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
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
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.