Spanish version

SECURITY

Future of penal colony debated

Punta Coco, in the Perlas Islands, has been cited in a human rights report.

Spanish version

Temas:

Despite reports that say it violates the human rights of those held there, the government has no immediate plans to close the Punta Coco maximum security prison in the Las Perlas Islands.

In fact, the government has sent seven more inmates to the island in the last several months, which is 107 kilometers off the coast of Panama City. 

Ombudsperson Lilia Herrera has denounced the prison and called for its immediate closure.

"The prisoners are kept in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions in which they are locked in cells 24 hours a day without ventilation," she said. "The heat is unbearable, the proliferation of mosquitoes is inevitable and they are kept isolated from the outside world without medical attention."

The report was based on complaints by relatives, who said the inmates were transferred to Punta Coco without prior notification.

The remote location of the prison has also kept the inmates from meeting with their lawyers, who must travel there by helicopter and boat. Before a meeting, the lawyers are stripped naked to prevent them from passing contraband to their clients.

Prisoners are allowed out for 40 minutes each day, and never together. Their cells have a toilet and a shower.

The Ombudsman says the facility puts Panama in violation of a number of international human rights treaties it has signed, and has demanded the facility be closed.

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