Panama lists names of military rule's victims
PANAMA CITY, Panama (Reuters) -- The Panama Truth Commission on
Saturday published the names of 132 people who were killed or disappeared
during the country's 21-year military dictatorship.
The list, printed in a full page announcement in the national press, involved
victims of human rights abuses from a 1968 military coup to the 1989 U.S.
invasion that ousted Gen. Manuel Noriega.
It identified labor, student and peasant activists and two Catholic priests.
"The names included in the list are preliminary, (published) with the aim
speeding up the search for information," the announcement said.
Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso formed the commission in January to
investigate scores of deaths and disappearances after the discovery of a fourth
set of human remains during exhumations at a former military base near Panama
The seven-member panel will conduct interviews and search for graves and
other evidence before delivering a report to the president in September. Its
findings also will be passed on to the attorney general for potential prosecutions.
Exhumation triggers search
The search for victims of the Panama Defense Forces' rule gathered force
September 1999, after government investigators turned up two sets of human
remains during an exhumation at a former military base at Tocumen, on the
western outskirts of the capital.
The grim find, following an anonymous tip to the Catholic Church from a
high-ranking military officer, spurred hopes among victims' families.
Not knowing where the remains of their relatives lie is a constant source
suffering for survivors, said Federico Britton, whose brother Floyd, a teacher,
was beaten to death by guards at Coiba prison in 1969 and dumped in an
"We hope that the list will lead to an investigation ... so that we can
find out the
truth and see that justice is done," Britton, coordinator of the Committee for the
Families of the Disappeared, told Reuters.
The commission in the coming weeks plans to search for clandestine cemeteries
in Panama's western Chiriqui province, aided by a group of Argentine forensic
"We want to find the remains so that the families can bury their dead and
up what happened," said panel member Otelia Tejeira de Koster.
Copyright 2001 Reuters.