IACHR Concerned About Further Serious Violence in Ecuadorian Prisons

November 17, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is concerned about the serious violence that has taken place at the Guayas 1 facility for deprivation of liberty in Ecuador, where at least 68 inmates have died. The Commission urges the State to take immediate, effective measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of all individuals in State custody, and to investigate these events and identify and punish the people responsible for them, in order to prevent them from happening again in the future. 

According to official reports, there were several clashes on November 12–13, 2021 between inmates held at the Guayas 1 facility for deprivation of liberty (previously known as a penitentiary). According to data issued by Ecuador's penitentiary system, these events left at least 68 inmates dead and a further 25 inmates injured. The State further reported that 21 individuals who had been injured needed to be taken so various hospitals.

The IACHR notes the security measures adopted by the State to restore order within the facility, particularly the deployment of almost 1,000 officers of the National Police and the Armed Forces. A total of 500 police officers were deployed inside the facility and 400 along its perimeter, with Armed Forces personnel on the outside. These measures are believed to have been decisive to regain control of all the wards at the facility.

The Commission further notes with concern that several individuals who were deprived of liberty at the jails in Turi and Cotopaxi went on hunger strike on November 13–14, to protest about the violence. According to the State, this hunger strike has since ended.

The Inter-American Commission warns that these deaths happened in a context of frequent clashes. A total of 316 inmates have been documented to have died in violence in 2021 so far. This is almost a seven-fold increase, compared to the 46 violent deaths in detention facilities that were reported in 2020. 

In this context, the Commission will conduct a working visit to Ecuador over the period December 1–3, 2021, to assess the situation faced by individuals who are deprived of liberty in Ecuadorian detention facilities amid high levels of violence. The Commission thanks the State for its openness and for its support for this visit.

In compliance with the IACHR's Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, States have an inescapable duty to take concrete, immediate action to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of individuals who are in State custody. The State of Ecuador therefore has a duty to take effective action to achieve the following things: prevent and control potential outbreaks of violence in facilities for deprivation of liberty; prevent the actions of criminal organizations within penitentiaries; enforce effective control to keep weapons and other illegal objects out of penitentiary facilities; implement protocols to prevent riots and to restore security; increase staff with security and internal surveillance tasks; and investigate ex officio—in a serious, swift, and impartial way, and with due diligence—all acts of violence and identify and punish the people responsible for them.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 306/21

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