Salas v. United States – International Human Rights – CCR Docket Fall 1990

On December 20, 1989, the United States invaded the Republic of Panama, violating the integrity, sovereignty and self-deteminarion of this nation.

Independent Panamanian human rights organizations estimate rhat over 2000 Panamamian civilians were killed and many thousands wounded during the course of the invasion and in military actions throughout the succeeding days. The violence produced approximately fifteen common graves, some containing as many as 200 corpses. The U.S. military destroyed residential areas, displacing at least 18,000 Panamanians, and.months after the invasion, thousands of people remain homeless.

CCR represents 70 Panamanian victims before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) who seek a commission ruling on the illegality of the invasion under international law; compensation for the illegal intervention and human rights violations; and a thorough independent investigation of all damages to Panama and its people. In August 1990 the commission fonnally accepted the case and requested the U.S. government to reply to plaintiffs’ complaint.

Panamanian plaintiffs include relatives of Dionicia Salas, who was killed by U.S. rocket fire in her home as she prepared a meal for her family, and relatives of Elizabeth Ramos Rudas. a 23-year-old civil engineering student, killed the night of the invasion, whose corpse was discovered weeks later in a mass grave at Jardin de Paz cemetery in Panama City.

U.S. troops continue to violate human rights in Panama. CCR alerted the OAS, and it is presently investigating several incidents, including one in which U.S. soldiers threatened and harassed Panamanians in Coco Solo (Colon

Province) when they desperately sought shelter in vacant property once owned by the U.S., because the invasion had destroyed their homes.

Jose Luis Morin,  Beth Stephens and Michael Ratner