• Panama Human Rights

Case status report 2019 on Mr Tuffney’s legal programmes

Nick Tuffney

Nick Tuffney is a UK national who was detained between May 2013 and September 2014 in Panamá, and suffered cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Charges against him were dropped and he was deported back to the UK.

Nick's Story:

  • Between May 2013 and September 2014, Nick, a United Kingdom and United States citizen, was detained in Panamanian detention facilities.

  • The detention facilities were overcrowded, inappropriate and unsanitary, Nick lacked access to adequate food, water, healthcare, and shelter.

  • He was also subjected to torture and abuse at the hands of those charged with his care.

  • Insufficient support was provided to him by the British Embassy/Consulate in Panama and the American Embassy during his detention.

  • Nick was never tried nor convicted of any crime and in September 2014, the charges against him were dropped and he was expelled from Panamá indefinitely.

  • He was forced to leave behind his young son, and two daughters, whom he has not seen since.

Action for Justice:

  • On 12 June 2015, the late John Jones QC and Graeme Hall from Doughty Street Chambers submitted a complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (UNSRT) about Nick’s treatment in Panamá.

  • On 26 October 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur To concluded that Nick had been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and urged the Government of Panamá to publicise the developments on this case, and reiterated his call to the Government to begin the investigation, prosecution, and possible conviction of those guilty of abuse and to provide reparations.

  • Nick instructed Panamá attorney Boris Barrios, of Barrios, Barrios Associates to file a criminal complaint in Panamá against those state officials responsible for Nick’s ill-treatment. This complaint was filed on 30 August 2016. On 12 April 2018 the case was dismissed.

  • Meanwhile, Nick submitted a complaint on 15 November 2017 to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), asking them to investigate the insufficient and lack of support offered to him (as a British citizen) by the British Consulate/Embassy in Panamá, during and following his detention. This complaint followed the receipt of several inadequate responses to earlier complaints made by him direct to the Consulate/Embassy in Panamá, and later to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London.

  • The complaint to the PHSO has been accepted and a full investigation is underway.

  • Nick attended a meeting with the Panamanian Ambassador in London on 2 February 2018, to try to advance his claims for reparation and to press the Panamanian authorities to respond to the UNSRT’s October 2016 findings. The Ambassador subsequently made an assurance in writing that a genuine commitment exists on the part of the Panamanian government to resolving the matter. No concrete proposals have yet been made.

  • In the light of the dismissal (in April 2018) of the criminal complaint in Panamá against those state officials responsible for Nick’s ill-treatment, on 9 October 2018 a Petition was filed at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claiming violations of the American Convention on Human Rights in relation to the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which he suffered, and the unfair expulsion from Panamá after his acquittal in 2014. His Petition claims reparations from the Panamanian state.

The outcome:

  • Complaint to UNSRT, 12 June 2015.

  • UNSRT report, 26 October 2015.

  • Criminal complaint, 30 August 2016 (in Spanish).

  • Meeting with Panamanian Ambassador (Daniel Fabrega) in London, 2 February 2018. Outcome as yet unclear.

  • Complaint to PHSO, 15 November 2017 (with full details). Full investigation in progress.

  • Petition to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 9 October 2018 (in Spanish).

Quick facts:

Case name: Tuffney v. Rolando López Pérez, Ex Director of the La Joya Prison, Julio Armando Moltó, Ex Director of the Panamanian National Police

Court/Body: Second Superior Court of Justice of Panamá

Date filed: 30 August 2016

Current status: Case pending

Legal representation: Boris Barrios of Barrios, Barrios Asociados

Case name: Tuffney v. FCO

Court/Body: PHSO

Date filed: 15 November 2017

Current status: Case pending

Legal representation: REDRESS

Case name: Tuffney v. Republic of Panamá

Court/Body: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Date filed: 9 October 2018

Current status: Case pending

Legal representation: REDRESS


Reparation: For harm which has been done. This can include compensation, rehabilitation, investigation, prosecution of perpetrators, and other measures.


Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO): They make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other public organisations.

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