• Panama Human Rights

La Joya Prison 5

Updated: Nov 3, 2019

We at Panama Human Rights would like to know why the Panamanian government refused the most important item on our human right checklist that directly affects our health, welfare and well being (Multi-Vitamins). These are a crucial part of our health by supplementing the deficiencies that are not provided by the Panamanian state, being poor quality prison food made in unhygienic conditions.

It is widely publicised on the Panamanian media that the prison food is extremely poor and lacks the daily nutritional values that a human requires, this requirement is also underwritten in International law, this being the case why do the Panamanian authorities deny the entry of vitamins,  one of the most basic of human rights is to be in good health, in not allowing these multivitamins to enter seriously undermines the UN charter that Panama ratified regarding “Prisoners’ Rights and obligations”.

Vitamins were not supplied by the state-run prison clinic “Merced” Panama in not taking prisoners welfare seriously. Most inmates upon leaving the penitentiary facility have some type of blood imbalance or deficiencies, some even suffering serious malnutrition. This was to be proven upon my arrival back to Miami being rushed into ER at the Cleveland Hospital. The doctors reported I had suffered a serious lack of potassium caused through malnutrition.

Many elderly people lived in building 6, some of whom were over 80 and did not get supplied with any vitamin supplements, these individuals were the most volatile, and most vulnerable individuals with a higher risk.

Panama had zero compassion for these vulnerable individuals ( International & Nationals). Everyone was treated the same including the elderly, this type of behaviour is unacceptable, inhumane and bordering on barbaric ways, placing individual’s lives at risk for the sake of a $6 bottle of vitamins that by the way were offered to be brought in free of charge by foreign state Embassies.

Bringing in vitamins is a human right, why was it that no Embassy stood up for the basic principles of human rights, besides the Panamanians violating the rules, the foreign embassies were also complicit in the crime against humanity which shows that there was a conspiracy by all countries in not standing up for justice, turning the other way and sweeping the issue under the carpet, hoping it will go away.

I did not receive any vitamins throughout my stay, but when arriving back in the UK I went to the charity “Prisoners abroad’s” London office to thank them for their efforts and help whilst inside. While having the conversation I mentioned it was necessary for prisoners abroad to add vitamins to their list for prisoners.

I was told that funds were sent from London to the British Embassy in Panama to buy vitamins; Prisoners Abroad was shocked to find out that these funds were being used for other things without the charity’s permission or consent; they said it would be investigated, below is the correspondence with Sarah Lees from Prisoners Abroad.

Despite the embassy failing to supply vitamins and then confirming with prisoners abroad that they were not using the funds appropriately by not supplying vitamins for which the funds were sent.

In the embassy’s notes dated 7th November 2013 attached below the embassy says that they did supply vitamins to me. This is a totally untrue statement, this type of falsification of the consul's notes is not the becoming of an embassy, by not telling the truth on such serious issues that affect prisoner's health, welfare, and well-being.

The truth behind embassies not supplying vitamins is basically so they could not be bothered for going and buying them by making the effort in going to a pharmacy. You may ask how does Panama Human Rights know this!

The video below was taken inside building six with a Hollandaise inmate “Mike” who received his regular monthly supply of vitamins all the time from his Dutch Embassy, and in turn, he would sell them on the black market to the highest bidder knowing fully well other embassies did not supply this service. When the British Embassy says they were not allowed for the vitamins to be brought in, it was clearly a lie. The reason is they were not forceful enough or did not care, either way, they failed as an embassy in not providing proper consular support.

The contents of the meal were cold rice, which was washed in river water delivered to the prison in tanker trucks and combined with the heat posed the threat of salmonella. The second ingredient to the meal is a baked banana which I only had on five occasions throughout the duration of my stay. Visible in image A, this quarter of banana is barely edible. The final ingredient is chicken. The size of the chicken provided can be noted in comparison to the plastic teaspoon. As small as this chicken is, oftentimes it is largely made up of bone.

Government budget allocation per prisoner/day = $1.50 for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Being that 99% of the embassies failed in providing this important service, gave the opportunities for the Panamanian national police to get in on the action by selling medication including vitamins to a captivate market.

The police would inflate the prices to such a level that only a few could afford this luxury, many less fortunate inmates seriously needed vitamins but would rather spend whatever money they had on toilet paper or buying water.

Rules and obligations

In this section we are focusing on the first paragraph of the consular notes below:

The consular noted that my conditions were extremely poor and (Nick Complained) the Embassy was fully aware I was the only Brit who did not have a bed and was sleeping on the floor by the front door of the prison, exposed to all weather elements.

The Embassy has confirmed in their notes below my conditions consisted of lack of water, poor food, poor facilities and throughout my 18 months of stay the Embassy did nothing to rectify this Human Rights violation, they were also fully aware my Human Rights were being breached but took no action in petitioning the Panamanian government. The Embassy’s standpoint was “ If we do it for you we would have to do it for everyone else and we can not treat you any differently to the Panamanians”. In the FCO brochure below “Brit Abroad” mentions that they take human right mistreatment allegations extremely seriously.

“Nick demanded an inspection of his sleeping area”, The Embassy never did inspect my sleeping area despite numerous attempts including fellow British inmates lobbying on my behalf. In the Consuls notes of 24th January 2014 in the attachment it mentions that the Embassy should “Organise a visit to where the foreign prisoners are held”, but they never did.

Case note dated 6th December 2013, the consul mentions it was denied a request to visit my sleeping area in April 2013, In all the consuls case notes they have received, I have repeatedly complained about my mistreatment allegation to the British Embassy but they did nothing and accepted the denial without lobbying Director Ronaldo Lopez as to why. Below is video footage taken in June 2013 with a congregation of elderly women and ladies walking freely around building 6, this goes to show that the Embassy in Panama has no backbone and is extremely lame in protecting its nationals.

The Ambassador handed me the Panamanian response for the mistreatment allegations saying I was a liar and I was treated humanely. This site has now proved otherwise. The British Embassy accepted the Panamanian findings then closed the book on this case, considering the text above taken from the FCO Brits Abroad says “We taken mistreatment allegations seriously” this obviously is not to be the case because no follow up appeal ever took place, To further underline the substance of these abuses  read the report by the Rapporteur on torture and ill-treatment  confirming my allegations were to be true as is documented in the international court documents in Geneva, where Panama was ordered to investigate these abuses and to charge the ones guilty for the abuses.

The Foreign Commonwealth still denies any wrongdoing to this day, below is a response letter from Julia Longbottom, Director for Consular Services 16th June 2017, Under heading 18 “Inspecting my Sleeping accommodation”  she mentions only the Ombudsman can inspect our building, besides elderly ladies visiting we had many visitors from the Colombian, Venezuelan and Mexican Embassies. This type of false statement gives the British public little credibility in the services that us taxpayers expect from a British Embassy.

In the letter below from Julia Longbottom, Director for Consular Services, she mentions I did not receive vitamins on 10th October 2013, this is untrue, Consular visits took place quarterly, I received a visit on 11th July 2013 and on 7th November 2013, nowhere in the visiting notes by the consul does it mention I did not receive Vitamins on the 10th of October 2013. If they were denied then why was it not registered in the consul's notes in this so-called visit? Being that this would be related to prisoners well being having vitamins denied.

Within section 11 of Julia Longbottoms' letter, she stated that the prison rules had changed in regards to allowing the embassy to supply inmates with vitamins. There was no change in the prison rules being the Dutch Embassy was supplying vitamins to its citizens during my stay in detention.  

It goes on to mention when vitamins were no longer going to be provided, Prisoners abroad funds for these vitamins to be given directly to the prisoner. We were not informed that the vitamin fund was going to be paid to us. Who gave the British Embassy the authority to spend a charity’s funds at their discretion without their consent being Prisoners Abroad is a public charity?

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