Torture prevention makes headways in Panama

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

In a week of events in Panama City, torture prevention was at the centre of the agenda, under the aegis of the National Mechanism to prevent torture. Authorities, civil society organisations and others discussed the necessity to prevent torture, particularly when targeting the most vulnerable sectors of the society.

The APT was in Panama from 14 to 18 October for a workshop on monitoring places of deprivation of liberty with the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), established at the end of 2018 as a Direction within the Ombuds Institution of Panama. The NPM has the mandate to prevent torture and other forms of ill-treatment across the country. The mission was carried out as part of a project developed and funded by the UNDP Office in Panama and the OHCHR Regional Office for Central America to support the NPM, implemented by the APT in partnership with the NPM.

The 3-day workshop aimed at providing skills and tools regarding the methodology of preventive monitoring and included visits to two detention facilities. Follow-up strategies and the drafting of recommendations to the authorities were also on the agenda.

The APT also supported the NPM during a roundtable on torture prevention with authorities on 17 October, contributing to the dialogue and good understanding of its mandate.

Photo: Roundtable with authorities, 17 October 2019. Courtesy of UNDP Panama, as part of a project implemented together with the NPM and the OHCHR.

“The NPM preventive role is a different approach of dealing with issues that we have usually addressed in the traditional way, after something has happened. Instead, the NPM, by visiting the detention centres and addressing the causes of the problems, it seeks to prevent them in the first place”, said Karla Pinder, Deputy Director of the NPM, at the event. “Having the NPM in our country is interesting and valuable as it allows us to put the culture of prevention into the public debate”, added Kathia Díaz, Chairperson of the NPM Advisory Council.

On Friday 18, the APT organised an event on persons in situations of vulnerability in detention, in collaboration with the NPM and the UNDP. The workshop was possible thanks to the support of the British Embassy in Panama. After a round of presentations, a very interesting debate gathered experts from civil society organisations, including members of the NPM Advisory Council, as well as authorities and representatives of the Ombuds Institution to discuss the specific situation of LGBTI persons, who are exposed to an array of risks of torture and other forms of ill-treatment in detention settings.

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Photo: Event on vulnerabilities in detention, 18 October 2019. Courtesy of UNDP Panama, as part of a project implemented together with the NPM and the OHCHR.

“There is a common pattern of institutional violence against LGBTI persons, which is anchored in homophobia and transphobia and is multiplied behind bars," said Jean-Sébastien Blanc at the opening of the event. "Torture prevention requires a joint effort from all of us to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are no longer grounds for discrimination and violence," Mr. Blanc added.

Staff members