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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                    

Republic of Panama

Police have been accused of beatings and other forms of excessive force, including while dispersing protests. The prison system is marked by overcrowding, poor health conditions, and a lack of security.

[Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Panama


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Panama.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Panama

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 3 August 2021]


Impunity among security forces existed due to weak and decentralized internal control mechanisms for conduct and enforcement. The largest security force, the Panama National Police, has an internal affairs office, responsible for enforcing conduct violations, but it withdrew from past efforts to modernize. The government rarely made cases of police abuse or corruption public, and the National Criminal Statistics Directorate was unable to provide strong data on police internal affairs, making the extent of impunity difficult to gauge.


Physical Conditions: According to the Ministry of Government’s National Directorate of the Penitentiary System (DGSP), as of October the prison system held 17,895 prisoners in facilities with an intended capacity of 14,591 inmates.

Gang activity in prisons represented a daily threat to prisoner safety. Deficient prison security management contributed to a December 2019 massacre in La Joyita Prison, resulting in 13 deaths and 14 persons injured.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 15 May 2020]


The country is free from major threats to physical security such as war and insurgencies. However, police have been accused of beatings and other forms of excessive force, including while dispersing protests. The prison system is marked by overcrowding, poor health conditions, and a lack of security. In December 2019, 15 inmates were killed in La Joyita, a prison on the eastern outskirts of Panama City. Spanish news service EFE reported that heavy caliber weapons, including three rifles, were found in the prison after the fighting.

Panama: Protester deaths need proper investigation

Amnesty International AI, 8 February 2012

[accessed 12 January 2019]

Panama’s authorities must investigate allegations of excessive use of force by police after two protestors were killed during three days of clashes between security forces and the Ngäbe-Buglé people, Amnesty International said today. Jerónimo Rodríguez Tugrí was allegedly shot dead by police in San Felix in eastern Chiriquí province on 5 February, and more than 40 others – including police officers – have reportedly been wounded during the demonstrations. On 7 February the media reported the death of another demonstrator, Mauricio Méndez, in David, Chiriquí province. The circumstances of his death have yet to be confirmed. The authorities must carry out a full, independent, impartial and prompt investigation into the protesters’ deaths and all those injured and bring those responsible to justice”, said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Director at Amnesty International. Members of the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous people - who live in the west of the country in the provinces of Chiriquí, Veraguas, and Bocas del Toro - blocked the Pan-American Highway as part of a protest begun on 30 January over fears that an amendment to a bill could pave the way for hydroelectric projects on their lands.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. A/53/44, paras. 206-219 (1998)

[accessed 5 March 2013]

3. Subjects of concern

218. The Committee is concerned about the following:

(a) The absence in Panama's legislation of a stipulated maximum duration of pre-trial detention;

(b) The high proportion of unsentenced detainees in Panama's prisons;

(c) The possibility that compliance with article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention may be jeopardized by the repatriation of refugees coming from neighbouring countries.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


Possible excessive use of force by the security forces remained a concern.

Two Indigenous people were killed and 40 people, including police officers, were wounded during protests by the Ngöbe-Buglé Indigenous People in January and February. The protests were sparked by proposed laws that would make it easier for companies to build hydroelectric projects on Ngöbe-Buglé land. Reports indicated that the police used tear gas in close proximity to medical centres and that those arrested were denied access to legal representation. In February, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples urged the government to open a dialogue with the Ngöbe-Buglé affected, to investigate the circumstances of the deaths and to ensure that those responsible were held to account.

Three people, including a nine-year-old boy, were reportedly killed during protests in October against the proposed sale of state-owned Free Trade Zones in the city of Colón. The police reported that several officers had been injured by gunshots and missiles thrown by some of the protesters.


Efforts to ensure justice for victims of human rights violations during the military governments (1968-1989) made slow progress. In January, the government established a Special National Commission to assist in locating and identifying the remains of victims of enforced disappearance. A Truth Commission, which reported in 2002, estimated that 207 people had been forcibly disappeared and killed under the military governments.


For more articles:: Search Amnesty International’s website

[accessed 10 January 2019]

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Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 1   Civil Liberties: 2   Status: Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 10 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

The military was formally abolished in 1994. The police and other security forces that remain, while accountable to civilian authorities through a publicly disclosed budget, are poorly disciplined and corrupt. Like the country’s prison guards, police officers frequently use excessive force.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2013]

[accessed 4 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – Prison guards occasionally abused inmates. While admitting there were complaints against prison guards, the PNP's Professional Responsibility Office (DRP) did not provide statistics on the number of complaints of alleged police abuse against prison inmates.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Panama",, [accessed <date>]