UN Special Rapporteur on Torture finds that Panamá detained British national in inhuman and degrading conditions

In a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council on 24 February 2016, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, has concluded that Panama has failed to fulfil its obligations to protect the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nicholas Tuffney, by subjecting him to conditions of detention which constituted inhuman or degrading treatment, contrary to articles 1 and 16 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

 

Between June 2013 and October 2014, Nicholas Tuffney, a United Kingdom and United States citizen, had been detained in Panamanian detention facilities, which were overcrowded, inappropriate and unsanitary; without access to adequate food, water, healthcare, and shelter; and where he was subjected to abuse at the hands of those charged with his care. 

 

Mr. Tuffney was able to covertly film whilst in one of the prisons he was being held, La Joya Prison, using a watch which had a built-in camera. In total, Mr. Tuffney had over 600 hours of footage and photos, which documented the extensive and relentless ill-treatment he and other prisoners in La Joya Prison suffered. 

 

Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez lamented the lack of reply from the Government of Panama to the communication of the Special Rapporteur dated 26 October 2015. He concluded that in the absence of a response, there was sufficient evidence to conclude that the Government of Panama had failed to fulfil its obligations to protect the psychical and psychological integrity of Mr. Tuffney. The Rapporteur found that:

 

“the Government of Panama has failed to fulfil its obligations to protect the physical and psychological integrity Mr. Nicholas Tuffney, to subject him to conditions within the prison constituted inhuman or degrading treatment, under articles 1 and 16 of the Convention against torture (CAT).”

 

The Special Rapporteur urged the Government of Panama to publicise the developments on this case, and reiterated its call to the Government to begin the investigation, prosecution, and possible conviction of those guilty of abuse and to provide reparations to Mr. Tuffney.

 

The prison referred to above, La Joya Prison, was the same prison where Ambassador Arthur Porter was being held before he died from lung cancer in a hospital in Panama in June 2015. The Special Rapporteur concluded in his February 2016 report that the death of Mr. Porter could be linked to the deprivation of health services.

 

The report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is available here or here.

 

Mr. Nicholas Tuffney is being represented by John Jones QC and Graeme Hall. Mr. Porter was represented by John Jones QC.

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