207. Panama ratified the Convention on 24 August 1987. It has not made the declarations provided for in articles 21 and 22 of the Convention.
208. It is also a State party to the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.
209. The third periodic report covers the period from 21 September 1992, when the second periodic report was submitted, to 19 May 1997.
210. The representative of Panama provided additional information during the oral presentation, particularly regarding events after that period.
211. The Committee appreciates Panama’s sending a high-level delegation to present the report and the cordial spirit of the discussions.
212. The Committee has received no reports of cases of torture during the period covered by the report.
213. Panamanian legislation contains appropriate safeguards for the effective protection of human rights and especially the prevention of torture, in particular the maximum period of 24 hours, subject to no exception, within which a detainee must be brought before the competent judicial authority, and the prohibition against holding anybody incommunicado.
214. The establishment of the Office of the People’s Advocate is a positive step.
215. Other positive measures include the provision in the Judicial Code for a system of monthly visits to prison establishments by judges, magistrates and investigating officers and the establishment by the Public Prosecutor’s Department of a “prison mailbox” system to facilitate the exercise by prisoners of their right to lodge complaints and petitions.
216. The implementation of a human rights training project for members of the National Police and the introduction of a technical course on penology at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the University of Panama seem to demonstrate an intention to professionalize this area of public service.
217. The State authorities demonstrate a commendable concern for restructuring the Judiciary to improve the performance of its important role in the effective functioning of a State under the rule of law.
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.
219. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Consider the possibility of making the declaration provided for in article 22 of the Convention;
(b) Adopt all necessary safeguards for the protection of refugees from neighbouring countries, in particular so as to ensure that in case of repatriation they are not placed in the situation referred to in article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention.