Ombudsman announces plans to create a protection mechanism for HRDs

Association

On 16th February 2018, the Ombudsman announced the draft of a new law to create a National Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders in the country. The process of drafting the bill will include a consultation process involving local civil society, academia and other relevant stakeholders before the law is presented to the National Assembly for consideration. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 12th February 2018, members from the union - Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Construcción y Similares - started a series of protests against the mining company Minera Panama for what they consider to be unjustified dismissals. Both the company and the workers' union accused each other of excessive violence, and the mining company called on the state security forces to monitor the protest. No injuries were reported and the alleged attacks consisted of damage to work-related materials. On 18th February, both sides announced that they had reached an agreement and called for an end to the protest. 

In a separate incident, a protest of the Kuna indigenous community reportedly took place at the end of January 2018. The demonstrators demanded that the authorities find a solution to the lack of potable water in their communities. They blocked the main road that connects the two main cities of the country (Panama City and Colon). According to news reports, police were present to talk with the demonstrators and persuade them to remove the blockade. 

Expression

Different sectors in the country have expressed concern over a decision by the Supreme Electoral Court to create a Division of Digital Media that will be responsible for monitoring social networks to identify violations of the electoral code ahead of the presidential elections in 2019.

Laurentino Cortizo, a presidential candidate from the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party, was notified by the Supreme Electoral Court that an investigation is underway into a statement he had made criticising current President Juan Carlos Varela during an event on 3rd January. Cortizo responded with concern that the Court cannot become a “censorship office”.