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  • Writer's picturePanama Human Rights

Shame on You Mr President, treating your vulnerable people like dogs.

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

Barbaric acts by the State caught on video:

Human right obligations by the state:​

Not to degrade - Not to humiliate - Treat with respect - Have proper medical - Have a Fair Trial

This act of cruelty to a Panamanian is totally unbelievable, this inmate is in building 15, he suffers from a serious mental illness, and receives no help from the state, despite the penitentiary code saying they do assist all people with psychological illnesses, daily this man stands outside in the court yard next to the perimeter fence in all weathers totally naked, he’s washed with a broom, 5 gallon bucket of water, and no soap.

Pictured below a seriously ill inmate with psychological issues, neither the state nor it's government want to know.

Click on the below image to view the PDF in full:

If you were this child’s parents, Mr President, how would you feel knowing your child is being treated in this manner by the ones charged with his care?

LAW: The law in Panama states anyone with serious health issues should receive immediate help from a competent authority this was not the case for this young individual, for 18 months he was taunted daily, and humiliated by inmates, left in degrading and inhumane conditions whilst the authorities looked on and did nothing, upon seeing this video you can see why we at Panama Human Rights fight for these less fortunate individuals who have no voice. We want to see justice served for this individual who was treated so badly and have those charged with his to care taken to court and prosecuted for their crimes against humanity.

Upon speaking to a police commando about this individual, his comments were “That’s the crazy man” and laughed as he walked off, being the person in building 15 was a Panamanian I would have thought the National Police would be more caring when it comes to their own, but not. Being the Police did not care, the administration of La Joya did not care & the President’s office did not care, what hope is there for the citizens of Panama when placed in this situation?

The Ombudsman office was probably hoping, if they even knew, that this ill individual would contact them either in writing or by phone, what a joke that an office set up to help in crimes by the state fails its people, all while praising their good work on their website.

What chance does this individual have, considering on this site you will see many notes to the penitentiary director for medical, physiological assistance from me, all correspondence was unanswered and ignored.

When you see videos like this it make you sick to your stomach, you may wonder how, and why did Panama received an International Human Rights certification, the state has only recently been elevated to the (Inner- Circle) of the Human Rights Board in Geneva for their good work, including opening a new human rights office in Panama City just minutes away from where these violations are taking place.


The Defensora Del Pueblo is established as an ombudsman to overlook and to ensure all government departments act within the law and respect the right to human life, documented below is far from the truth.

The website Defensora del Pueblo website mentions that anyone can contact them and they will accept any complaints either in, written format, verbal, emailed or in person, they will act on all complaints seriously, and carry out full investigations.


Fuente: Fotos Virgilio Beluche

Panamá 29 de mayo. La Viceministra de Gobierno, María Luisa Romero, recibió en su despacho la visita de la nueva Directora de la Asociación para la Prevención de la Tortura (APT), Audrey Olivier Muralt, de la Oficina para América Latina.

Romero agradeció el apoyo que brinda esta ONG para mejorar la situación en los centros penales, con relación al respeto de los derechos humanos de nuestros privados de libertad, los exhortó a continuar asesorándonos, especialmente en el pensum académico y en la capacitación de los instructores, responsables de la Academia Penitenciaria.

En su intervención, Silvia Dias actual Directora APT, destacó que a pesar que existen grandes problemas en las cárceles panameña como el hacinamiento, también destacó logros importantes como la labor que desarrolla la Academia Penitenciaria, donde se capacitan a los futuros custodios civiles en materia de derechos humanos.


According to the United Nations' minimum rules of treatment of prisoners, “At every institution, there shall be available the services of at least one qualified medical officer who should have some knowledge of psychiatry. They shall include a psychiatric service for the diagnosis and, in proper cases, the treatment of states of mental abnormality.”

Time in prison can present a valuable opportunity to address untreated mental illness. Criminal offenders with mental disorders who do not undergo adequate treatment during or after imprisonment may enter into a cycle of recidivism regarding both mental disorders and criminal offences.

Mental disorders have consistently high rates of occurrence among jail inmates. Studies estimate that 3.7 per cent of the prison population has a psychotic disorder not otherwise specified, whereas 10 per cent have depression, and 42 per cent have personality disorders.

Other international studies have estimated a prevalence of mental illness in correctional facilities that vary widely, from 7 to 90 per cent. In many countries, severe mental disorders have been reported to occur 5 to 10 times more frequently among people in prison than in the general population, and lifetime prevalence rates higher than 80 per cent have been estimated among the male prison population.

Despite the high incarceration rates and substantial prison overcrowding in Latin American countries, epidemiological studies addressing the overall prevalence of psychiatric conditions among offenders are sparse, and only two Latin American countries (Brazil and Chile) have performed scientifically rigorous studies that shed light on the prevalence of mental illness among prisoners and the need for mental health care in this population.

A few studies have been conducted in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, estimating the prevalence of effective disorders, substance abuse, and suicide in prison systems.

Another significant forensic mental health concern is the shortage of mental health care workers and the lack of training and expertise in forensic psychiatry in Latin American nations.

For nearly all Latin American countries, data regarding the prevalence of significant psychiatric conditions among prisoners are either limited or unavailable. Gauging the prevalence of mental illness in the prisoner population in Latin American countries must rely on extrapolation from smaller studies and population data from countries that completed the WHO-AIMS.

Most countries sampled have reported a substantially low prevalence of psychotic disorders, starting as little as two per cent. Brazil is the exception, yet the high end of its range does not exceed five per cent. Panama, Uruguay, and Peru have reported an unknown number of inmates with psychotic symptoms.

No data are available regarding the prevalence among prisoners of suicide or significant psychiatric conditions, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and substance abuse disorders

As for available mental health resources, below describes both general and forensic mental health resources available in these countries, including their mental health expenditures. In the nine Latin American countries evaluated, the mental health budget as a percentage of the total health budget ranged from 0.4 per cent (Dominican Republic) to 7 per cent (Uruguay), with a median of 2.05 per cent. In nearly all of these countries, the budget allocated to mental health as a percentage of the total health budget barely exceeds two per cent.

Findings regarding the availability of forensic services within the prison and jail systems show that eight of the nine countries sampled have no forensic services available in their prison systems, with Mexico being the exception

In nearly all Latin American countries, prison conditions were found to range from mediocre to extremely harsh, as well as overcrowded and life-threatening. In Panama prisons, overcrowding is a serious threat to prisoners' health and lives, and in many facilities, provisions for sanitation, potable water, ventilation, temperature, medical care, and lighting are inadequate

Overcrowding poses problems in nearly all Latin American prison systems, the occupancy of which can be two or three times beyond the maximum. For example, occupancy rates in Salvadoran prisons are 320 per cent (three times capacity), whereas Panama figures are 218.9 per cent (two times capacity), followed by the Dominican Republic's occupancy rate of 174 per cent.

Our findings indicate that information on the prevalence of mental illness among prisoners in Latin American countries is limited or unavailable.

Several factors may be involved in the low rate of psychotic disorders reported in Latin American nations, including the lack of standardised mental health services, assessments, and screening tools designed to identify inmates at risk of having mental health problems. Another critical aspect is scarce human resources and the shortage of mental health care workers. Our study found the consistent absence of mental health and forensic services in most prison systems, as well as a remarkably limited number of forensic beds in most of the countries. Brazil is the country with the most forensic hospitals, but they are still not likely to be sufficient to cope with the demand. This deficiency causes these hospitals to operate more like asylums. Often, mentally ill offenders have to remain mixed with the general prison population or are placed in general psychiatric hospitals and do not receive care from a specialised staff with forensic training.

Another potential reason contributing to the limited access to mental health services in prison systems is the low-level priority given to these services, even though the prison population is at a high-risk for psychiatric problems. In many low-income countries, human and economic resources for mental health practices are often unequal to the task of addressing the range of mental health conditions that confront the population, especially in prison systems. Nevertheless, the amount of resources allocated to mental health as a percentage of the total health budget barely exceeds two per cent in most countries, which can be a reflection of its low priority on government agendas.

It is difficult to evaluate the full extent of the problems that affect mentally ill offenders in Latin America, partly because of the scarcity of information on forensic and mental health services. However, the high level of prison overcrowding, the high incarceration rate, and limited availability of resources in most Latin American prison systems render it unlikely that most prisoners with mental illnesses receive appropriate or timely mental health care.

Several aspects of inadequate prison systems may imperil the mental health of inmates, including confinement, social isolation, massive overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of health services, inadequate security, and violence. These risks could exacerbate or prolong psychiatric symptoms in mentally disordered inmates, and even those with no prior history of mental illness who are exposed to these risks may be vulnerable to physical and psychological symptoms.

Forensic psychiatry, as a speciality, and the development of forensic mental care, face severe limitations and obstacles in Latin American countries. One of the most significant challenges is the lack of specific legislation. In many Latin American countries, there are differences in legal practices, and many countries do not have mental health legislation. This lack of a legal framework presents an obstacle for standardisation in the preparation of forensic psychiatry.

It is also important to highlight that there are several differences between the common law and civil law as well as court proceedings and insanity defence regulations that exemplify how some of these concepts are not universally applied. For example, in Latin American countries, fitness to stand trial is not relevant, and in some Latin American countries, including Brazil, even if the defendant is incompetent or mentally ill, the court proceedings are not stopped. In the absence of any concept of incompetence to stand trial in its procedural law, Brazil instead appoints a guardian and allows the processes to continue to final sentencing have repeatedly emphasised that the concept of competence to stand trial is missing from Latin American legal traditions.

The treatment of mentally ill offenders is becoming increasingly important worldwide as the prison population in many countries continues to increase.11 Areas that should be considered for future research include an accurate assessment of the prevalence of mental disorders in prison systems. Such an assessment would enable a better understanding of the needs of the population and a better allocation of resources and would facilitate more humane treatment of mentally ill persons who are confined. Continued research is also needed on the implementation of educational programs aimed at empowering jail and prison personnel and professionals of the justice systems to identify, understand, and respond to early signs of mental illnesses. It is clear that more forensic training programs are needed to improve the knowledge and expertise of general psychiatrists about the interaction of mental illness and legal systems. Future work should also include assessments of the state of criminal mental health law and policy in these countries.


Forensic psychiatry as a speciality is yet to be formally recognised in many Latin American countries, where psychiatrists continue to struggle to provide necessary mental health services for mentally ill offenders, even while facing abundant forensic and correctional challenges. Factors such as the lack of adequate legislation, lack of access to mental health care, lack of investment and education in mental health are some of the most significant challenges that these developing nations face. The reality compounds all of this that such countries struggle to provide adequate access to comprehensive mental health care for their general populations and may also lack comprehensive, current, or merely any, national mental health legislation or policy.

It is difficult to overstate the socioeconomic and political challenges that affect the safety, health, and educational levels, and overall developmental states of these nations. Latin American leaders should prioritise their investments in mental health and work at the national and international levels to improve access to mental health services.

International collaboration across all areas of human rights, mental health, and criminal justice, will continue to have a profound impact on the collective mental health of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Forensic mental health deficiencies in Latin America appear to pose pressing problems unto themselves while serving as barometers for how society addresses mental health and human rights in general.

For the President not to care about these venerable individuals casts serious doubt over this administration. The motto in Panama is to (Protect & Serve) this is not to be the case. The law in Panama states that no one with a mental illness’ should be incarcerated with the general prison population, and should be moved to an asylum where they can seek proper medical help, this law is also underpinned when Panama signed up to the United Nations human right council in 1998.

While in La Joya, Attorney Mr Jose Aispura delivered a complaint letter signed by me and duly delivered directly to the head office administration building of the Defensora del Pueblo in Panama City; the message was addressed personally to “Lilia Herrera M.” Director of the Defensora Del Pueblo, it was signed and stamped, 4th February 2014 at 2.51 pm. To-date I am still awaiting a response for my human right abuses.


English translation:


To-date some four and a half years have passed and neither my attorney, or I have ever received a response to this letter, this type of failing by Panama not to respond to requests is because Panama is totally stupid or totally arrogant, never the less this habitual, systemic act in to not replying by this government is totally unacceptable and casts serious shame and doubt over the state ability to take human rights cases seriously.

Many organisations to-date are still awaiting responses from Panama in connection to Panamas failings when it comes to human rights.

Caymanian Court is awaiting a response from Panama about Mark Bodden’s unexplained death while in custody, medical reports were not supplied upon request despite numerous appeals.

John Jones QC - Juan Menendaz - Nicholas Tuffney - Ambassador Arthur Porter - British Embassy Panama - USA Embassy Panama - Barrios & Barrios


2 The Friars,




ME17 1AJ

01634 71 66 66

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am a British citizen writing in regard to my British son who was abducted from Miami to Panama in 2008 and to this date I have been unable to bring him back despite numerous family court judicial processes in Panama.

This predicament is complicated by my inability to return to Panama for a further 9 years. I have exhausted every other avenue accessible to me in bringing my son back and now I have been forced through lack of options and 7 years without contact to contact you directly to request your involvement in a bid to open communication lines with my son and bring him home. My previous partner who has custody of our son has vacated Panama to seek employment in Miami leaving our son in Panama. Naturally I have requested authorities to check on the well-being of my son which has subsequently been refused by my ex-wife.

The British Embassy in Panama has been extremely negligent in this matter and has not returned any of my emails despite numerous verbal and written requests (all of which have been documented). I have contacted the British Ambassador for Panama, Ian Collard, directly via Whatsapp (507 6671 6747) and despite confirmation of his reading of my messages I have heard no response.

The Panamanian Embassy in London has also refused to respond to my emails for them to intervene in opening lines of communication with my son.

I am at a stage of despair and I feel that under the United Nations rights for father’s or mother’s to have an open dialogue with their child including the right to visitation has been totally violated.

I leave it to you, the leader of the United Kingdom to act as you deem appropriate. Please help end this pain and bring back together a loving father and his abducted and abandoned son.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Tuffney

#DanielFábrega #Torture #PanamáGovernment #LaJoyaprisonPanamá #PresidentVarela #Panamá #Corruption #NicholasTuffney #UNHCR #IACHR #Testimonial #UnitedKingdom

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