Nº 9/01     

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will conduct an on-site visit to Panama, June 6 - 8, 2001, at the invitation of the Government of that country, in order to observe the general situation of human rights in Panama. 

          The Commission, one of the main organs of the Organization of American States (OAS), is responsible for fostering the impartial observance and defense of human rights in the Hemisphere.  The seven members of the IACHR are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly to serve for a period of four years.  The powers of the IACHR are derived mainly from the American Convention on Human Rights and the OAS Charter, instruments that have been ratified by the Republic of Panama. 

          The IACHR delegation will be composed of the following members of the Commission: Dean Claudio Grossman, President and Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights; Ms. Marta Altolaguirre, Second Vice President and Rapporteur for Women's Rights; and Professor Hélio Bicudo, Member and Rapporteur for Panama and Children's Rights.  The Executive Secretary, Ambassador Jorge E. Taiana; the Assistant Executive Secretary, Dr. David J. Padilla; and the Human Rights Specialist of the Commission, Dr. Raquel Poitevien, responsible for matters related to Panama, will also be present.  Dr. Santiago Canton will also join the delegation in his capacity as Special Rapporteur for the IACHR for Freedom of Expression.  Dr. Isabel Madariaga will participate in her capacity as Attorney/Consultant for indigenous rights.  Mrs. Martha Keller and Mrs. Nadia Hansen will provide administrative support. 

          During its stay in Panama, the IACHR will interview the members of the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislature, and will meet with different sectors of the society, such as human rights organizations, indigenous peoples, alleged victims of human rights violations, and others.  The Commission will visit several penitentiaries and a national psychiatric hospital.  Dr. Lilian Reneau, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) representative, Attorney Javier Vásquez of the Department of Legal Affairs and the Mental Health Program, and Dr. José Miguel Caldas de Almeida, Coordinator of the PAHO/WHO Mental Health Program will accompany the Commission. 

          The Commission uses several methods to achieve its objectives, one of which is a visit to the countries, where it investigates the situation of human rights and then prepares a report on this subject.  This report contains an analysis of the situation of human rights in the country and makes a number of recommendations on how it can be improved.  The Commission also has a number of rapporteurs on specific topics that are of import to the Hemisphere (rights of the child, rights of women, indigenous rights, and migrant workers).  Another very important tool of the Commission is the processing of individual cases, when it receives complaints alleging that States have violated rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights, in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, and in other international instruments ratified by the State in question. 

          The visit of the Commission will be conducted within the sphere of competence established by the American Convention on Human Rights and its Rules of Procedures.  Within this legal framework, the States Parties agree to grant all the accommodations necessary for the IACHR to conduct its observation mission, and in particular, they pledge to refrain from taking retaliatory action of any kind against the persons or entities who cooperate with it through the provision of information or evidence.   

          As usual, the IACHR will be willing, during its visit, to receive complaints from persons alleging violation of their human rights.  Complaints are made in writing, and a form that is available in Office 114 of the El Panamá Hotel can be used.   This hotel is located in Panama City, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 6-8, 2001.  This form will also be available during working hours at the office of the General Secretariat of the OAS in Panama, the address of which is Ciudad del Saber, Edificio 813, Calle Gaillard, Clayton. 

          At the end of the visit, the Commission will hold a press conference at the El Panamá Hotel on June 8, 2001 at 2:30 p.m.  A press release will be distributed at that conference containing a number of preliminary conclusions of the Commission with regard to the general situation of human rights in the country. 

          At the end of its visit, the Commission will return to its headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it will begin a study and evaluation of the observations made, in order to prepare a report on the situation of human rights in Panama. 

          The Commission thanks the Government of Panama as well as non-governmental organizations, civil society institutions, and international organizations for their cooperation and assistance in preparing for the visit, and reiterates its complete willingness to cooperate with democratic governments of the Hemisphere in promoting and protecting human rights. 


Panama, June 5, 2001