Panama accumulates $67.6 million in fines for human rights violations

The country has been found guilty of five violations dating from the military dictatorship to the present.


Panama's five convictions in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have cost the country more than $67.6 million. 

This includes an Oct. 14 ruling which ordered the government to pay $2.3 million to indigenous residents of Bayano and Chepo over a land dispute.

The bulk of the money, $65.2 million, was the result of a judgement involving the dismissal of workers from the Institute of Hydraulic Resources and Electrification and the National Institute of Telecommunications in 1991 by President Guillermo Endara.

By comparison, the other judgements have been minor, though the cases attracted significant attention.

On Aug. 12, 2008, the court ordered Panama to pay $256,000 to the family of Heliodoro Portugal, an opposition leader who disappeared during the military dictatorship in 1970.

The following year, Panama was sentenced to pay $30,000 to the lawyer Santander Tristan, who was a victim of the disclosure of a telephone conversation.

On Nov. 23, 2010, the government was ordered to pay $59,000 to Ecuadorian Jesús Vélez Loor, who was the subject of abuse and ill-treatment when he was arrested in the Darién in 2002.

Carlos Gasnell, vice president of the Panama chapter of Transparency International, said that "these sentences must make the state reconsider the importance of its actions and make decisions that are attached to the Constitution and the laws."

He argued that these rulings show the importance of the attorney general as a legal adviser to the state.

"(The attorney general) should begin to play a much more active and preventative role than what we saw during the previous administration" he said.

Magaly Castillo, executive director of Citizen's Alliance for Justice, said that "the mistakes and violations of human rights which were the result of bad governments have to be paid by all Panamanians. The state has to comply with the court and compensate the victims."



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