As the prestigious British shipping magazine Fairplay has revealed to the international maritime community, the jailing of Bulgarian containership Captain Lyubomirov Sobadzhiev in the notorious La Joya prison, the country’s anachronistic justice system has become a virtual shot in its own hull in efforts to become a world logistics hub.
The message sent to seafarers around the world is that any of them entering Panamanian waters, transiting the Panama Canal or docking in the ports could become a victim of a judicial system that does not recognize the presumption of innocence or provide a suspect with due process in a reasonable time frame or even the resources to properly defend himself.
It is certainly no secret to Panamanians that their justice system has broken down. There are thousands of Panamanians languishing in the country’s overcrowded jails, many on petty charges, waiting for years just to get a court hearing.
The case of Captain Sobadzhiev brings a new dimension to a Panamanian justice and jail system that appears not yet to have emerged from the Dark Ages.
In this scenario we have to wonder where the country’s Ombudsperson and human rights organizations are. In a thorough search, The Bulletin was unable to find any local human rights contact point on the Internet and only telephone numbers in the UK for Amnesty International.
A big question that also needs to be answered is who is responsible for Captain Sobadzhiev spending 19 months in La Joya prison, denying him his human rights and bringing disgrace on Panama’s maritime aspirations?