Report on Human Rights violations
Changuinola 7 to July 11, 2010
HUMAN RIGHTS EVERYWHERE / Panamá
August 20, 2010
Human Rights Everywhere (HREV) is a nonprofit NGO that has been working for seven years on research, promotion and defense of human rights in Latin America. In Panama, HREV was recognized as an NGO with legal personality in March 2010 by the Ministry of Government and Justice.
Given the seriousness of recent events in the province of Bocas del Toro, Changuinola, specifically from July 7 to 11, 2010, in coordination with several volunteers, we brought a field team to the area for the purpose of documenting the human rights violations in the crisis of Changuinola. Upon completion of the work for this report, an additional team of Human Rights observers was formed by Bocas del Toro university students to continue the ongoing work of monitoring and attention to citizen complaints.
The present report cannot be considered definitive, since we are aware that there are still many injured and affected whom we have not yet been able to contact due to the magnitude and seriousness of the events. However, we are confident that this report may shed light on what occurred, and provide rational and verifiable elements of the affects on the civilian population.
HREV will publish updated versions of this report as new data is available, and will consolidate and collaborate with other organizations working for the same purpose.
1. Context leading up to the crisis 4
Chronology of the crisis
2. Methodological notes 8
3. Documented data 10
Reported wounds and injuries
Principle conflict locations
Arrests and use of force
4. Key findings 16
5. Role of the State in this crisis 21
6. Other actors 23
7. Infringements of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties 24
8. Conclusions 27
9. Recommendations 29
10. Testimonies 31
1. Context leading up to the crisis
1.1 Sociodemographic data
On July 1, 2009, the province of Bocas del Toro had an estimated population of 115,793 people of whom 58,870 were male and 56,823 were female. This represents about 3% of the total population of the Republic of Panama.
According to the 2000 census, which recorded 110,585 inhabitants, 49,294 were indigenous (44.57%). In Bocas del Toro ethnic groups coexist including Ngäbe, Buklé, Naso-Teribe and Bri Bri.
Bocas del Toro presents the most extreme poverty rates in the country and has high levels of poverty and inequality. According to the Poverty Map of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, 2005, in the district of Changuinola 46% of the population suffers from extreme poverty, 25% lack potable water, and 31% have no electricity. The 2003 Poverty Map indicated a 60.6% poverty rate in the province and a rate of 37.8% living in extreme poverty (the highest in the country). It must be noted that when talking about poverty among the indigenous population of Bocas del Toro the percentage rises to 90%.
While life expectancy in the country is 75.5 years, in Bocas del Toro it is 71.8 (70.1 for men and 73.6 for women). Neonatal mortality per 1,000 is 10.1, according to the Social Indicators of the National Institute of Statistics and Census 2003-2007.
In the Republic of Panama, the average population per doctor is 734, while in Bocas del Toro rises to 1,052. In this province there are 2.7 beds in public health facilities per 1,000 inhabitants.
1.2 Legal Context
- April 2010 /Law 14, known as the “Jailhouse Law”. Penalties of jail will be imposed on protesters who close roads. The Ombudsman, Ricardo Vargas, said that laws such as the recently approved “Jailhouse Law” which penalizes protesters for the closure of streets with six months to two years in prison, require further reflection and maturation process and advised the government to not “act with emotion and passion”.
- June 2010 / Executive Decree 537 amending State legislation governing the indigenous Comarca Ngäbe Buglé. Without consultation this decree eliminates much of the political autonomy of the Comarca and puts decisions about Ngäbe athourities in the hands of central government.
- June 2010 / Law 30, entitled “9 in 1 Law” or “Chorizo Law”. Taking advantage of the Special Session (a legal formula in Panama that allows the Executive Office to apply for a Special Session, in addition to the two ordinary sessions, provided that it specifies what bills will be presented and justifies their urgency) in the National Assembly, the Government introduced a draft law on commercial aviation. After the articles relevant to the subject, the bill also makes changes to 6 laws and three codes that have nothing to do with aviation. The topics that generate the most controversy are those which limit the right to strike, alter union regulations, eliminate the requirement for environmental impact studies for public or private works at the discretion of the Government, and articles indicating that police officers will not be removed from duty when they have committed crimes while carrying out their professional duties. Law 30 was passed in the National Assembly with the doors locked with padlocks and riot police surrounding the building to prevent the participation of civil society organizations.
Following the conflict in Bocas del Toro and similar events that occurred during the debate of Law 30 the National Assembly has ignored opinions of dozens of organizations and groups that participated in the first debate about postponing the entry into force of 3 articles of Act 30, as agreed upon in Changuinola by the Executive Branch and SITRAIBANA (Banana Industry Workers’ Union and allied organizations) on July 10, 2010. Civil society organizations request that the Government repeal Law 30 and open a fully participatory negotiation process on the 3 articles of the proposed legislation. However, the National Assembly has given its approval only to postpone, not repeal, the legislation.
1.3 Chronology of the crisis
- July 2 commenced with a 48-hour strike in the banana plantations in Bocas del Toro which was ultimately extended until Sunday, July 11 and ended with clashes between police and approximately 4,000 striking workers, mostly of Ngäbe –Buklé ethnicity, and their families.
- The strike that began on July 2 was called by SITRAIBANA and four independent unions, and demanded repeal of various criminal, labor, environmental, and law enforcement reforms introduced under the auspices of the Commercal Aviacion Law (Law 30, also known as the “Chorizo Law” or “9 in 1 Law”, because it includes reforms to six laws and three civil codes).
- During the first two days of the strike there were a few roadblocks and tempers flared on Saturday, July 3, when directors of the banana company did not proceed with the weekly payroll for operators, which was the reason that strikers proceeded to block the exit used by directors of the Bocas Fruit Company offices of Plantation 13.
- On July 4, an indefinite strike was declared and on July 5 protesters began blocking transportation access to Changuinola, which was already experiencing impacts on trade and classes in the public schools. On July 6, the Minister of Labor, Alma Cortes, traveled to Changuinola, but the meeting with the workers ended without agreement.
- Next, the situation escalated with initial confrontations with the National Police who utilized harsh repression.
- From July 7 onward, the fighting escalated with a violent response by police, and the first arrests of workers and trade union leaders ensued.
- On July 8 the Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitri, was called to Changuinola as the chief of the negotiation team, after the failed visit of the Minister of Labor, Juan Carlos Varela. On Saturday July 9, he arrived in Changuinola to reinforce the negotiations of Vice President, Juan Carlos Varela.
- The strike ended on the afternoon of Sunday July 11 with an agreement reached between the Government and the representative of SITRAIBANA (the Banana Industry Workers’ Union and allied organizations) of the Bocas Fruit Company that called for a 90 days suspension of some of the articles of Law 30 of 2010 that triggered the strike and national negotiations. All participants of the social movement involved in the uprising of Bocas did not accept the agreement.
2. Methodological notes
The HREV field team consisted of 6 (six) volunteers. The whole team had university education and the capacity to develop the work and were at all times identified as collaborators of HREV when conducting interviews, filling out forms or documenting with audio or video.
The fieldwork took place between 17 and 25 July inclusive, and includes visits to farms where most people were affected, health care centers and the morgue, and meetings with union and community leaders.
The team used a standard form to collect data that was used in all the interviews and also documented with audio or video the interviews for the statements most relevant to this report, and compiled images taken by citizens in Bocas del Toro during the 3 most serious days of the crisis. In total 299 interviews were conducted, and the completed work includes lists of wounded treated in different hospitals of Changuinola and Panama City as well as independent reports of Panamanian organizations. The 405 documented cases are backed with some type of documentary support, either direct interview form, or interview in audio or video.
Additionally, we collaborate with volunteer groups in Panama for data collection in hospitals where the civilian victims have been treated. Also, we have received reports from health institutions, the Ombudsman, CEASPA, the Indigenous Clergy, and ULIP for the purpose of crosschecking names, types and location of injuries.
Conceptually, it was decided to focus work on the “civilian victims of conflict,” because we found that this was where there was a major gap in reliable information, and this is the group that will have most difficulty with access to truth, justice and appropriate reparations. We refer to the report of injuries among the police, although this is not the focus of this document, as there is sufficient official information about this subject.
This report arose from the need to document the violations of human rights by the State, because according to the majority of jurisprudence and international theories, the State is obliged to promote and guarantee human rights, although there are voices that ask for inclusion of all parties involved in such conflicts, including para-state in these categories. The names of the victims and sources are protected for reasons of security and confidentiality of information.
The places visited by the HREV team on the ground, and where personal interviews were conducted were:
- Barrio de La Loma de Torre, a las orillas del río Changuinola
- Finca 44
- Finca 66
- Finca 12
- Finca 13
- Finca 11
- Finca 4
- Finca 6
- Barriada precarista 4 de abril
- Finca 30
- Finca 32
- Comunidad de Tiobroma
- Barriada California
- Barriada Débora
- Avenida central
3. Documented data
The technical team has documented that this situation resulted in 405 cases including wounded, dead, and missing detainees, being aware that there may be more unreported cases. Of these 405 cases we can draw some conclusions:
- Documented deaths. Our investigations on the ground and the testimonies of family members indicate the deaths of at least 4 people (the Government only recognizes two deaths and has spread conflicting reports about the case of Antonio Smith). However, it should be noted that State officials obstructed access to the morgue. According to family members the deaths that directly resulted from the conflict are:
- Antonio Smith (recognized by the Government), July 8: lung perforation caused by impact of buckshot to the back and 10 fractures that, according to witnesses, can be attributed to a beating inflicted by police officers. The victim’s body arrived at the emergency room.
- Virgilio Castillo (recognized by the Government), July 10: Show Romanization lung perforation caused by impact of buckshot, died before surgery.
- Rubén Becker (Epileptic, dying as a result of the gases), July 11 (form a/ deaths)
- Leandro Santos (die as a result of the gases), July 11 (form b / deaths)
- Various grassroots organizations have called for investigation into the deaths of Einar Quintero, Marcelina Carpenter and Florinda Peña. Their bodies have been in the morgue of Changuinola and it is presumed that their deaths could be related to the events, although currently there is no hard evidence. (the HREV team has not documented these cases).
- The group Human Rights Promoters of Changuinola has noted also that the Chaguinola Hospital morgue were the bodies of Einer Becker Solomon (10 months), Hilda Palacios (3 years) and Migdalia Abrego (1 year) and there evidence to suggest that might be affected by tear gas.
- From 8 July to 14 August (38 days) was reported as Disappeared-detainee Valentin Palacios, Finca 66 arrested in view of multiple witnesses on Thursday and passed away July 8 until the Director of the National Police of Panama, Gustavo Perez, presented him on Sunday 15 August in press conference. The family, through a group of lawyers, had reported the disappearance to the Panamanian Public Ministry and on 12 August the Citizens’ Assembly, a group that brings together some 40 civil society organizations, filed an habeas corpus against the Director of National Police in the case. 72 hours later, Valentin Palacios was presented and the rumors of its demise were confusing and contradictory. (See Recommendations)
Total cases documented: 492
Reported wounds and injuries
- 312 buckshot wounds presented (63,41%)
- 124 suffered affects of teargas (25,2%)
- 41 wounds and bruises present without determining (8.3)
- 20 refer only to psychological damage (4.06%)
- 1 shot
- 1 knocked down
- 19 did not specify the type of injury and / or speak only of verbal aggressions (3,8%)
- There are numerous cases of beatings with clubs by police, and some marginal cases with injuries in medical records or personal interviews could not be observed.
- There are 42 cases of women documented within the general list:
- 11 psychological concerns
- 24 involving teargas
- 8 involving buckshot wounds
- 1 case of burned lips
- In the list of documented cases, there are 16 cases of boys and / or girls, of whom one is a baby of 4 months (Form 65, daughter of the woman recorded in Form 64, backed up with video) suffered severe affects of teargases, another of 7 months (Form 153), one less than 2 years old (Form 139) and another 9 years old (Form 144). One child under 15 years was transferred to Panama and received service in a health center due to the severity of the injuries (Form 378).
- In general, the HREV team found that children continued to experience respiratory problems, fever and diarrhea resulting from the teargas gas for several days after the events.
- Those affected by tear gas indicated respiratory problems, headaches, insomnia and nausea. The team found that gases were discharged near the dwellings where mainly women, children and elderly took refuge, so hundreds of people who were mildly affected by tear gas have not been registered as victims of human rights violations, as they did not require medical care for their exposure to tear gas.
- Direct testimony of the directors of Nutrihogar (a child care center for minors suffering from acute malnutrition) in Changuinola confirms that the lives of 22 children with malnutrition and 4 employees were endangered on July 8, when Police fired tear gas at the edge of their location. Sufferers report that thanks to the intervention of SINAPROC (National Civil Protection System) and the collaboration by the community the residents of Nutrihogar were able to be relocated. (Videos: 19_07_10 / / NUTRIHOGAR).
Wounded who received medical attention in Panama
- 68 in total between the Hospital Santo Tomás, the Center for Social Security (CSS) and the Hospital San Miguel Arcángel
- 58 of these presented “major ocular trauma” in one or both eyes caused by buckshot. Several have lost, or will lose, their eye sight (as of July 30 it is difficult to determine the final diagnosis).
- 3 of these presented internal injuries: intestinal (1); punctured lungs (1), kidney and liver (1); (Forms 370 and 391 / Hospital Report 1).
- The remainder presented mainly buckshot lesions to the knees, feet, face, arms and back.
Body areas that were impacted by buckshot or strikes (according to direct interviews, collected in Database of Types of Wounds)
- Head: 43 cases / Eyes: 34 / Torso: 52 / Back: 60 / Legs: 69 / Arms: 72
* In these cases respondents stated the amount of buckshot pellets in their body and shown x-rays, with up to 40 pellets in the torso, up to 50 pellets in the legs, up to 32 on the back, and up to 16 in the head.
Deficiencies in medical attention:
- Almost all testimonies state that the victim was sent home with a few pills. According to these testimonies in some cases the pills were analgesics, and in other cases they were antibiotics.
- Many of the wounded affirmed that they did not go to the doctor for fear of arrest or due to lack of money or insurance.
- One person stated that he chased an ambulance for attention with no response and once he arrived in the emergency room, they threatened to send the riot police.
Principle conflict locations
- Fincas: 12, 11, 66, 30, 8, 13, 4, 83, 67, 6. Other conflicto locations: Nutrihogar; Aeropuerto; Las Lomas-Puente Torres; Planta Molde; Piquera; Globalbank; Vía Central
- Of the documented cases of injuries 20,9% were injured or arrested in Finca 12; 16.2% were in Finca 11; 11.63% were in Finca 66; 5.8% were in Las Lomas-Puente Torres, 4.8% were in the airport; 27,6% did not specify where they were.
- In 9 cases respondents stated they were at home or not participate in the confrontation.
- In the case of the headquarters of the private bank Globalbank (burned by the protesters), most of the testimonies indicate that riot police were stationed on the roof at night and shot in the style of “snipers” at the protesters. This is the justification for burning the bank that is given by the interviewees and respondents.
Arrests and use of force
- Of the 492 documented cases there were 46 detainees in total. In the majority, they were detained for between 3 and 5 days in the Police Substation.
- 5 of them were taken to police headquarters in Ancon, Panama City, and were taken to the Assistant Attorney before being taken to hospital .
Treatment of detainees in Changuinola
- 23 respondents spoke of verbal insults
- 18 of threats
- 13 of sleep deprivation
- 21 said they were deprived of food for the entire duration of their detention
- Several persons said they were arrested when they were leaving or trying to go to the hospital to receive medical attention
- There are numerous testimonies that speak of abuse and torture at the substation of Changuinola. We highlight the cases in which detainees were kept with hands and feet shackled; a case in which the citizen was kneeling and handcuffed, at gunpoint and held incommunicado; repeated baton blows; pepper spray in the face; a case in which they poured vinegar on the wounds; one interviewee relates how before feeding they “sprinkled gasoline on the food”; and several wounded were detained without medical attention; stripped naked and ridiculed, deprived of sleep or made to sit or with a buzzer; many detainees had no access to the bathroom and some mentioned that they were allowed to use the bathroom, but had to go handcuffed.
- There is one direct testimony of a woman who was detained along with two friends in the Vía Central while looking for her daughter who was poisoned by gas. At the police station in a hallway were stripped and insulted (Form 247).
Use of force by the Police:
- Our field team considers it is clearly established that excessive use of force was used by police officers posted to Changuinola July 7, 8, 9 and 10.
- Many of the wounded say that the police were shooting at close range. Some said: “directly to kill” or “point blank.” In general they said that they fired from 5, 7, 15 or 20 meters.
- One of the wounded, who witnessed the death of Virgilio Castillo, ensures that he heard “it is good to kill Indians” (Form 116).
- There are witnesses who ensure they saw arms and ammunition being transported in an ambulance from the Center for Social Security (Form 256). Several states that SINAPROC (National Civil Protection System) vehicles were used to transport riot police.
- A majority of respondents referred to insults, beatings and unjustified abuse inflicted on people who did not participate in the protests, and unauthorized searches in households with a high degree of violence.
4. Key Findings
The findings noted below are the result of fieldwork in Changuinola, analysis of interviews and supporting audio or video and documentary evidence that the field team obtained about what happened in the days of the crisis.
- The protesters staged a peaceful strike since July 2 (6 days prior to the intervention of the riot police), and demanded a dialogue to discuss the repeal of Law 30 and recovery of the salary that Bocas Fruit Company had retained from the workers who initiated the strike.
- By all accounts, no altercations or violence was recorded during the days prior to the intervention of the riot police. The businesses in the city continued to operate despite the strike by banana workers (at least until the declaration of an indefinite strike and closure of the province on July 6 and 7) and coexistence was peaceful. Marches were conducted by at least 10,000 demonstrators without causing violence.
- On the night of Wednesday July 7 until the morning of Thursday July 8 an undisclosed quantity of riot police arrived by commercial aircraft. The first statements of the Government talked about 300 riot police. In the latest statements after the conflict, the President said there were no more than 150 riot police. In news media published on July 11 they spoke of 200 riot police in just one of the points of conflict.
- The first violent clashes occurred on the night of July 7, and on Thursday morning July 8 began the violent dissolution of the strike after refusing to attend a negotiation with representatives of the workers who wanted to resolve the conflict through dialogue.
- High authorities of the Executive office, including the Minister of Labour, Alma Cortes and Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino, referred to the protesters in front of the news media in a manner that was racist and derogatory. For example, in an article appeared on July 11 in the newspaper La Prensa (The violence imposed on Changuinola), Jose Raul Mulino accused the unions of “getting the indigenous people drunk so they would protest, and to instigate the destabilization of the entire country.”
- The riot police used weapons. In the places where the fighting occurred we collected remains of casings from 12 gauge buckshot (detonated and non-detonated) that were used against the population, rubber bullets, shell casings of various calibers, and various types of tear gas canisters.
- We found a large number of people who were wounded by the impact of buckshot (with different parts of the body affected and a great number shot in the head and thorax) which means that police officers shot above the waist as a common.
- According to testimonies, arbitrary arrests in some of the streets of Changuinola occurred almost exclusively among indigenous peoples. The number of non-indigenous people detained or injured is absolutely marginal. The same was also to be found of harassment and racial slurs made by agents of the National Police.
- During the days of dissolution of the strike they launched gases that were released inside residential areas where there were children, pregnant women and the elderly, despite the notification by the neighbors to the police of the presence of these people, both verbally and through calls to the police station.
10. In different locations where there were confrontations, the police harassed the inhabitants of the farms in search of participants of the strike trying to make them get out of homes through shouts, threats, racial slurs and launching tear gas.
11. In some cases, children, elderly and some women had to take refuge in the banana plantations in dangerous conditions, because it was impossible to stay in their homes due to the use of gas in residential areas and the fear that they would suffer injuries.
12. On July 8 the riot police launched tear gas near a child nutrition center where more than 20 children were being treated without being informed beforehand by the police officers, who saw the affects the center needed to be evacuated later due to extreme danger and serious illness.
13. In the area of the access bridge to Changuinola, one of the critical points of conflict, the Police acted with helicopters which launched buckshot and tear gas into residential areas severely affecting the civilian population who were not involved in the strike.
14. We found interference by the authorities regarding permission to research the number of conflict-related deaths and the causes thereof.
15. There is evidence that arbitrary arrests were made taking advantage of health care facilities, because these led Police to injured indigenous people when they were seeking medical attention.
16. There is sufficient information to indicate that the Changuinola detention center practiced torture, did not provide medical assistance, deprived sleep, and practiced degrading treatment and racist abuse. There was no legal assistance for detainees, nor were any statements taken. Most of the detainees remained between 24 and 96 hours in police custody without legal assistance.
17. There are injured civilians, many heads of household who are not able to work as a result of injuries and wounds imposing an additional problem for their families, most of whom are in a precarious economy.
18. We found that there are numerous cases of injured have taken buckshot from their bodies with knives and in conditions of questionable hygiene. This can cause major health problems to show up later. According to the consultations realized by HREV to medical specialists, in the immense majority of the cases it is not necessary to extract the buckshot, only it is precise in cases in which they concern vital organs or that could generate later difficulties. We think that one has not given the public necessary information that calms the injured men in the matter.
19. There are a large number of citizens who are suffering from psychological aftermath and are not being treated medically.
20. The civilian population had to organize in order to treat the injured and affected, because medical services and civil protection were not enough to meet all needs (overwhelmed and without reinforcements)
21. Medical care has been poor for those wounded who went to medical facilities after they overcame the fear of being arrested. In most cases, were sent home without any intervention for the removal of buckshot pellets in his body and with an antifungal ointment (Fuicidin 2%) and amoxicillin 500 mg., With the diagnosis that the body would expel the pellets through using this medication.
22. Those without health insurance received no treatment and were sent home without even having x-rays completed.
23. MIDES (Ministry of Social Development) distributed, at least from July 17 to July 19, various material goods to the population to compensation for the events that occurred. Documented are: bags of canned and dry foods (lentils, sugar, rice, tuna, sardines, mayonnaise), a plate of food and juice delivered in person by the Vice President on “Finca Las 30″ bicycles the same day and at the same time as the burial of those who died during the days of conflict, toys in school, gas cookers and $ 20 in hand, and sets of sheets.
24. The treatment of the wounded transferred to Panama has not been adequate. The first few days they remained guarded by police officers and “deprived of liberty” until they received the visit of President of the Republic. Relatives of patients were accommodated in a hotel with few living conditions in a central zone that is dangerous at night. Many of the families, mostly indigenous, have remained practically confined, without help, unable to communicate with their homes and in a climate of fear.
25. It should be noted that most of the 68 wounded who were taken to Panama City for the seriousness of their injuries have lost their sight, at least in one eye.
26. As lawyers of the families and wounded have denounced, there are open proceeeding in the Assistant Attorney’s office against 187 people detained and injured in the events of Changuinola. In this case due process is being violated, because they have still not been notified and, among other aspects, many of them were questioned by exploiting their situations of convalescence.
27. The National Police alleged that during the conflict First Sergeant Ephraim Peterson, First Sergeant David Gamarra, entry level officer Anilio Serrasín, and officer Esteban Garcia were detained for three days. According to information disseminated through the media, three officers were detained by the demonstrators. These facts were acknowledged publicly by the protesters, and they were released without presenting any wounds or injuries. The National Police has also reported a total of 33 policemen injured during the clashes.
28. The images obtained by the HREV team confirm that the demonstrators used stones against the police forces. It was observed that there were isolated incidents of use of sticks, machetes and Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs homemade).
29. We found that during the clashes, demonstrators burned several vehicles of the State (five) and caused damage to windows and furnishings of government offices and some private facilities.
30. Health authorities denounced that in some places, protesters obstructed the passage of seven (7) ambulances that, according to authorities, provided transport service for the wounded, and that one was stoned in the airport area.
5. Role of the State in this crisis
5.1. During the conflict
- Police. This report concludes that:
- Excessive force was used by agents of the National PoliceSe dio un uso
- Inappropriate weapons and ammunition that have lethal power were used for crowd control. They shot above the waist and in many cases, directly into the face.
- There were acts of discrimination on grounds that most demonstrators were members of the Ngäbe indigenous people.
- The police made it difficult for the wounded to receive medical care and took advantage of the ailing condition of the protesters to make arbitrary arrests.
- The detention conditions for the arrested protesters were inhumane, and violations of human dignity.
- Health care system:
- The health care services of Changuinola were overwhelmed from the first moment and its institutions were not reinforced by contingency as the evident care crisis became apparent
- The directors and officers of the health care facilities served mostly as representatives of the Executive Office rather than as facilities responsible for the protection of citizens’ health.
- The health services were used as a “trap”to detain some of the wounded protesters.
- Local institutions of justice did not function in Changuinola. The detainees were not placed under the order of the competent judicial authority and the Public Ministry office did not act against the obvious violations of due process.
- The Public Ministry waited a week to announce an official investigation into what occurred in Bocas del Toro
- There is no transparency about the investigation that followed by the Public Ministry
- The Assistant Attorney opened 187 cases against detainees in Changuinola and while negotiating an end to the crisis on Sunday July 10, opened proceedings against 17 union leaders and teachers of the country who coordinated a nationwide strike for Tuesday, July 12.
- Other institutions: we consider that the role of other institutions or the use of state property and facilities to support the police repression must be included in the investigation of the events in Bocas del Toro. Especially, the use of vehicles of government organs for care and protection to citizens such as in the case of the vehicles of Center of Social Security or SINAPROC.
- Police. As of July 30, 2010 we do not know of any agent or officer of the National Police who is under open investigation or concrete proceedings. Until this date, the commissioner of public appearances of Bocas del Toro, Didier de Gracia, and National Police director, Gustavo Perez, have followed the line to justify these actions. Policía. A 30 de julio de 2010 no se conoce de ningún agente u oficial de la Policía Nacional al que se le haya abierto una investigación concreta o un expediente.
- Health System. There has been no proper monitoring of the infirm victims. Most are in their homes with buckshot lodged in their bodies and the uncertainty in this regard. There is no known contingency plan on the part of the medical authorities. Nor is there a plan for psychological and social assistance for children and adults affected psychologically or relatives of victims. For those who have lost vision in one or both eyes there is no plan of care, nor reparation.
- Justice. The judicial system has not reported on post-conflict investigations. The Executive Ogan, actor in the conflict, has appointed an “independent commission” to make a report about what happened but Human Rights Watch stated on 29 July: “Instead of trying to blame other people, the Panamanian authorities should ensure that those responsible for abuses are brought to justice,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch said “The special commission could help clarify what happened, but this is not a way to replace a criminal process.”
- Ombudsman. This institution issued a preliminary report on July 25 that indicates serious violations of human rights and Panamanian laws, such as international conventions, by the Government of Panama. By law, this institution has no coercive or obligatory power of enforcement to require that the State follow its recommendations.
- Other institutions: the Executive Office used diverse ministries and agencies in a strategy deployed between July 12 and 19. The Ministry of Social Development (MIDES), especially dispatched a large number of officials who handed out “gifts” and created “fairs” for several days. The Ministry of Public Works was responsible for “cleaning” Changuinola. In fact, three days after the conflict the traces of the conflict were minimal. This fact would not be remarkable were it not for the state of neglect that is daily presented in Changuinola, with serious structural problems with infrastructure, garbage collection and a general lack of effective State services.
6. Other actors
We emphasize the role of two actors, as they appear repeatedly in the interviews.
- Panamanian Red Cross: In the first hours of violence, the Panamanian Red Cross played a key role as mediator between police and community and in caring for the wounded. The Red Cross volunteers publicly denounced abuses that they witnessed.
- Local Media: A large majority of interviewees referred negatively to the role played by the media locally and nationally. They allege that the conflict was downplayed in the days leading up to violence, images and testimonies and pressure were censured, and some radio stations were even closed for trying to cover the conflict in an impartial manner.
- Social movement and union leaders. It should be noted that during the conflict and post- conflict there were some indirect victims. Social movement and union leaders or environmentalists that helped the protests in Bocas del Toro have suffered persecution, violations of due process and continue to have direct problems with the law. The most dramatic cases occur on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July, when the assistant prosecutor issued a warrant for the arrest of at least 17 leaders. On Sunday 10 July the police surrounded the Soloy Hotel in the capital, where there was a meeting of the Front for Social and Economic Rights (Frenadeso) and detained about 200 trade unionists and even pedestrians. They were released several hours later. However, the unionist from Chiriqui, Jaime Caballero, and communicator and indigenous unionist, Rolando Ortiz, were detained for several days. That same day, agents of the Office of Judicial Investigations attempted to arrest the economist and leader Juan Jované economist and professor and leader of the teachers union Dalia Morales.
- On Tuesday, the 17th of August, after Valentín Palacios’s appearance, the District attorney’s office To help appointment urgently to bearing witness to Magaly Castillo, in name of the Civil Assembly, who had signed the Habeas Corpus asking for the investigation on the case of the arrested – missing person. The district attorney refused to that Castle should present a power in favour of his attorneys and announced new citations to defenders of Human rights, between them to the representatives of HREV in Panama.
7. Infringements of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties
Human rights are universal and inalienable (World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993). States have an obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms irrespective of their political, economic or cultural regime.
In the events of Bocas del Toro we consider that there were infringements of the following fundamental freedoms of the American Convention on Human Rights, signed by Panama in 1969 (at least 10 rights).
- Right to life (Chapter II, article 4)
- Right to human treatement (Chapter II, article 5)
- “Every person has the right to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.”
- “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment. All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
- Right to personal liberty (Chapter II, article 7)
- “No one shall be deprived of his physical liberty except for the reasons and under the conditions established beforehand by the constitution of the State Party concerned or by a law established pursuant thereto.”
- “No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or imprisonment.”
- “Anyone who is detained shall be informed of the reasons for his detention and shall be promptly notified of the charge or charges against him.”
- “Any person detained shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to be released without prejudice to the continuation of the proceedings. His release may be subject to guarantees to assure his appearance for trial.”
- Right to a fair trial (Chapter II, article 8)
- Right to privacy (Chapter II, article 11)
- Freedom of thought and expression (Chapter II, article 13)
- Rights of the child (Chapter II, article 19)
- Right to property (Chapter II, article 21)
- Freedom of movement and residence (Chapter II, article 22)
10. Right to judicial protection (Chapter II, article 25)
With respect to the Constitution of Panama, we consider that at least 8 articles have been infringed.
Title III RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETIES
Chapter I FUNDAMENTAL GUARANTEES.
ARTICLE 17: The authorities of the Republic are instituted to protect life, honor and property nationals wherever they are found and foreigners who are under its jurisdiction; ensure the effectiveness of rights and individual and social duties, and meet and uphold the Constitution and the Law
ARTICLE 19. There will be no immunities or privileges nor discrimination based on race, birth, disability, social class, sex, religion or political views.
ARTICLE 21. No one shall be deprived of his liberty, except by written order of competent authority, issued in accordance with the legal formalities and for reasons previously defined in the Law. Those executing such orders are required to give a copy to the person concerned, if requested.
The offender caught in flagrante delicto may be apprehended by any person and must be delivered immediately to the authority. No one can be detained for more than twenty-four hours without orders being placed by the competent authority. Public officials who violate this precept will be sanctioned by the loss of employment, subject to the penalties provided for that purpose established by law
ARTICLE 22. Every person arrested must be informed immediately and in a way that is understandable, the reasons for their detention and their respective legal and constitutional rights.
ARTICLE 26. The domicile or residence is inviolable. No one can enter them without the consent of its owner, except by written order of a competent authority for specific purposes, or to assist victims of crime or disaster.
ARTICLE 28. The prison system is based on principles of security, rehabilitation and social defense. It prohibits the use of measures which impair the physical, mental or moral integrity of detainees.
ARTICLE 38. The inhabitants of the Republic have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms for lawful purposes. The demonstrations and outdoor gatherings are not subject to permission and are only required to make notice to the local administrative authority, twenty-four hours in advance.
CHAPTER 6 / HEALTH, SOCIAL SECURITY AND WELFARE
ARTICLE 109. It is the function of the State to safeguard the health of the population of the Republic. The individual, as part of the community has the right to the promotion, protection, conservation, restoration and rehabilitation of health and the obligation to preserve health, understood as the complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.
- Two people (Antonio Smith and Virgilio Castillo) died during demonstrations as a result of direct actions by the National Police, as recognized by the government of Panama itself.
- According to witnesses, two people (Ruben Becker and Leonardo Santos) apparently died from respiratory complications. There are ongoing legal complaints about the deaths caused by gases launched by the National Police.
- Three others (Einar Quintero, Marcelina Carpenter and Florinda Pena) died during these days for reasons that could be related to the events, according to reports by local NGOs. HREV was unable to locate the families of the deceased to obtain more information. Also there are suspicions of which the deaths of three minors (Einer Becker Salomon, Hilda Palacios y Migdalia Abrego) can have relation with the events.
8.1 Disappeared detainee
A case of missing arrested was brought: Valentín Palacios was detained by the police in front of numerous witnesses on July 8 and was presented alive by the State police on August 15. DDHH’s organizations have asked for an independent investigation on the happened with Palaces before the contradictions of the versions offered by the State police and for same affected.
8.3 Excessive use of force by the pólice and arbitrary detentions
According to witnesses, the National Police used excessive use of force, fired with buckshot to the face or very close to the demonstrators and made arbitrary arrests.
According to witnesses, at least 312 people were injured by buckshot fired by riot police, of which 87 wounds in the eyes or the face and 3 with internal injuries. Among these 492 cases, 46 were women and 16 minors.
The points of impact of the buckshot were reported as being the following: 43 in the head, 34 in the eyes (in some cases causing irreversible blindness), 52 in the chest, 60 on the back, 69 on the legs and 72 on the arms. This clearly indicates that the police were not firing to restrain the demonstrators, but rather that they had instructions and permission to shoot above the belt.
Additionally, 124 other people were affected at distinct levels by tear gas, though HREV is conscious of that the number of affected by gases is very top. In this regard, HREV received reliable information that tear gas launched by police landed on the perimeter of the headquarters of a nutrition care center for children with symptoms of malnutrition that housed 22 children. Nine respondents reported having been injured when they were at home.
8.5 Cases of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by the National Police to the detainees
HREV collected reliable information on 46 cases of detention (which does not mean that there were not more cases. The Police estimated that they processed 140 arrests). Many of these people were detained in hospitals, when went to or returned to medical centers. Most people interviewed reported insults, threats and deprivation of food and sleep. Some were held incommunicado. In particular, we must emphasize the following reports of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment: one person was kneeling and handcuffed, at gunpoint; in one case a detainee had vinegar thrown on his wounds; in many cases, people received gas pepper in the face; one interviewee relates how before feeding they “sprinkled petrol on food” numerous, including three women, were stripped.
According to testimony, the National Police of Panama maintained a racist pattern toward the detainees because of their indigenous ethnicity. The arrests that occurred were almost exclusively among indigenous people. Also they reported racial slurs and harassment by agents of the National Police.
8.6 Lack of medical attention
We deduce from the evidence that medical care was poor. The services were overwhelmed and were not reinforced. A minority of people were actually treated (sometimes with an extraction of the buckshot in questionable sanitary conditions and most limited to prescription antifungal creams and antibiotics). A few did not have the buckshot removed, with the indication that “it would come out on its own.” Until this moment it is unknown if a plan exists for psychosocial care, psychological care for children and monitoring of post-conflict psychological trauma.
Recommendations for clarification, support a quick response and take actions to remedy the violations of human rights committed between July 7 and 11 in Bocas del Toro (Panama):
9.1 Independent investigation An independent technical committee formed by specialists in human rights and international accompaniment, perform a thorough investigation and in the field of events in Changuinola. We call on national authorities to take action on the recommendations of the independent commission.
9.2 Cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Given that the authorities recognized their responsibility in the deaths of Smith and Antonio Virgilio Castillo, appropriate measures must be taken against those responsible (intellectual and material) and compensation awarded.
Regarding the deaths of Ruben Becker, Leonardo Santos, Einar Quintero, Marcelina Carpenter, Florinda Peña, Einer Becker Salomón, Hilda Palacios and Migdalia Abrego thorough investigation must be conducted to determine whether these deaths are related to the events of Changuinola. If so, appropriate measures must be taken against those responsible (intellectual and material) and compensation awarded.
9.3 Case of enforced disappearance That conforms an independent commission shaped by Defensoría del Pueblo, DDHH’s nationals NGO, Churches and an international organization expert in the matter to clarify the happened with Valentín Palacios during 38 days that it remained as missing person and that it should determine if this citizen was or not stopped by the authorities and that there should grant him compensation if one thinks that this one happened and that it was arbitrary.
9.4 Cases of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment All detention cases must be investigated to ensure legality and in particular to determine whether there was torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in which corresponding measures of sanction and reparation must be made.
9.5 Cases of violations of the right to life and physical integrity caused by excessive use of force by police and lack of medical care
Right to life: an independent investigation must be carried out to determine if the deaths could have been avoided and the degree of accountability of state institutions to give or execute orders that led to these deaths.
Physical integrity: an independent investigation must be carried out to determine whether the police conduct was disproportionate and constituted an excessive use of force amounts to a violation of human rights. If so, actions must be quickly adopted and implemented and compensation for damages awarded to the injured.
Lack of medical assistance: the authorities must give immediate medical assistance to people affected during the events, and also take into account the expected long-term impact on psychological well-being of those affected, particularly children, and the economic capacity, particularly for families of the dead, wounded and disabled.
9.6 Monitoring System A group of observers must be established that will be responsible for monitoring the situation in Bocas del Toro and to alert through a mechanism of early warning about situations that could lead to more violations directly to the national authorities. This group should be comprised of representatives of national and local institutions, as well as the Ombudsman and representatives of national NGOs and the churches.
9.7 Institutionality The institutional problems that exacerbated tensions in Bocas del Toro causing the events of the days of July 7-11 must be recognized, and the Cabinet Council must develop an improvement plan for this zone, in consultation and cooperation with local communities.
9.8 Transparency In accordance with the UN declaration for the protection of human rights defenders, organizations, advocates and media must be allowed access to information and locations of events, as well as hospitals and morgues so they can continue with their recognized work to protect human rights.
9.9 Discrimination The recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism (CERD) of the United Nations that were made to the Panamanian government in 2010 should be implemented immediately regarding the evident discriminatory attitudes displayed by officials from various agencies of the Executive Office.
10. Testimonies Some testimonies collected in interviews
- I stood in front asking, begging … On Friday July 9 at 1 pm the riot police came to finca 11 where elderly, children, mothers were leaving. All ran to the banana plantation. My daughter was poisoned and crying, I went in front, asking, begging the police not to go to the banana plantation … and they gases from the air. I had to show them a newborn baby and they had no absolution for anyone
- We won a free pass to death. I told them my daughter had been poisoned and I went to look for her with three female friends. At that point, some policemen came and arrested us for no reason. We arrived at the jail. I have always believed that when they go to strip or search a woman there will only be other women in the room. It was not like that. We stripped totally in the hallway and they started to say “gross!” In short they were discriminating against us. I could see how the police treated the male colleagues who were arrested. They did not give them water or food. – As we were the only three women gave us food, but not to the men. And there was no toilet. From our food we shared bite for bite with each one. We have been treated like animals. We all voted for Ricardo Martinelli [President] only for a good future, but we won a free pass to death.
- “If they are given the order to burn us they will burn us“
- They shot to kill. The Police entered houses with women and babies inside, they did not care about anything, and there, in Finca 66 they told the people: tell these ignorant Indians that we are going to kill …). And they shot to kill, someone must have given the order, this cannot be done without a very high order, someone gave the order to the (sub) commissioner …
- They want to silence us with food. The food they sent to silence us was nothing but pure tuna and expired sardinesa and it is making the children sick
- They were treating us like dogs. They were grabbing people and hitting them mercilessly with batons. They were people who were not in the fight and they were grabbing them the same. They were grabbing everyone who was indigenous, because they view us as animals, they were treating us like dogs.
- The injustice was directed toward the indigenous. They were entering the houses looking for people with buckshot to detain them. The injustice was directed toward the indigenous. It was those who they were seeking to detain and beat, it was very rare that they searched a Latino. I saw them kicking and beating the wounded, it was terrible.
- This is no time to ride a bike. Here the protests for two or three days were peaceful with 10,000 to 12,000 people, and the government did nothing. Now the government wants to cover the sun with both hands giving out bicycles… this is no time to ride a bike. We cannot ever forget what they have done to us.
- They attacked us. The riot pólice were the ones who acted first. For me, the people were peaceful until the riot police took action. After, the protesters used rocks, of course, to defend themselves.
- Instead of looking for solutions, they arrived to beat us more with words.
- They did not want to see any indigenous walking downtown. I saw how they took two indigenous women who were only buying water and took them to the jail.
- It is a lie that the PRD (Partido Revolucionario Democrático) were with us. It was purely people from Democratic Change and it was our congressman and our Governor who gave the order, who gave us permission for everything.
- We do not want to cover the sun with hands. HThere are people within the Government who know they must ask for forgiveness. Perhaps things got out of hand (…) But the Government is also the village and in other times we also left the village, we also threw stones, we were also shot with buckshot, we also were reprimanded, we also went to jail. National Director of MIDES, Alberto Petit, during the distribution of food one week after the end of the conflict.
 Sources: Poverty Map 2003 and 2005 the Ministry of Economy and Finance, National Institute of Statistics and Census, Social Indicators 2003 to 2007, Panama in July Figures 2004-2008; Estimated Population July 1, 2009.
 The standard form includes the name of the victim as well as general information, contact person and phone number and a description of their injuries, health care received, the scene and in case of arrest, type of treatment and possible violations of their fundamental rights.
 Changuinola is divided into farms. In some farms more people are concentrated, next to the banana plantations, but there are also farms where workers do not live. The farms where the conflict was most intense are in the most populated areas surrounding the main roads, where protesters and the citizens erected about 15 roadblocks. But there are scattered neighborhoods and communities such as the California, the Deborah or 4th of April that are a bit more remote where many of the people live and are banana workers who were actively involved in the protests and suffered injuries. It is important to highlight that in the hottest spots where protesters concentrated people from other farms supported those who had built roadblocks. Therefore, the origin of the wounded is so varied.
 The confirmation of fatalities such as Ruben Becker and Leandro Santos, as a result of respiratory failure, were duly documented by family members who presented testimony that these people were already debilitated by certain natural diseases, but with prolonged exposure to tear gas their health status was complicated and resulted in death.
 Tolete: wooden baton utilized by the National Police of Panamá.
 As the Minister of Health of Panama, Franklin Vergara, stated to the press on July 13, 2010, there were 152 victims from Bocas who were treated in Panama, the majority of 129 were treated in Hospital Santo Tomás. HREV data is based on two independent sources. One made by the Catholic Church and the other by a volunteer from the ULIP (Unit Control Integral del Pueblo). HREV data is based on these two reports of injuries treated in Panama by those who had access, contrasted with the transfer lists that were generated by the health care centers Changuinola.
 Major ocular trauma: medical term used by treatment providers in Changuinola Hospital to determine which patients should be transferred to Panama City.
 The percentages of where the victims were located refer to all of those who clearly identified their location, which were 265. It is evident that, in the cases of victims who appeared in hospital listings this information was not recorded.
 These are just the illegally detained among the 405 documented cases although we are aware that many more were illegally detained. According to the report CEASPA (Center for Studies and Social Action of Panama) on July 13, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Bocas del Toro, Didier de Gracia, reported “of 142 detainees, including 5 women.” In the news article “Buckshot affected eyes of strikers,” in the newspaper La Prensa (13/07/1910) The Assistant Attorney General, Angel Calderon, said the number of detainees was 135 and that they were investigating 30 inpatients on their participation in the events. Conclusion No. 9 of the report of the Ombudsman, released on July 25, said: “By virtue of our research, it becomes clear that there were violations of due process, taking into consideration that deprivations of liberty were made without proper legal foundation, attempting in this way against the law of personal freedom as established in various international instruments on Human Rights ratified by the Panamanian government, as well as in our positive law.”
 The report of the Office of the Ombudsman says: “In the visit discussed [to the Hospital Santo Tomás] several people affected by the riots were interviewed, all of indigenous ethnicity, who all indicated that they were not given any personal hygiene items, which until that moment were maintained in custody by units of the National Police and their families were unaware that they could be found in said hospital, because they needed to communicate with them.”
 “I told them my daughter had been poisoned and I went to look for her with three female friends. At that point, some policemen came and arrested us for no reason. We arrived at the jail. I have always believed that when they go to strip or search a woman there will only be other women in the room. It was not like that. We stripped totally in the hallway and they started to say “gross!” In short they were discriminating against us. I could see how the police treated the male colleagues who were arrested. They did not give them water or food. – As we were the only three women gave us food, but not to the men. And there was no toilet. From our food we shared bite for bite with each one. We have been treated like animals. We all voted for Ricardo Martinelli [President] only for a good future, but we won a free pass to death.” (Interview documentary)
 The HREV field team obtained a large quantity of home videos and photographs taken by inhabitants of Changuinola during the conflicts.
 The CEASPA report indicates: “From the first moment the actions were peaceful and with attempts to negotiate and dialogue, and reached a peak with a march on Tuesday June 29 at 4 pm, involving nearly 12,000 people. This great march was almost completely ignored in this country.”
 “The violence imposed on Changuinola”, published in La Prensa July 11, 2010:
 The documentation of the report consists of photographs of various types of shells collected.
 On July 10, the regional office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations, issued a statement recalling that “in accordance with international standards, the use of force and firearms by officials responsible for law enforcement should be restricted and exceptional, guided at all times by the principles of necessity and proportionality, with full respect for human rights, in particular the right to life and personal integrity, which may not be restricted under any circumstances.” On 1 August, the Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino, in a television interview program Face-to-Face of RPC-Channel 4 said that the use of buckshot in crowd control “is necessary.”
 “They did not want to see any indigenous walking downtown. I saw how they took two indigenous women who were only buying water and took them to the jail” (Interview documentary)
 “On Friday July 9 at 1 pm the riot police came to finca 11 where elderly, children, mothers were leaving. All ran to the banana plantation. My daughter was poisoned and crying, I went in front, asking, begging the police not to go to the banana plantation … and they gases from the air. I had to show them a newborn baby and they had no absolution for anyone” (Interview documentary)
 CEASPA Report: “The police (…) deny that they prevented medical care to detainees, but accept that they were searching for the wounded with buckshot for “question them.”
 “Extract from a letter from a volunteer who treated patients in the first days. Written on July 11, 2010: “I try to get a lawyer who can assist them because they are detained, there are police at the entrance to the rooms and they do not let visitors enter ‘ because they are deprived of their liberty,’ so they told me. I know of people who have wanted to go visit, but have not been admitted.”
 Facts outlined in the Report of the Ombudsman’s office
 A group of 11 lawyers filed on Monday, July 26 a complaint with the Public Ministry in the open proceedings against 187 banana workers.
 The report of the Ombudsman, in its conclusion No. 7 states that the “use of firearms, specifically buckshot cartridges and injuries inflicted on the demonstrators in Changuinola, prove the failure to use proper protocols and correct implementation of regulations for containment of protests or public demonstrations, which unfortunately in some cases, in addition to partial or permanent disability, resulted in the loss of human life. The Ombudsman will continue research in this area.”
 Recommendations 7, 8 and 9 of the Ombudsman’s report: “7. Respect the honor of human rights activists, trade unionists, students, journalists, academics, religious, indigenous groups and public servants, among others, that as a result of their activities may find limitations or restrictions on the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms. / 8. Apply priority attention for the victims of the events, with hospital, medical and psychological aid, providing protection of the right to health, among others, as well as the moral and economic assistance that each case requires. / 9. Require the State, through its agencies, to immediately start an investigation of the events, especially in cases that have compromised the right to life and personal integrity; against freedom and to establish the criminal responsibility or administrators in such event.”