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UN rights expert visits Panama to investigateglobal tax avoidance and evasion schemes

GENEVA (27 April 2017) – The human rights impact of tax avoidance and evasion by wealthy individuals and companies will be analyzed by a United Nations expert during an official visit to Panama from 2 to 10 May.

The visit by the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, follows the leak of the so-called Panama Papers from a law firm based in the country, which drew international attention to the problem.

“I am visiting Panama to better understand the efforts made by the country to increase financial transparency and curb illicit financial flows,” says Mr. Bohoslavsky, who has been asked by the UN Human Rights Council to study the impact of these illicit transactions.

Illicit financial flows can stem from tax abuse, corruption or other criminal conduct, such as money laundering or the financing of terrorism. Reducing such flows by 2030 is a target of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Illicit financial flows undermine the fairness of tax policy, the rule of law, and the ability of States to direct public resources towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights,” Mr. Bohoslavsky says. 

“Providing financial services can bring economic benefits to a country and its people, but should not undermine economic and social rights at home or abroad,” he stresses.

“I would also like to understand to what extent Panama’s impressive economic growth has trickled down to deliver improvements in the enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights for all residents.”

“Finally, I am interested in the crucial role played by authorities and international financial institutions in preventing adverse human rights impacts in the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in the country,” he says.

Mr. Bohoslavsky, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government of Panama, will meet senior officials, including representatives of various Ministries, the National Assembly, and other public institutions. He will also hold meetings with representatives of international financial institutions, businesses . international organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society, law firms, academics and other key actors.

The Independent Expert will hold a press conference to share the preliminary findings of his visit on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 at 9:30 am, at Le Meridien Hotel, Calle Uruguay y Avenida Balboa.  Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

His findings and key recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018.

Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina) was appointed as Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2014.  Before, he worked as a Sovereign Debt Expert for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) where he coordinated an Expert Group on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing. His mandate covers all countries and has most recently been renewed by Human Rights Council resolution 34/3.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Panama

For more information and media requests please contact:
During the visit:  Juana Sotomayor (+41 79 444 40 78)
Before and after the visit: Gunnar Theissen (+41 22 917 9321 / gtheissen@ohchr.org) or write to ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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