory about the period 1968–1989, by re-editing, printing, and issuing the leaflet Comisión de la Verdad, Síntesis del Informe Final (Truth Commission—Summary of the Final Report), and by integrating into the high school curriculum the events that took place during the military dictatorship in Panama, as well as their Latin American and global context.
• The State committed to pursuing approval of a bill to declare June 9 as the annual Civic Day of Reflection for Victims of the Military Dictatorship.
• The State committed to working toward hosting a public event to research, design and build a Monument to Persons Who Were Murdered or Disappeared, in memory of all victims of murder and forced disappearance.
• The State committed to issuing a public statement to apologize and recognize its international responsibility, and to taking responsibility, as a State, for the events that took place.
• The State committed to publishing that public statement in a national newspaper and in the Official Journal, and to delivering a copy of that document to all petitioners in this friendly settlement agreement, who are members of COFADEPA–HG.
• The State committed to developing regulations to create the category “Disappeared” for victims of military dictatorship, recorded in Admissibility Report No. 68/15 of October 27, 2015; Report No. 34/06 of March 14, 2006; and the IACHR decision of August 12, 2008, so that the deaths of people who disappeared in this context can be recorded and forced disappearance can be noted as their cause of death.
• The State committed to effectively pursuing ongoing criminal proceedings to establish accountability for those events until they reach their legal conclusion, and to coordinating with public prosecutors in various judicial districts so that all proceedings that stem from cases linked to the military dictatorship are dealt with in the most responsible and timely manner possible.
• Last, the State committed to keeping up work to identify the human remains in its custody, so they may be identified and handed over to the relevant victims’ families. To make that possible, the State will provide the Institute of Forensic Medicine with the budget it needs to buy supplies and hire expert staff to function properly.

The Inter-American Commission closely followed the implementation of the friendly settlement that was agreed in this case and highly commends both parties for their efforts while negotiating the friendly settlement, which turned out to be compatible with the Convention’s aims and purposes. The Commission further commends the Panamanian State for its efforts to build a public policy concerning friendly settlements and alternative conflict-resolution.

Finally, the Commission congratulates both parties for their disposition and willingness to work toward solving this issue without litigation. The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of all pending measures until full compliance is attained.

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. 181/19