OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES
PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
1. The Committee considered
the tenth, twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth periodic reports of
Panama, submitted in a single document (CERD/C/299/Add.1), at its
1208th meeting (CERD/C/SR.1208), on 18 March 1997. At its 1213th
meeting, held on 21 March 1997, it adopted the following concluding
2. The Committee notes
with appreciation the State party's willingness to re-establish
a dialogue with the Committee by sending a high-level delegation
to present the report, which indicates the importance attached by
the Government of Panama to its obligations under the Convention.
The Committee regrets, however, that no report was submitted between
1986 and 1996 and that the report submitted does not cover adequately
all the rights recognized under articles 2 to 7 of the Convention.
The Committee nevertheless expresses its appreciation for the frank
dialogue with a competent delegation and for the answers given orally
to the wide range of questions asked by its members.
B.Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
3. The Committee is
aware that Panama is emerging from a period of serious political,
social and economic difficulties. The Committee notes that substantial
disparities in wealth between different ethnic groups of the population
tend to affect the implementation of the Convention in the State
C. Positive aspects
4. The recent initiatives
taken by the State party to promote and protect human rights, including
those enumerated by the Convention, are welcomed. The work undertaken
by the National Commission on Administrative Boundaries, which resulted
in important negotiations and law reforms such as the enactment
of the laws establishing the indigenous comarcas (territorial
districts of the indigenous peoples) of Madugandi and Ngobe Bugle,
is encouraging. The programmes and initiatives undertaken to protect
immigrants and refugees during the period under review are also
noted with interest.
5. The adoption in December
1996 of a law establishing an ombudsperson for Human Rights - Defensor
del Pueblo - is welcomed.
6. The recent adoption
and implementation of two training programmes on human rights for
law enforcement personnel are welcomed. It is also noted that the
Police Academy has for several years included human rights in its
7. Furthermore, it is
noted that in 1995 the State party reformed its employment legislation
to, inter alia, combat different forms of racial discrimination.
D. Principal subjects of concern
8. It is noted with
concern that no complaints have been filed with the appropriate
governmental bodies by individuals or groups during the last 10
years, despite reports that rights covered by the Convention were
not fully respected.
9. Concern is expressed
that some groups living in Panama, such as indigenous people and
members of the black and Asian minorities, do not fully benefit
from the rights recognized under the Convention.
10. Concern is also
expressed that Panama has not fully complied with the obligations
derived from article 4 of the Convention.
11. In the light of
article 5 of the Convention, it is noted with concern that the issue
of land rights of indigenous people has remained unsolved in a great
majority of cases. These land rights seem also to be threatened
by the mining activities which have been undertaken - with the approval
of the central authorities - by foreign companies, and also by the
development of tourism in these regions.
12. It is noted with
concern that the legal status of the comarcas in relation
to the provinces remains unclear.
13. It is noted with
concern that the State party has presented information only on the
right to work in its report under article 5 of the Convention. The
State party is reminded that article 5 of the Convention also covers
several other rights. Furthermore, no information on the implementation
of article 6 of the Convention has been provided by the State party
in its report.
14. While it is noted
that the Canal Zone has a special legal status, it is viewed with
concern that workers from Panama are not accorded the same rights
as foreign workers employed in this special zone.
15. It is noted with
regret that indigenous people have a low rate of participation in
elections and are under-represented in the public service.
16. The lack of detailed
and disaggregated statistical information on indigenous groups remains
a concern, especially as it hampers the Committee's capacity to
monitor the implementation of the rights enumerated by the Convention.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
17. The Committee recommends
that the State party designate an appropriate body to coordinate
and monitor programmes and policies designed to implement the Convention,
as envisaged in its General Recommendation XVII.
18. The Committee recommends
that the State party take the necessary measures to comply fully
with the obligations of article 4 of the Convention.
19. The Committee suggests
that the State party include in its next report information on complaints
received and judgements issued in cases of racial discrimination.
20. The Committee suggests
that the State party take all appropriate measures to disseminate
the Convention widely and to translate it into appropriate languages
for indigenous groups.
21. The Committee recommends
that the State party continue the improvement of training of law
enforcement officials in light of the Committee's General Recommendation
22. The Committee recommends
that the State party take appropriate measures to allow full enjoyment
by different groups of society, such as indigenous people or members
of the black and Asian minorities, of the rights enumerated by the
Convention. Special attention is drawn by the Committee to the implementation
of the rights enumerated in article 5 (e) (3), (4) and (5) for those
23. The Committee strongly
recommends that the State party actively pursue its current efforts
to implement fully the right of indigenous people to own property
and land. It especially recommends that State party investigate
and monitor the impact of the work of mining companies, including
foreign ones, as well as the impact of the current development of
tourism, on the enjoyment of basic rights by indigenous peoples.
24. In relation to the
legal status of the comarcas, the Committee suggests that
the State party explain more precisely in its next report the status
of the comarcas in comparison to the status of the provinces.
25. The Committee suggests
that the State party take appropriate measures to enable indigenous
persons to participate in elections and to provide them with equal
access to employment in the public service.
26. The Committee also
recommends that the State party include in its next report disaggregated
data including information and socio-economic indicators on the
demographic composition of its population.
27. With regard to the
special status of the Canal Zone, the Committee recommends that
the Government of Panama take appropriate measures to ensure that
the rights enumerated by the Convention, especially article 5, are
enjoyed equally by all residents and workers in that specific area.
28. Furthermore, the
Committee encourages the State party to consider ratifying ILO Convention
29. The Committee recommends
that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention adopted at the fourteenth meeting of States
30. The Committee recommends
that the State party's next periodic report be a comprehensive report
and that it address all the points raised in the consideration of
the present report.