1. On November 12,
1977, the Commission received the following denunciation:
McFarlane, a 48 year old Panamanian taxi driver of East Indian origin
and former employee of the Panama Canal Company, was arrested for
reasons unknown by members of the Panamanian National Guard on October 9th,
1977, while in the ‘Colón’ Theater, in the city of Colón, Republic
of Panama, and taken to the city jail. Sometime during the night his
lifeless body was taken to the Amador Guerrero Morgue by members of the
mother, Mrs. Ethel McFarlane, upon hearing the news rushed to the morgue
to verify the news and was denied permission to view the body until
Thursday, October 13th, 1977.
autopsy performed by Dr. Roberto Lewis indicated the following:
Severe internal injuries and hemorrhage.
2. During the
observation in loco of the general situation regarding human
rights in Panama carried out at the invitation of the Government of
Panama between November 28 and December 7, 1977, the Special Committee
did everything possible to investigate this case. In the city of Colón,
members of the Special Committee interviewed Mayor Eustacio Smith, Chief
of the Second Military Zone, who had signed the preliminary proceedings.
This official informed them that Mrs. MacFarlane had seen her son’s
corpse on the morning after his death. During its brief stay in Colón,
the Special Committee was not able to locate Mrs. McFarlane.
3. In a note dated
May 2, 1978, the Government of Panama, through its Permanent
Representative to the OAS, answered the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights as follows:
am confident that the reading of the procedural records will accomplish
the objective pursued by the complainant which is none other than
demonstrating an event in which the people’s indignation revolted
perhaps in excess, against the author of immoral acts which no civilized
society can tolerate.
punishment of some of the authors by public outrage was excessive, this
excess cannot be attributed without malice to the national
The following facts are deduced from a study of the documentation
provided in loco and from a note dated May 2, 1978.
McFarlane, Panamanian citizen of West Indian origin was accused by a
woman on the afternoon of October 9, 1977 of having made advances to her
two young daughters in the movie house. During the altercation, the
lights in the room were turned on and it is alleged that a number of
people chased McFarlane when he fled. In his statement, Mr. Antonio
Vallejo Prince, who works with the Guard in sports activities and who is
a candidate for the Guard, said that he saw McFarlane when he was being
pursued by some young people, followed by a woman and two girls. He
followed them and interrupted the beating that was being meted out to
him, arrested him, and led him to the National Guard barracks.
to the testimony which appears in the official proceedings of the
investigation, McFarlane appeared to be in good physical condition and
did not show signs of having been beaten when he was delivered to the
National Guard; however, he fell dead shortly after having reached the
yard. According to the autopsy, his death was caused by a knock on the
cranial occipital region and another on the spleen, which produced a
‘severe encephalic contusion with intracranial hemorrhaging and
rupture of the spleen.”
persons who filed the denunciation have neither refuted the
Government’s information nor demonstrated that it is inexact.
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, RESOLVES:
1. To file this
2. To communicate
this decision to the Government of Panama and to the complainants.
3. To include this
Resolution in the Annual Report of the Commission to the General
Assembly of the Organization of American States pursuant to Article 9
(bis) paragraph c. iii of the Statute of the Commission.
(Approved at the 609th meeting of March 16, 1979 (46th Session) and transmitted to the Government of Panama on March 14, 1979).