Delegation of the European Union to Panama

Indigenous juvenile justice in Panama

28/06/2018 - 11:16
Rule of Law

The project seeks to strengthen the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous children in conflict with the law.

The project seeks to strengthen the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous children in conflict with the law by:

  • Identifying and consolidating "good practices" of indigenous justice that improve the social reinsertion of indigenous children.
  • Identifying and improving the practices that affect the personal integrity and damage the social coexistence.
  • Strengthening the knowledge of the authorities of both juvenile justice systems on national and international juvenile justice legislation and instruments.
  • Strengthening the legal treatment and follow-up of juvenile offenders using, as a priority, alternative measures to criminal prosecution and deprivation of liberty to promote their reintegration in their family, educational system and community.
  • Empowering the population about the advantages of restorative juvenile justice to help change the stigmatizing and discriminatory views on juvenile offenders.


Total Cost (EUR): 512 455

EU contracted amount (EUR): 361 518

Duration: January 2017 - December 2018

Implementing organisation: TERRE DES HOMMES

Funding Instrument: Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)

Benefitting zone: Panama


STORY: Indigenous juvenile justice in Panama 


"The project helped me to become more aware of the condition of my community, the Wounaan, and to know how to better address its weaknesses. It also contributes to make the State aware of all the difficulties that affect us. I want to transfer the knowledge acquired in the framework of the project to each member of my region so we can strengthen our justice system and our institutions."

Maite Flaco, Wounaan community, student.



In most Latin American countries two systems coexist constitutionally; the ordinary justice and the indigenous system. However, there are not always clear legislative, public and administrative policies, causing lack of coordination between both systems. The Panamanian ordinary justice system still needs to strengthen mechanisms to ensure compliance with rights of indigenous children. This project is building bridges between the state of Panama and indigenous peoples to provide a better protection of the rights indigenous children victims and in conflict with the law.



  • Strengthen the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous children victims and in conflict with the law.



  • A diagnosis of the indigenous juvenile justice practices is going to be draft in order to identify the needs of indigenous children victims and in conflicts with the law.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been introduced to over 450 members of the different indigenous communities of Panama in the framework of empowerment workshops.
  • It is expected to improve coordination between both juvenile justice systems (ordinary and indigenous) to enhance reinsertion of the child in his family, education and community.
  • It is expected to strengthen the treatment and follow-up of children in conflict with the law prioritizing alternative measures to criminal proceedings and detention.



NELSON DE LEON KANTULE, Executive Director of the Nabguana (la Madre Tierra Sufriente)

NELSON DE LEON KANTULE, Executive Director of the Nabguana (la Madre Tierra Sufriente), from the Guna community tells us about his participation in a workshop on capacity-building and collection of information on indigenous juvenile justice organised in the framework of the project.

"This workshop on capacity-building and data collection was very important because it has led us to reaffirm traditional practices that are being lost. This workshop made young people realise the importance of judicial practices that indigenous people have been developing in the indigenous administration of justice. Our communities have always developed justice as part of our education practices. This means that for us the indigenous juvenile justice is a way to educate children and teenagers so they are less likely to put themselves in trouble. The project comes at the right time because it raises awareness on our young people in conflict with the law and informs them about judicial proceedings. Moreover, this type of workshops strengthens our identity as indigenous people. The authorities declared that they feel happy that such a project has been established. The project is empowering and strengthening our authorities, institutions and juvenile justice indigenous practices."



  • More than 290 leaders and members of indigenous authorities participated in workshops organised in 8 communities (Emberá and Wounaan, Ngöbe and Bulgé, Guna Madugandi, Guna Wargandi, Guna yala, Bribri and Naso).
  • More than 70 urbanised indigenous leaders participated to the workshops organised in Panama city and Changuinola.
  • More than 110 students have participated in workshops organised in Panama City, David and Changuinola
  • The total indigenous population represents 12.3 % of the Panamanian population. 60 % are children and teenagers between 0 and 18 years old.
  • The project will work with 100 % of the authorities of the seven villages, approximately 220 indigenous judicial authorities.




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