CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The facts recounted in this report enable the Commission to draw the following conclusions:
1. As for the organization of the State, in the Commission’s view, the Panamanian Constitution formally establishes the classic division of powers; however, in practice the preponderant role given to the Defense Forces means they are not duly subordinate to the civilian power. This upsets the balance in the entire structure of the Panamanian State, and that asymmetry has been further exacerbated by the presidential-succession formulas applied since September1, 1989, which are not provided for in the Constitution.
2. Duty to Reform Internal Law
(Article 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
As for the rights and guarantees included in the Panamanian Constitution, the Commission feels that those rights and guarantees are adequately spelled out. However, Article 50 allows habeas corpus to be suspended, which is incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.
3. Right to Life
(Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
As for the right to life, guaranteed under Article 4 of the American Convention on Human rights, apart from the case of Dr. Hugo Spadafora Franco–the investigation of which has been repeatedly requested by the Commission to no avail, and the facts surrounding his murder have yet to be cleared up–, the Commission notes that since June 1987, the majority of the violations of the right to live have been a consequence of the measures taken by police, military or paramilitary groups to put down protest demonstrations, or repressive measures that ended in the death of demonstrators or mere bystanders.
3. Right to Humane Treatment
(Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
As for the right to humane treatment, recognized in Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights, there is, in the Commission’s opinion, irrefutable evidence that this right has been particularly violated by the Government’s violent and disproportionate responses to the peaceful demonstrations organized by opposition groups. This has included the use of birdshot to put down such protests, resulting in a considerable number of injuries. Furthermore, this right has been ignored by the degrading and at times cruel and inhuman treatment that members of the opposition have received in jails when detained.
5. Right to Personal Liberty
(Article 7 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
The right to personal liberty has been violated by the Panamanian Government by detaining members of the political opposition without fulfilling the requirements established by law. In a large number of cases, the detentions have been for lengthy periods of time; the individuals are held in communicado, without any charge being brought against them.
6. Judicial Guarantees
(Article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
The Commission concludes that the independence of the judiciary has been seriously eroded in Panama and the system of Corregidores violates the requirements of due process established in the American Convention on Human Rights.
7. Right of Movement and Residence
(Article 22 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
The Commission is of the view that this right, particularly the right to freely enter and leave the country, in practice has been violated in the case of many Panamanian citizens who have been forced to leave the country under pressure and threats from the Government, and in some cases have been summarily expelled from the country.
8. Freedom of Thought and Expression
(Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
The Commission is convinced that these rights which are fundamental to the existence of a democratic society, have been violated by the Government of Panama. These rights cannot be exercised in Panama due to restrictions imposed by the Government which include illegal actions, threats on the lives, liberty, and personal integrity of independent journalist as well as measures taken against the media that have resulted in their closing, the destruction of the same, the revocation of their licenses, and other forms of pressure that have led to the strangulation of these rights.
9. Political Rights
(Article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights)
The Commission believes that the vast majority of the Panamanian people demonstrated its will to exercise these rights in a serious and responsible manner. The annulment of the elections on May 7, 1989, by the Electoral Tribunal and the lack of agreement between the leading political participants in Panama have left the current provisional Government devoid of constitutional legitimacy.
In light of the preceding analysis the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is recommending the following to the Government of Panama:
1. That it take immediate steps to control the excessive violence that the Defense Forces police and paramilitary groups employ against the civilian population, so as to avoid further loss of life and the violations of the right to humane treatment that have been occurring. They must also put an immediate end to the mistreatment, torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that the Defense Forces inflict upon individuals deprived of their freedom.
2. To take immediate steps to release individuals who have been detained for political reasons, including the members of the military who were deprived of their freedom in 1988 and who have served more than the maximum sentence allowable under the law.
3. To permit the immediate return of exiles and provide them with necessary guarantees for their security and the exercise of their political rights.
4. To immediately authorize the media that have been barred from publishing, either de facto or de jure, to resume publication.
1. To re-institute the exercise of political rights through a genuine democratic process to restore constitutional order in which the rights of all Panamanians shall be respected.
2. Once the constitutional system has been reinstated in keeping with the American Convention on Human Rights by means of the exercise of political rights, to adopt measures so that that system may be improved by strengthening the Judiciary, consolidating guarantees of the exercise of human rights and by subordinating the military power. In this way, the Rule of Law shall be restored, a fundamental requisite of the system of representative democracy which is the best guarantee of the observance of human rights and the foundation for hemispheric solidarity, as established in the Charter of the Organization of American States.