Panama prosecutor identifies orphanage abuse victims

Panama prosecutor identifies orphanage abuse victims

A child holds a sign during a protest in Panama City on March 3, 2021 to demand jail for those allegedly involved in cases of abuse of minors at orphanages
A child holds a sign during a protest in Panama City on March 3, 2021 to demand jail for those allegedly involved in cases of abuse of minors at orphanages

PANAMA CITY - Panama prosecutors said Tuesday they have identified 20 child victims of sex abuse and other maltreatment at orphanages and have charged eight people to date.

An investigation was launched after a report by a parliamentary committee found dozens of children had suffered sexual, physical and verbal abuse at state-funded orphanages since 2017.

The report also listed forced abortions among children and poor living conditions at the shelters, most of which were run by publicly funded NGOs under the supervision of the government body SENNIAF, which is responsible for child care.

Investigations began in August last year, and the first arrests were made this month.

The alleged perpetrators were not identified.

Attorney General Javier Caraballo told journalists Tuesday that 20 victims had been identified and 18 criminal cases opened.

The numbers may change as the investigation was ongoing.

"We will not cease our investigations until each of the people linked to these facts is held accountable," said Caraballo.

His predecessor Eduardo Ulloa resigned after the scandal came to light. SENNIAF director Mayra Silvera has also stepped down.

The case has caused widespread outrage in Panama, and regular protests are held to call for those responsible to be punished.

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