April 21 and again on June 14, 2005. On October 7, 2005 a hearing was requested before the
Commission. In a letter dated November 7, 2005, Mr. Villagrán informed the Commission that
he was working on the case with the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights,
in Guayaquil, Ecuador. On December 21, 2005, the Commission communicated the petition to
the State in accordance with Article 30.3 of its Rules of Procedure and granted the State a twomonth period within which to reply. On February 10, 2006 the State requested a one-month
extension so as to present its observations, and this was granted until March 6, 2006. On
March 7, 2006 the Commission received the State’s reply and this was transmitted to the
petitioners on the same day. On March 9, 2006 the lawyer Walter Mendoza Yépez of the Legal
Unit of the Permanent Committee on Human Rights in Ecuador (CDH), working in conjunction
with the petitioner, Mr. Villagrán, requested the Commission to declare that Panama had
violated the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention to
Prevent and Punish Torture. On March 13, 2006 the Commission conducted a hearing on the
admissibility of the case during its 124th regular session. On May 1, 2006 the Commission
transmitted to the State the observations submitted by the petitioner on the State’s response
and the arguments put forward during the hearing held in March 2006.
III. POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
A.

The Petitioner

6. On November 10, 2002, Jesús Tranquilino Vélez Loor, a citizen of Ecuador, a merchant and
translator by profession, declared that he had been passing through Panama when he was
arrested. Mr. Vélez Loor acknowledges that he did not have the required visa and that he was,
in fact, not in possession of valid papers. He was captured by border police in the town of
Nueva Esperanza, in Darién Province. He says that the policemen menaced him with AK 47
guns and demanded that he prostrate himself on the ground, threatening that they would kill
him, while they searched his baggage, in which he was carrying US$1,900, a camera, his
identity card, and other personal effects. Mr. Vélez Loor points out that the personal
possessions that he had with him at the time of his arrest were confiscated and never returned
to him. He states that he was handcuffed, his feet were shackled, and he was forced to walk
barefoot to a small military barracks in a small indigenous town in Embera. There he was
handcuffed to a metal post for eight hours until a helicopter belonging to the former
Panamanian Air Force moved him to the town of Meteti. There he was to remain for one week
in a small cell and was told that he would be held in custody for 3 or 4 years. From there he
was taken by boat to the Penitentiary located on La Palma Island, where more than 150 people
were in detention.
7. According to Mr. Vélez Loor, La Palma is a prison for extremely dangerous persons. He
claims that he was kept with other prisoners who lived in fear of explosions as there was an
enormous petrol depot in the middle of the cellblock, which also had a suffocating effect on the
prisoners at night. Mr. Vélez Loor states that, because of the conditions of his detention, he
started a hunger strike with other people who had been imprisoned for lack of documentation,
demanding that they be deported immediately.
8. Mr. Vélez Loor declares that following his protest, he was savagely tortured, receiving a
blow to his spine and “a fracture” in his head with a wooden stick. He claims that he
recognized “Alirio” as one of the policeman who attacked him along with others who were not
wearing badges on their jackets. Mr. Vélez Loor indicates that Leoncio Ochoa, also Ecuadorian,
was present when this beating occurred. In the course of the public hearing held during the
124th regular session, Mr. Ochoa described to the Commission the manner in which the beating
was conducted:
Mr. Ochoa declared that it was the jail-keeper who "administered a heavy blow on the
head" to Mr. Vélez Loor. He pointed to the part of Vélez Loor's head that had been
struck. He indicates that on that same day no medical attention was given to Mr. Vélez
Loor. The rest of the prisoners tried to bind his head so as to help take care of him, but
despite their efforts on his behalf, Mr. Ochoa emphasized that Vélez was in extremely
poor shape.
The petitioner adds that Mr. Vélez Loor received no medical care, because at a hospital in
La Palma he was told that he would have to pay.
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