Panama to ask US to declassify files on 1989 invasion

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Washington, July 21 (IANS) Panama has said it would ask the US government to declassify files pertaining to the December 1989 invasion in which a military action led to the capture of dictator Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking and left between 500 and 5,000 persons dead, the media reported on Thursday.

The Panamanian government would submit the request on behalf of a special commission it launched to determine how many persons were killed, identify the victims and make a record of the human rights violations committed, Efe news reported.

At least 26,000 US troops invaded Panama on December 20, 1989, to capture Noriega, who surrendered two weeks later and was subsequently convicted in the US of drug trafficking, money-laundering and other charges.

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Noriega, 82, the former strongman is currently serving a lengthy sentence in Panama for the murder of dissidents, embezzlement and corruption.

On Wednesday, Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Isabel De Saint Malo established the so-called Special Commission of December 20 to head the probe and said the ministry would ask the US to declassify the documents at the panel’s request.

Among other objectives, the commission will also be tasked with recommending victims’ reparation proposals with the help of international law experts.

The special commission will receive support from the UN Development Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office.

The process of forming the commission began in January 2015, when the Panamanian government said it met victims of the invasion to determine the panel’s members and objectives.

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