• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Panama 2013

May 23, 2013

Republic of Panama

Head of state and government Ricardo Martinelli

Several people were killed or injured during the year in the context of protests. The authorities failed to ensure effective investigations and to bring those responsible for deaths of protesters to account. There was some limited progress in setting up mechanisms for locating and identifying victims of past enforced disappearances.

Excessive use of force

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.

Manuel Noriega, head of state from 1983 to 1989, who had been extradited from France in 2011, remained in custody throughout the year awaiting trial. He was charged with human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions.