Nº 10/01       

            1.       Today, June 8, 2001, marks the end of the on-site visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ("IACHR" or "Commission") to the Republic of Panama, at the invitation of its Government, in order to observe the general situation of human rights in this country.  The delegation consisted of the following members of the Commission: the President, Dean Claudio Grossman, the Second Vice President, Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, and Professor Hélio Bicudo.  Dr. Santiago Canton, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, participated in the visit in that capacity.  Also attending were its Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana; the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David Padilla; and the human rights specialist of the Commission, Dr. Raquel Poitevien, who is responsible for Panama.  In addition, Dr. Isabel Madariaga participated as an attorney/consultant on indigenous matters.  Mrs. Martha Keller and Mrs. Nadia Hansen provided administrative support. 

          2.       The Commission is the main organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for promoting, in an impartial manner, observance and defense of human rights in the Hemisphere.  The authority of the IACHR is derived largely from the American Convention on Human Rights or Pact of San José ("the American Convention") and the OAS Charter, instruments that were ratified by the Republic of Panama.  To that end, the Commission investigates and makes decisions related to individual complaints of human rights violations, holds on-site visits (such as its current visit to Panama), and prepares draft treaties and declarations on human rights, as well as reports on the situation of human rights in the countries of the region.  The Commission is composed of seven members elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly to serve for a period of four years. 

          3.       During the visit, the IACHR interviewed the President of the Republic of Panama, Her Excellency Mireya Moscoso; the Chairpersons of the Commissions on Human Rights and Indigenous Affairs of the Legislative Assembly, Lawmakers Felipe Cano and Enrique Montezuma, respectively; the President of the Supreme Court, Dr. Mirtza Franceschi de Aguilera, and other senior state officials of the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary, and other state offices. 

          4.       The Commission also interviewed the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Harmodio Arias; the Minister of Government and Justice, Dr. Winston Spadafora; the Vice Minister of Labor and Employment, Mr. Jaime A. Moreno Díaz; the Minister of Youth, Women, Children, and Family, Ms. Alba Tejada de Rolla; the Attorney General of Panama, Mr.  José Antonio Sossa; and the Director of National Police, Mr. Carlos Barés.  On that occasion, the Commission was also able to meet with the magistrates of the electoral tribunal, presided over by Dr. Erasmo Pinilla Castillero. 

          5.       With regard to the meetings with the different sectors of Panamanian civil society, the Commission interviewed representatives of more than 30 non-governmental human rights organizations who submitted reports on their different areas of work.  The IACHR also met with representatives and authorities of the different indigenous peoples, who provided the IACHR with information on the situation of human rights in their communities. 

          6.       The IACHR also met with representatives and delegates of different United Nations specialized agencies, among them PAHO/WHO, the UNCHR, and UNICEF, with whom it shared important information on different topics. 

          7.       The Commission also visited the La Joyita Penitentiary, the Women's Rehabilitation Center, and the Juvenile Detention Center.  During these visits, the IACHR interviewed the National Director of the Correctional System, Ms. Concepción Corro, Ms. Ariel Herrera (La Joya), Ms. Marta Navarro de Ávila (women), and Mr. Diomedes Kaa, Director of the Institute of Inter-disciplinary Studies. 

          8.       The Commission also visited the National Psychiatric Hospital, together with experts from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Dr. Lilian Reneau-Vernon (PAHO/WHO representative in Panama), Dr. José Miguel Caldas de Almeida (Regional Coordinator of the PAHO/WHO Mental Health Program), and Mr. Javier Vásquez (Representative of the Department of Legal Affairs and the PAHO/WHO Mental Health Program). 

          9.       The IACHR went to the rural areas of the country and visited the Kuna de Madungandi region to meet with the authorities of Kuna and Embera and visited the community.  In addition, it traveled through the area and obtained information pertaining to case 12.354 that is currently being processed by the IACHR. 

          10.     As is customary during these visits, the IACHR received complaints from individuals, either directly or through their representatives, who claim to have been the victims of human rights violations.  It also interviewed persons who wished to supplement the information provided in their petitions and cases being processed by the Commission. 

          11.     The IACHR wishes to note that it had complete freedom to arrange meetings with the persons whom it wanted to interview and to go anywhere it saw fit.  The Government of Panama provided the Commission with the most extensive assistance and cooperation possible in every area in order to accomplish its mission. 

          12.     This on-site visit has facilitated a closer relationship with the State and civil society, which is conducive to the continuation of joint work related to the ongoing task of protecting and promoting human rights.  The work done by the IACHR allowed it to make an assessment, which, at this juncture, is preliminary and provisional, of the general situation of human rights in Panama.  The information received will be analyzed carefully at the upcoming meetings that the Commission will hold at its headquarters in order to prepare a report on the situation of human rights in Panama.  It is important to point out that when it receives, processes, and makes decisions related to the petitions of individuals who report human rights violations, it is performing quasi-legal functions.  Consequently, the IACHR refrains from making specific statements related to cases that can be prejudicial to the merits of the individual cases submitted for its consideration. 

          13.     The foregoing notwithstanding, now that its visit has ended, the Commission would like to make the following general statements: 


          14.     Since the last visit of the IACHR to Panama in March 1998, the Commission has followed closely developments in the general situation of human rights in Panama, and has noted that currently, there are signs of very significant progress in this area.  Panama has undergone sweeping and significant change since the inauguration of the Government of President Guillermo Endara on December 20, 1989, who was democratically elected in the May 1989 general elections.  The advent of a democratic regime brought an end to 21 years of military dictatorship and systematic human rights violations, thereby creating conditions that were conducive to progress in the areas of democratic institution-building and strengthening of the rule of law.  These conditions led to the restoration of political freedoms, the dismantling of the dictatorial and repressive apparatus, and to the prosecution of a number of persons responsible for human rights violations.  During this phase, the Panamanian State worked towards the passage of a variety of laws and the establishment of institutions to guarantee exercise of human rights.  It should also be noted that Panama ratified all the human rights instruments of the Organization of American States. 

          15.     In addition, the Panamanian State abolished the Army and created, by means of a constitutional provision, a police force that came under civilian authority.  It also increased the professionalism of the national police through a system of mandatory studies in the "Training School for Officers." Other areas of noteworthy progress are the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman, two general elections (in 1994 and 1999), and more recently, the establishment of the Truth Commission to investigate the crimes committed during the period of dictatorship.  All these represent noteworthy measures taken to strengthen democracy and human rights in Panama since 1990. 

          16.     The Government of Panama has sought to improve prison conditions, as evidenced by the demolition of the Modelo Prison a few years ago.  This penitentiary, which was built in 1920, did not meet any international human rights standards applicable to persons deprived of their liberty.  When this facility was destroyed, two new prisons were built in order to alleviate the problem of overcrowding in the penitentiary system.  The Panamanian State is preparing a series of draft laws and programs aimed at improving the administration of justice.  Furthermore, a draft reform electoral law has been prepared, and seeks, among other things, to improve the mechanisms used to hold elections and the system of financing of elections.  In early May 2001, the Code of Criminal Procedure was amended, in order to reduce delays in the judicial system.  However, these delays still exist and are cause for concern. 

          17.     The Panamanian State has repealed a number of "gag" laws, and during the visit, it pledged to repeal the other laws that curb the right to freedom of expression before the end of this constitutional period.  The IACHR was also informed by the Government that it would authorize the establishment of a UNHCR Office in Panama in the Darién area.  Furthermore, with respect to the situation regarding indigenous peoples, permission was granted for girls to wear their traditional garb to schools located in indigenous areas and research will be done to determine whether barriers exist to the entry of traditional indigenous names in the civil register.  The IACHR commends Panama for all these initiatives that it will take, which will serve to  protect of the cultural rights of indigenous peoples. 

          18.     Despite the progress made, there are important situations that are affecting the full exercise of human rights in Panama.  Urgent and decisive efforts should be made by the Panamanian State to address them.   A brief account of other important situations related to the observance of human rights in the Republic of Panama is provided below: 


            19.     The IACHR paid special attention to the information received regarding the exercise of economic, cultural, and social rights.  It should be noted that Panama has ratified the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights or the Protocol of San Salvador, which outlines, at the regional level, the specific provisions related to these rights. 

          20.     The IACHR has been informed of the limitations to the exercise of these rights as a result of insufficient development, a lack of resources, and unequal distribution of income.  In particular, the IACHR has received troubling information on the situation of indigenous communities and farmers, where poverty rates are as high as 90% of the inhabitants and where several indicators of infant mortality, health care, education, and living and working conditions are deplorable.  The IACHR will analyze all the information received in due course and will present its conclusions regarding the exercise of economic, social, and cultural rights. 

          B.        TRUTH COMMISSION 

            21.     The IACHR has noted on several occasions its support for initiatives that are aimed at investigating and shedding light on systematic human rights violations by states.  In particular, the inter-American system recognizes the right to know the truth surrounding circumstances and to determine responsibility for torture, extrajudicial executions, and disappearances that occurred during periods of dictatorship, an issue that is very important to the families of the victims and to society in general. 

          22.     The Government of the Republic of Panama has established, by means of Executive Decree of January 18, 2001, the Truth Commission, which is to operate for a period of six months, a period that may be extended for three additional months.  Its mandate is to prepare an account of violations of the right to life, including disappearances, that took place during the military regime from 1968 to 1989.  The Commission appreciates this initiative and hopes that it will shed light on the circumstances under which deaths and disappearances took place, and will determine the fate of the remains of the persons involved.  The IACHR interviewed members of the Truth Commission and obtained information on its work.  The IACHR also obtained information on the difficulties being encountered by this Commission in carrying out its mission effectively in so short a period, since it is essential for it to have adequate resources, access to all existing information, and, in particular, the full support of all state entities and broad cooperation by the people. 

          23.     The Government of the Republic of Panama, through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has asked the IACHR to provide it with assistance with the work being done by the Truth Commission.  The IACHR reiterates to the people and Government of Panama that it will provide as much assistance as it can in order to assist with the work that has been assigned to this Commission.  During its visit, the IACHR turned over to the Truth Commission the public reports on Panama that cover the period being investigated by this Commission. 

          24.     The IACHR, like the entire international community, hopes that this report of the Truth Commission will represent a decisive step forward in the quest for the truth, justice, and compensation for the human rights violations committed during the reign of the military regime.  As the IACHR has noted on many occasions, the building of a society where human rights can be fully exercised and sweeping violations cannot be repeated, is contingent, in large measure, on determining the truth and achieving justice for the victims of past atrocities. 

            C.        THE JUSTICE SYSTEM           

          25.     Law 40, which has been in effect since August 1999, establishes the age at which minors may be held criminally liable as 14-18 years, with maximum penalties of five years.  This law provides for alternatives to detention and other benefits that permit persons to be held outside of penitentiaries, which leads to a reduction in the total population of children that are in the penitentiary system in the country. 

          D.        PENITENTIARY SYSTEM 

            26.     During the visit, the IACHR received information that the criminal population stands at 9,179 throughout Panama.  These persons are imprisoned in establishments with a total capacity of 6,836 persons, which translates into an overcrowding rate of 34%.  This population is composed of 3,971 persons who have been sentenced and 44 persons whose cases are being appealed.  The remainder, 5,164 persons, are awaiting trial and account for 56% of the total prison population.  These figures show progress in relation to previous years, although, according to reports received by the IACHR, the State has followed the provisions of traditional penal law when making its reforms.


          27.     Despite this, the penitentiary system continues to be seriously plagued by overcrowding and a high number of persons are kept in pre-trial detention for long periods due to delays in the processing of their criminal cases.  A greater effort must be made to reduce overpopulation and the number of persons who have been prosecuted and kept in jail for long periods.  Furthermore, the IACHR was informed that there is no classification of inmates, and persons who are being held for trial and those who have been convicted live in the same cells.   

          28.     The IACHR visited criminal institutions, specifically the Women's Rehabilitation Center, the Juvenile Detention Center, and La Joyita, where it met with the prison authorities of La Joya. 

          29.     At the Women's Rehabilitation Center, the IACHR was able to note the efforts that have been made by the State to improve the situation of persons who have been prosecuted and convicted.  However, persons in pre-trial detention are living in deplorably overcrowded conditions.  The IACHR notes that only some facilities where male inmates are held permit spousal visits.  Such visits are not allowed at the female penitentiaries.  At the Juvenile Detention Center, which is intended for children between the ages of 14 and 18, the IACHR noted the presence of minors who were 17 years old, whose living conditions met the basic requirements for such facilities. 

          30.     However, the prison situation in the La Joya and La Joyita jails is truly deplorable.  The two prisons, the biggest in the country, house more than 4,000 men, almost double their physical capacity.  As a result, a large number of prisoners have to sleep on the floor or in hammocks, which are sometimes placed four meters above the floor.  Sanitation facilities are inadequate and in poor condition, and thus pose health risks to the current population.  In addition, the IACHR noted serious deficiencies in the health services available to detainees, and a dearth of employment opportunities, rehabilitation programs, and recreational activities. 

          31.     The IACHR also noted the absence of specialized prison staff with proper training in these tasks.  The members of the national police are responsible for the custody of detainees, although some centers have civilian custody arrangements for the internal monitoring of inmates.  The Minister of Justice indicated to the IACHR that it would like to hire specialized prison staff. 

          E.         RIGHTS OF THE CHILD 

          32.     The IACHR has indicated its ongoing concern over the situation of children in the Hemisphere.  It should be noted that, despite the fact that the Panamanian State has signed and ratified ILO Agreement 138, the IACHR has received several reports regarding the existence of child labor, in particular among indigenous children, who harvest sugar cane and coffee, and that oversight measures on the part of government entities are ineffective. 

            F.         WOMEN'S RIGHTS 

            33.     The IACHR has paid special attention to the human rights of women.  The IACHR appreciates the progress made in recent years, particularly those aimed at recognizing the rights of women, by appointing them to senior positions within the government.  However, during the visit, the IACHR received information that women are receiving lower salaries than those of men, and that the percentage of unemployed women of working age is higher than the percentage of men. 

          34.     The IACHR expresses its satisfaction over the approval of Law 27 establishing a penalty for sexual harassment and rape, as well as programs to protect women, which are intended to prevent and sanction domestic violence.  It has also been informed that sexual education and reproductive health programs are being encouraged, something that is essential, given the fact that, according to official figures, 22% of households are headed by women.  The IACHR also expresses its satisfaction over the passage of Law 6 of 2000 aimed at eliminating sexist language in the educational sphere. 


          35.     The IACHR has an ongoing interest in the human rights of indigenous peoples, and it notes with satisfaction the legislative progress made in recent years, particularly those initiatives aimed at recognizing the territories of indigenous peoples and their cultural rights, in particular, the laws establishing the regions of Madungandi, Nögbe Buglé, and Kuna de Wargandi, as well as the law pertaining to the Special System of Intellectual Property on the Collective Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  However, the IACHR has received information that a number of difficulties persist, such as the existence of peoples whose territory has not been recognized in the laws establishing regions and the amendment of the laws governing regions without prior consultation with the persons affected, thereby undermining their right to participation in matters that affect them.  Also, the IACHR notes with concern the situation faced by children, the majority of whom are Nögbe Buglé indigenous children, who are working in the sugar cane fields of Veragua and Cocle under subhuman conditions, and the children and adults, largely of indigenous origin, who have no legal identity, in Chriquí, Renacimiento Department, on the border with Costa Rica.  The IACHR received information that the poverty levels of the indigenous people of Panama pose a serious problem because of the distribution of national income.  Approximately 80% of indigenous people live in poverty, and 70%, in abject poverty. 


          36.     The IACHR has noted on other occasions its concern over the situation of people with disabilities and has urged States to take measures to avoid discrimination against them in different spheres.  During its visit, the IACHR received information on the lack of regulation and specific measures applicable to persons with physical disabilities.  In addition, the IACHR visited the National Psychiatric Hospital in order to observe the situation of persons who are in this facility as well as adherence to international standards related to the rights of persons with mental disabilities. 

          37.     During its visit, the IACHR received information that it will analyze later on.  The IACHR should note its concern regarding the possibility of access by patients to information on their basic rights when they enter an institution and on the exercise of a large number of the rights provided for in the "Caracas Declaration" of PAHO/WHO, and the "Principles for the Protection of Mental Illness and Improvement of Mental Health Care" of the United Nations.  In particular, the IACHR learned that the majority of patients had been institutionalized involuntarily and that in some cases, all possible steps were not taken to avoid their involuntary admission.  It was also informed that patients, or, as necessary, their families, were not always consulted regarding their psychiatric treatment plan or informed of their progress, and that the informed written consent of the patient or that person's representative was not always obtained prior to the start of the treatment plan.  Also, in some instances, there were no provisions that stipulated the circumstances under which patients could be involuntarily admitted or that indicated the authority responsible for making a decision on this admission, and the pertinent procedures.  There were also no legal or other entities that were trained, independent, and impartial, nor were there any effective procedures for reviewing the involuntary admission of patients or determining whether the conditions or circumstances for their involuntary admission still existed.  Living conditions in the hospital are deplorable. 

          I.         FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION 

          38.     Freedom of expression in the Hemisphere is one of the main concerns of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  Due to the great many demands of broad sectors of civil society in the Americas, the IACHR set up a Special Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.   The Office of the Rapporteur is permanent in nature, functions independently, and has its own budget.  It operates within the legal framework of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression enjoys the support of the Chiefs of State and Government of the Hemisphere, who publicly expressed their concern over the situation with regard to freedom of expression in their countries at the Second Summit of the Americas that was held in Chile in April 1998, and agreed to the establishment of this Office of the Rapporteur. 

          39.     The objectives of the Office of the Rapporteur are, among other things, to build awareness regarding full respect for freedom of expression in the Hemisphere, given the important role that this plays in strengthening and developing a democratic system and in providing information on and protecting other human rights, and to make specific recommendations to member states on related matters, so that they can gradually adopt favorable measures in this regard. 

          40.     The Special Rapporteur visited Panama in July 2000 at the invitation of the Panamanian Government.  After the visit, the Special Rapporteur released a number of preliminary conclusions related to the visit.  This report is currently being completed, and will include the information received thus far. 

          41.     The Commission would like to express its concern over the fact that from the time of the visit of the Rapporteur to date, no progress has been made in establishing broader guarantees of free exercise of the right to freedom of expression.  On the contrary, the Commission was provided with information regarding an increase in criminal proceedings against journalists. 

          42.     The Commission has stated that the penalty imposed for statements made against public officials or individuals who are voluntarily involved in matters of public interest is too harsh, given the importance of freedom of expression and information in a democratic system. 

          43.     The need for complete and effective control of the handling of public matters in order to guarantee a democratic society means that persons in positions of responsibility must be granted protection that is different, insofar as criticism is concerned, in relation to individuals who are outside this sphere.  In that context, the Commission has stated that the enforcement of laws to protect the honor of public officials acting in an official capacity gives them an unjustifiable right to protection that is not enjoyed by the other members of society.  This distinction has an indirect effect on the fundamental principle of a democratic system under which governments are subject to certain controls, among them, scrutiny by citizens in order to prevent or control abuse of their power of coercion. 

          44.     The obligation of the State to protect the rights of others is fulfilled by establishing statutory protection against international attacks on a person's honor and reputation through civil suits and the enactment of laws that guarantee the right to correction or a reply.  In that sense, the State guarantees protection of the private lives of all individuals, without abusing its powers of coercion to repress individual freedom to form and express an opinion. 

          45.     The Commission was able to verify that legal provisions classified as contempt [desacato] remain in effect.  In the view of the Commission, contempt provisions are incompatible with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.  Principle 11 of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom on Expression approved by the IACHR states that "Public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as “desacato laws,” restrict freedom of expression and the right to information." Based on information received, the following provisions cover contempt:  Article 33 of the Constitution, Articles 202 and 386 of the Judicial Code, Article 827 of the Administrative Code on correctional penalties, Article 45 of the Administrative Code of the Municipal Administration, and Articles 307 and 308 of the Penal Code. 

          46.     With regard to access to information, the Commission reiterates the comments of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression during its visit to Panama in July 2000.  On that occasion, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recommended the enactment of laws to guarantee effective compliance with the right of access to information and habeas data action.  The IACHR received information on the existence of a number of drafts related to access to information.  A number of these initiatives were taken by the civil society and others, by the authorities.  The IACHR would like to stress the importance of expeditious consideration of these initiatives in order to avoid unnecessary delay in the approval of this law. 

          47.     The existence of procedures that guarantee access to information in the custody of the State authorities helps monitor state management and is one of the most effective ways of combating corruption.  The absence of effective monitoring runs counter to the very essence of democracy and leaves the door open to unacceptable acts of violation and abuse.  Guaranteeing access to information held by the State enhances the transparency of government action and, consequently, reduces corruption in state management.  Furthermore, broad access to the information in the custody of the State is essential in order to ensure that citizens are duly informed of human rights violations. This right is even more important in situations where a Truth Commission has been established and is in the process of preparing a report on the systematic violations of human rights that have occurred in the past. 

          48.     The Commission has received information on the existence of a preliminary draft law on the press.  In this regard, the Commission wishes to point out that a Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression was recently approved, establishing international standards for proper protection of this right, in accordance with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.  The Commission asks the Panamanian authorities to be mindful of this Declaration, both in terms of the drafting of this law, and in analyzing, amending, or repealing, as necessary, existing provisions related to freedom of expression. 

          49.     The Commission received information on a case alleging the possible intervention by the authorities to deny an individual official advertisement of a media resource.  Without prejudice to the analysis that will be done by the Commission of the information received, the Commission would like to point out the content of Principle 13 of the Declaration of Principles, which states: "The exercise of power and the use of public funds by the state, the granting of customs duty privileges, the arbitrary and discriminatory placement of official advertising and government loans; the concession of radio and television broadcast frequencies, among others, with the intent to put pressure on and punish or reward and provide privileges to social communicators and communications media because of the opinions they express threaten freedom of expression, and must be explicitly prohibited by law. The means of communication have the right to carry out their role in an independent manner. Direct or indirect pressures exerted upon journalists or other social communicators to stifle the dissemination of information are incompatible with freedom of expression." 

          50.     The Commission must mention that poverty and the social exclusion of broad sectors of the population have a serious impact on freedom of expression, given the fact that those voices are ignored, these persons have difficulty gaining access to the general discussion of ideas and opinions, and are limited in terms of access to the information that is necessary for equitable development in a democratic society. 

          51.     Similarly, discrimination against women and indigenous peoples undermines freedom of expression.  When they are excluded from public discourse, society fails to hear the views of the majority of the population.  Freedom of expression of individuals takes place through the mass media and through active political participation in a mechanism for ensuring that a forum can be found for addressing the stark inequalities that exist in numerous sectors of the population, thereby facilitating the search for solutions in a democratic context. 

          52.     Lastly, during its stay, the IACHR received numerous complaints that the Attorney General, Mr. José Antonio Sossa, was allegedly involved in a systematic campaign against journalists, and in so doing, was failing to display the neutrality and impartiality that his high office requires.  The IACHR will investigate these complaints in which the claim is made that under the guise of protecting an individual's honor, an attempt is being made to curb freedom of expression in Panama, by prosecuting a large number of journalists.


53.     It is public knowledge that last February the Inter-American Court of Human Rights handed down a ruling in the case of Baena et al which had been processed by the IACHR and referred to the Court.  During its stay in Panama, the IACHR met with representatives of the victims of the case, who expressed to the IACHR their concern over the delay in execution of this judgment.  During its meeting with the President of the Republic, the IACHR received complete assurances from her of her intent to fulfill the international obligations imposed in that judgment. 


54.     The IACHR would like to express its appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Panama, represented by its President, Mrs. Mireya Moscoso, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Panamanian Mission to the OAS, and other state authorities, for the invitation extended to the Commission and for all the accommodations made during the visit; in particular, to non-governmental organizations, and to the OAS national office in Panama, which also provided assistance with the different aspects of the visit, to the individuals who, in a frank and transparent manner, courageously provided valuable evidence and documentation so that the IACHR could carry out its mission effectively during its visit, and to all persons and institutions who, together with the aforementioned institutions, offered their hospitality, cooperation, and assistance to the IACHR in order to ensure the success of its visit.  The Commission would also like to thank the journalists and mass media for the coverage provided during this visit. 

55.     In accordance with the functions assigned under the OAS Charter, the American Convention, and other pertinent international legal instruments, the Commission will continue to monitor the situation of human rights in Panama.  

56.     Pursuant to the aforementioned instruments, the IACHR will draft, in the months ahead, a final report on the situation of human rights in Panama, which will contain the pertinent conclusions and recommendations that it will make to the Panamanian State.  Once the regulatory procedures have been completed, this report will be made available to the Panamanian people and other OAS member States.  The IACHR reiterates its desire to continue cooperating with the authorities and people of Panama within its sphere of competence, in order to contribute to the strengthening of internal and international mechanisms for defending and protecting human rights within the framework of a democratic and constitutional State governed by the rule of law.


Panama, June 8, 2001