RESOLUTION Nº 40/79
1. On December 6,
1977, the penultimate day of its on-site observation in Panama, the
Special commission of the IACHR asked the Government for a report on 103
individuals, including Dr. Thelma King, who were supposedly in exile.
The Commission asked it to say whether these people had been exiled,
whether they had chosen to leave the country, whether they were still
abroad, and whether the Government had authorized some of them to
2. In a note dated
January 16, 1978 (OEA 7978), the Government of Panama replied to the
Special Commission's inquiry, supplying information on some people who
had been "authorized" to return, and on others who, in the
opinion of the Government, had exiled themselves. The case of Dr. Thelma
King did not appear amongst this information.
3. During its 43rd
session held in Caracas on January 26 - February 3, 1978, the Commission
had the opportunity to verify Dr. King's exile status.
4. On March 6,
1978, the Commission received the following denunciation:
Thelma King H., a Panamanian citizen, an attorney and professor, was
arrested on February 28, 1970, at about 6:00 o'clock in the morning, in
the city of Colón, Panama. She was taken to prison by three members of
the National Guard. She was wearing pajamas, although she had asked them
to let her dress properly. Two days later, about 6:00 p.m., she was
taken away from the jail in a small truck by other members of the guard.
They took her for a "drive." They took her to an isolated spot
along the Central Highway and tried to force her out of the vehicle. She
refused and they kept on insisting until a National Guard car went past.
It seems that the men in the car wanted to know what was happening.
There is no information on the jailers' conversation with them, but an
hour later, a small truck came along with more or less 40 uniformed
Guards. They put her in the truck and took her to the prison in the city
of Chitré. From there, she was transferred on the 7th to Panama City,
to the Central Barracks of the National Guard. On the night of the 8th,
she was taken to the International Airport of Tocumen and they put her
on a plane for Lima, Peru. She was given neither food nor water for the
entire eight days she was in detention, even though her family sent food
in every day. The night she was exiled, some members of the National
Guard under the command of a man called Rosario, who was acting on
orders from Captain Salamanca, turned her apartment upside down and
arrested her daughter. They later set her free. After her exile, they
closed down her radio station 'La Voz de Colón.' She is still in exile,
unable to return because of the lack of guarantees and the inefficacy of
the legal remedies.
5. In a note dated
April 14, 1978, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of the
denunciation to the Government of Panama, asking it to provide
information on the denunciation and on exhaustion of domestic legal
6. In a cable
dated April 21, 1978, the Government of Panama sent the Commission the
following message on political exiles:
YOU THAT HIS EXCELLENCY THE HEAD OF GOVERNMENT, GENERAL OMAR TORRIJOS
HERRERA, HAS JUST PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED BY RADIO AND TELEVISION THAT ALL
PANAMANIANS ABROAD AS ACTUAL OR APPARENT POLITICAL EXILES MAY RETURN TO
THEIR COUNTRY WITHOUT CONCERN OR FEAR OF ANY KIND. THANK YOU FOR YOUR
COOPERATION IN PUBLICIZING THIS MEASURE.
7. This cable was
transmitted to the person filing the denunciation in a letter of April
8. As the
Government of Panama had not replied to the note sent on April 14 on Dr.
King's case, the Commission repeated its request in a note of October 6,
1978, making reference to possible application of Article 51 of the
Regulations, if the information were not received within the regulation
9. In a
communication dated December 7, 1978, the Government of Panama replied
to the Commission's request in the following terms:
Ministry has learned that THELMA KING, a Panamanian citizen, exiled
herself because she was involved in attacks against the constituted
powers, according to information supplied by the State Departments of
Security. However, the Ministry has also learned that this citizen is
currently residing in Panama, where her individual rights upheld in the
National Constitution and in the laws are respected.
Minister of the Interior and Justice also informs us "that there is
no record of the case denounced."
1. The Commission
established, during its on-site on the basis of documents supplied by
the Government legal remedies in the case of political exiles during
observation, and of Panama, that the period from 1969 to the beginning
of 1978 were ineffective, as stated in the Report on the Situation of
Human Rights in Panama (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.44, doc.38, rev. 1, 22 June 1978,
Chapter VII: The Right to Residence and Movement).
2. In its note of
January 5, 1978, the Government of Panama failed to recognize Dr. King's
right to return to her country, and the Commission's request that it be
furnished with pertinent information on this case, without referring to
the physical mistreatment and the lack of due process.
3. Article 51.1 of
the Regulations of the Commission provides as follows:
occurrence of the events on which information has been requested will be
presumed to be confirmed if the Government referred to has not supplied
such information with 180 days of the request, provided always, that the
invalidity of the events denounced is not shown by other elements of
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, RESOLVES:
1. To declare that
the Government of Panama violated Articles I (right to life, liberty and
personal security), VIII (right to residence and movement) and XXVI
(right to due process) of the American Declaration of the Rights and
Duties of Man.
2. To recommend to
the Government of Panama: a. that it order a complete and impartial
investigation to determine responsibility for the events denounced, and
to punish those responsible for such acts in accordance with the laws of
Panama; b. if it has not already done so, to inform Dr. King that she
may return to her country, and c. to inform the Commission, within a
maximum of 60 days, as to the measures taken to put into practice the
recommendations contained in the present Resolution.
3. To communicate
this decision to the Government of Panama and to the persons filing the
4. To include this
Resolution in the Annual Report of the Commission to the General
Assembly of the Organization of American States, pursuant to Article 9
(bis), paragraph c.iii of the Statute of the Commission, without
prejudice to the Commission’s being able to reconsider the case at its
next session in light of measures that the Government may have taken.