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  • Writer's picturePanama Human Rights

Panameñista’s Violates Human Rights of Indigenous Children

A father's desperate plea for help to be reunited with his children who are trapped in the Panamanian jungle right now.

During his time in Panama Mr Tuffney fathered 3 children. The first, a boy with British and American citizenship from his first marriage, now 16 years old. The second, an Indigenous Panamanian girl of 5 years and the third also an Indigenous Panamanian girl, aged just 3, both from his current wife. Due to the legal battles he has been fighting and his permanent expulsion from Panama, these children have not seen their father since the eldest was 4 and the middle child was 6 months old; the youngest has never had the opportunity or privilege to meet her own father in person. Mr Tuffney has also only had 6 months with his wife for the past 6 years, despite both working tirelessly to get help from their respective governments. His only goal - to be reunited with his family.

On 30th August 2014, Mr Tuffney was expelled from Panama for life. The reason given was because he had been incarcerated, under Article 72 they could expel him for life. The general rule of practice under Article 72 is for the defendant's case to be examined by the courts before deportation, to determine whether a life-long sentence would be appropriate with regards to family welfare, such as the case with Mr Tuffney and his 3 children. This, however, was not done and his children were sentenced to a life without a father with no consideration. Perhaps the most shocking part of this case is that Mr Tuffney was fully exonerated of his alleged crimes of 'witchcraft', so was separated from his children despite being found innocent by the courts.

Prior to his expulsion Mr Tuffney was a legal resident, an investor in Teak and Mahogany trees and keen property investor; details of which can be seen here.

Because of the ongoing legal battles, the eldest of the 3 children has not seen or had contact with any of his family in the UK since 2009. It is currently understood that he is residing in Panama while his mother lives in Miami, USA - leaving him without a parent in the Panamanian jungle. Mr Tuffney argues that this in itself is a violation of his child's safety and human rights and has undertaken every effort to see his son in a safe environment. Unfortunately the mother of this child has prevented Mr Tuffney from having any form of contact with his child. Furthermore a court order has been implemented prohibiting the child from leaving Panama, so bringing him to safety is a near impossible task.

Further damage done from Mr Tuffney's expulsion from Panama has left his 2 young girls without a father or access to any of their family in the UK. Denying them this, violates numerous articles in the UN Rights of a Child, one for example being Article 8 "...right of a child to preserve his or her family relations", given that the youngest child has never met many of her family in the UK, and has zero prospect of doing so. These girls have already obtained British passports and are allowed to enter the country but because of a previous situation involving ill treatment from UK Border Force their mother has been denied entry to the UK - See details of this case here.

Mr Tuffney has been relentless in fighting to see his children. Despite many court cases in Panama, the latest being a child abduction case in 2018 brought by the United Nations in 2017, and then, by the UK Government, all processes have failed, or have been delayed, even cancelled for no apparent reason. Reports have shown how people in Panama that the indigenous communities are treated as second-class citizens. Unfortunately president Varela’s stance on this case supports this conception; to date the Panamista party has showed little compassion towards any of the Panamanian indigenous communities when it comes to land, or basic human rights of indigenous children under his leadership.

The main concern to Mr Tuffney is the mental damage being done to his children while locked in Panama with no access to their father - psychologically, not having access to their father will affect them for the rest of their lives. The longer this prevention to family life is ordered by the courts the more damage will be done to these children's mental stability; minimising this is Mr Tuffney's main goal. He is calling for the government of Panama to consider his children's mental health and basic human rights to have a family; if this government cannot see this he is calling for a change of government.

Below are images of the children's respective passports for Britain, America and Panama.

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