Workshop for sentencing judges in Panama
In April 2018, the APT delivered a workshop on detention monitoring for sentencing judges in Panama. Since 2008, Panama has initiated a transition towards an accusatory criminal justice system as many other countries in Latin America. The Criminal Procedure Code was reformed, and brought many positive aspects that have the potential to prevent torture and ill-treatment. One of these positive transformations was the creation of a new figure: sentencing judges, who are in charge of supervising the enforcement of criminal sentences and the respect of human rights in prisons.
In Panama, sentencing judges have the power to visit prisons every week in order to report on the treatment of sentenced persons and prison conditions. The work of these new judicial actors is crucial for the improvement of detention conditions as their decisions are mandatory. Their expertise is important as they have particularly valuable insights to offer concerning the challenges faced by the persons that are confined in prisons. Most of sentencing judges have been exercising their functions since 2016.
Following a request from a group of sentencing judges based in Panama, the APT delivered a one-day training for eight judges to strengthen their prison monitoring skills, in particular regarding the preparation, conduct and follow-up of their visits. During the activity, a range of issues were discussed with them, including: their role in torture prevention, the importance of improving their visits methodology and potential ways of cooperation with the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) once it is established. The training also provided an environment for reflection, and allowed judges to get a deeper insight into torture prevention, and on how the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) may have an impact in their daily work.
“This workshop was organised to improve our visits to prisons, since we do not only verify the procedural but the personal conditions as well, in order to fulfill the rights that every person deprived of their liberty is entitled to,” stated coordinator judge James Corro.
Sentencing judge James Corro explaining their duties during the training © Judiciary of Panama
The NPM law promulgated in 2017 foresees the need to engage a wider spectrum of actors in the preventive sphere including judges, prosecutors, civil society organisations, academia and else. Therefore, this workshop was timely organised to raise awareness on the role of sentencing judges as an actor who has a mandate and responsibility to contribute to torture prevention.
For more on: