Thursday, December 15, 2011

Calls for New Investigations and the Return of Seized Documents in Panama

Relevant to the earlier posting of inventories of the documents seized in Panama during Operation Just Cause in 1989, Amnesty International is reacting to the return of Gen. Noriega to Panama by calling upon the Panamanian government to launch new investigations into crimes against humanity. Amnesty's call for investigations appears to be based on two considerations. First, a concern for victims. An Amnesty Researcher on Central America Sebastian Elgueta states, "The courts owe it to the victims to clarify the extent of his involvement in these violations that took place over several decades." Second, a desire to ensure that legal proceedings against Noriega are just and fair.  In relation to previous in absentia convictions against Noriega, Amnesty argues that "trials in absentia should be avoided as they are unjust, except when the accused deliberately absents him or herself after the trial has begun." Elgueta states:
Manuel Noriega should be present to hear the full prosecution case and be able to refute facts and present a full defence. With anything less, the reliability of the verdict will always remain in doubt and justice will not be seen to be done.
Meanwhile, Newsroom Panama has a story on Gen. Noriega's return that states that an associate of Noriega's has urged:
the [Panamanian] government to ask for more than 15,000 thousand boxes of information that were confiscated by the US army of that country in the 1989 invasion, in which he claims is the truth of the dictatorship.
To be clear the associate is not part of Gen. Noriega's legal team and there is no indication that he spoke on Noriega's behalf, but it is another interesting reference to the importance of the seized documents that remain in U.S. custody nevertheless.