Panama and Child Abduction: 2012-2013 State Department Report

From then 2012 Report:

The Office of Children's Issues of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs has recently released the annual report on Hague Convention compliance. The report details various issues of non-compliance with member countries. It places countries under two categories; “Not Compliant” and “Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance,” with the former category signaling more serious compliance problems. This year Panama has been classified as “Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance." The text of the 2012 report follows, as well as case summaries from the report. 

Patterns of Noncompliance with the Convention: Panama

Panama demonstrated patterns of non-compliance with the Convention in the area of judicial performance. In four specific cases, the USCA observed significant delays in scheduling hearings during appeals. In addition, the courts requested extensive and costly psychological and socioeconomic evaluations of parents' homes in the United States. Even when parents submitted positive evaluations to fulfill the courts' requests, the return of children was denied. As at least one Panamanian judge noted in her dissenting opinion, Panamanian courts appear to treat Convention proceedings as custody hearings rather than determinations of habitual residence.
Communication between the USCA and Panamanian Central Authority (PCA) on Convention cases was good. In January 2011, the Government of Panama participated in a judicial training seminar for Panamanian judges and prosecutors. The PCA expressed interest in holding annual seminars for Panamanian judges to discuss best practices of the Convention, but did not respond to follow-up communication in January and October.

Case Summaries:

1.  In November 2010, the LBP attended the Convention hearing and traveled to Panama again in December 2010, to participate in psychological evaluations. The LBP informed the USCA that the judge made child support demands and ordered a complete  home study. In April 2011, the USCA forwarded the PCA a requested home study report. In June 2011, the PCA stated that  the judge awaits a psychological evaluation of the TP and will then reach a decision. The USCA and the U.S. Embassy Panama City have regularly requested updates from the PCA on the court proceedings.

2.  In September 2010, the LBP attended the first Convention hearing. The judge ordered a psychological evaluation of the LBP. On September 23, 2010, the judge requested a socioeconomic report of the LBP's home and personal circumstances. In January 2011, the USCA forwarded the PCA an extensive home study report. In March 2011, the judge denied the return of the children. The LBP appealed the decision on March 28, 2011. The USCA and the U.S. Embassy Panama City have regularly requested updates from the PCA on the court proceedings.

From the 2013 State Department report:

Patterns of Noncompliance with The Convention: Panama

Panama demonstrated patterns of non-compliance with the Convention in the areas of judicial and central authority performance. The U.S. Central Authority (USCA) remains concerned about the timeliness of responses from the Panamanian Central Authority to our requests for information. The USCA also continues to observe significant delays in the processing of Convention cases in Panama, specifically in the scheduling of appellate hearings. In one longstanding case pending for more than 18 months, a final appellate decision has been pending since May 2012. The USCA also observes that some Convention cases in Panama are treated as custody cases, with courts requesting extensive and costly psychological and socioeconomic evaluations of the left-behind parents.

Case Summary:

In September 2010, the left-behind parent attended the first Convention hearing. In March 2012, when no ruling had yet been issued, the Panamanian Central Authority (PCA) reminded the court of its obligation under the Convention to act expeditiously in proceedings for the return of children. In May 2012, the Superior Court of Childhood and Adolescence rejected the application for return of the child based on Article 12 of the Convention. The PCA asked the court if there was a possibility of filing an appeal against the decision. In August 2012, the PCA sent a follow up note to the court to confirm whether an appeal could be filed. At the close of the reporting period, the U.S. Central Authority (USCA) had yet to receive any new information from the PCA regarding an appeal on the case. The USCA and the U.S. Embassy in Panama City have regularly requested updates on the court proceedings.

Here are the provisions of Panama law concerning taking children out of Panama. As with other Latin American countries Panama has strong and efficient exit controls and in general it bars one parent or anyone else from taking children out of Panama without the express authorization of the other parent or a court order.



(unofficial translation)




Article 38. The immigration control will be exercised by the National Immigration Service, according to the present Law Decree and its regulations, in compliance with the immigration policy as established by the Executive Branch. 

Article 39. The nationals in order to exit the country shall present an updated passport or a letter of safe-conduct and comply with the other requirements that the present Law Decree establishes.

The National Immigration Service will carry a registry of immigration control of the underage persons, in which their identities will be included, the country of destination, the identification of the responsible person and the document of authorization. 

Article 40. The departure from the national territory of any foreign or Panamanian underage person that is found under any immigration category, will be allowed in the following cases: 

*1. If he/she is accompanied by the father or the mother. 

*2. If he/she is accompanied by one of their parents, and this one has the written authorization from the other, duly authenticated by a notary public. 

*3. If he/she is accompanied by one of their parents, and this one has the written authorization from the judge duly authorized for this purpose, and in the case that one of the parents is deceased, the death certificate of the absent parent shall be attached. 

*4. If he/she is accompanied by a third party a written authorization shall be presented from both parents, according to what is established in numerals 2 and 3 by the present Article. 

*5. If the underage person travels alone a written authorization from both parents shall be presented, according to what is established in numerals 2 and 3 by the present Article. Paragraph: The foreign non-resident underage persons are excluded from this disposition. 

Article 41. The immigration authorities located at the immigration posts shall prevent the entry or exit of foreigners, and the exit of nationals, when there is an order in place issued by a competent authority. 

Article 42. The foreigner that has incurred in a infringement or violation of immigration law, may not exit the country without having cancelled the corresponding financial penalties. By not having the financial resources to comply with the imposed penalty, his or her deportation procedures shall proceed. 

Article 43. Without prejudice to the current international conventions in the Republic of Panama, in order to enter the national territory, foreigners shall comply with the following requisites: 

*1. To enter by land, air or sea immigration posts officially made available. 

*2. To present, by petition from the immigration authority, their passport or current travel document and, in case that it is required, the current entry visa. 

*3. To allow to be interviewed by the competent authorities at the moment of entry or exit, that their data and biometrics registry to be validated in situ and their luggage and personal documents to be inspected and verified. 

*4. To present the Ingress and Egress Card provided by the international transportation company, duly completed, without prejudice of the right from the National Immigration Service to implement other automated mechanisms of collecting the information, according to the international standards. 

*5. Not having an impediment to enter. 

*6. To have proof of financial solvency to cover their expenses while remaining in Panamanian territory. An exception is made from this disposition when the passenger is in transit who remains within the immigration facility. 

*7. To have a return ticket to their country of origin or residence, when required by the immigration category. 

*8. To have cancelled all of their obligations with the National Immigration Service. 

*9. To comply with health standards as established by the Ministry of Health, as well as any other measures ordered by other competent authorities. 

Article 44. The foreigner will have the obligation, at the moment of registration, to present his/her passport or travel document, as well as to provide to the owners or hotel managers or lodging places, the information about their stay and departure. At the same time, the owners or hotel managers or lodging places will have the obligation to send this information to National Immigration Service that will implement automated mechanisms for its collection. 

Article 45. Every foreigner that is found within the national territory must carry his/her immigration document of identification and show it to the competent authority, when it is required to do so.

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