Press Release

International Protection Mechanisms Join to Address Grave Problem of Torture and Overcrowding in Correctional Facilities in the Region

March 17, 2011

Washington, D.C. — In light of the grave detention conditions and numerous cases of torture reported in the Americas, representatives of the United Nations anti-torture mechanisms and the IACHR Office of the Rapporteur on the Right of Persons Deprived of Liberty have decided to strengthen their relations and more closely coordinate activities. They held their first meeting toward that end at the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on March 16, 2011. Participants in the meeting discussed the direct correlation between, on the one hand, the trend toward repressive political policies on citizen security and, on the other, the increase in overcrowding in correctional facilities, the rise in the number of torture cases and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment, and the decline of detention conditions.

The IACHR and the members of the UN protection bodies, in the exercise of their respective responsibilities and mandates, have spoken out repeatedly about the grave situation of persons deprived of liberty in the Americas, and have concurred in their assessments of the problem and issued similar and complementary recommendations. However, many of these recommendations have yet to be carried out.

The purpose of the meeting in Washington was to exchange information that could help increase the coordination of efforts to eliminate torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in the region, and to assist States in the fulfillment of their obligations. Those who attended the meeting agreed on the need to more closely coordinate such activities as conducting field visits, issuing press releases, preparing thematic reports, and following up on recommendations made to the States.

They also agreed to prepare a joint report analyzing some of the most relevant aspects of this problem, namely:

1. The excessive use of preventive detention.

2. Overcrowding and overpopulation, poor infrastructure conditions in detention facilities, and a deficiency in basic services such as food, drinking water, medical care, and adequate sanitary conditions.

3. The use of torture for purposes of criminal investigation and the excessive use of force by security personnel in correctional facilities.

4. Persisting patterns of impunity in cases involving violations of the rights to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty, among others.

5. The high levels of violence in correctional settings, with significant increases every year in the number of deaths and injuries—a situation that also affects third parties, such as family members of those in custody and personnel at the facilities.

6. Corruption and the lack of transparency in public administration in law enforcement, courts, and corrections.

7. The lack of independent national bodies to monitor places of deprivation of liberty, and some States' lack of openness toward oversight by international bodies.

Those participating in the meeting included the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas, Rodrigo Escobar Gil; the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Méndez; the Chairperson of the UN Committee against Torture, Claudio Grossman; Vice-Chairperson of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Mario Coriolano; the Executive Secretary of the IACHR, Santiago A. Canton; the head of the Americas Section of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, María Clara Martin; and other specialists from the inter-American and universal human rights systems.


No. 22/11