Panama: accompanying the first steps of the NPM

Monday, July 29, 2019

Less than a year has passed since the appointment of Panama's National Preventive Mechanism's (NPM) Director and Deputy Director in August 2018. In that time, the body, a new National Direction within the Ombuds Institution, has made significant progress in setting up and implementing its preventive mandate. 

As part of a project developed and funded by the UNDP Panama Office and OHCHR Regional Office for Central America, the APT facilitated a three-day workshop with the NPM of Panama on institutional development. The first part of the workshop also included the Ombudsperson and representatives from other departments of the Ombuds Institution. Participants reinforced their understanding of the NPM’s preventive mandate and identified specific areas of collaboration. The event was also an opportunity for the Ombudsperson to reaffirm his commitment to ensure the operational autonomy of the NPM within the broader institution, as stated in the NPM law.

The rest of the workshop was dedicated to accompanying the NPM in the operationalisation of its preventive mandate. Over three days of interactive workshop sessions, the NPM’s multidisciplinary team, composed of committed professionals including lawyers, medical doctors, psychologists and social workers discussed the specific aspects of the preventive mandate. With the APT’s guidance and support, the NPM identified its main challenges and institutional needs, and defined its strategic priorities and actions for the first years of operation as part of its strategic planning process.

On the last day of the mission, taking advantage of APT’s presence in the country, the recently selected members of the NPM’s Advisory Council were appointed and sworn in. The Ombudsperson, the NPM, representatives of civil society and the UNDP Panama Office also attended the event. The importance of the NPM being able to count on the support of an advisory council composed of professionals from different sectors was highlighted during the event, and the APT also shared good practices and experiences of other NPMs.

The APT is committed to supporting the NPM of Panama in the effective implementation of its mandate to prevent torture and other ill-treatment. In collaboration with the UNDP Panama Office and the OHCHR Regional Office for Central America, the APT will conduct a second mission to Panama later this year to strengthen the NPM’s capacities to monitor places of detention.