Press Release

IACHR Deplores Deaths in Fire in Brazilian Prison

August 10, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deplores the deaths of some inmates in a fire at the Agricultural Correctional Facility Ênio Pinheiro (CAPEP), in Porto Velho, state of Rondônia, Brasil. The IACHR urgently calls on the State to adopt the necessary measures to duly investigate these events and prevent them from happening again.

According to public access information, seven individuals died and at least two resulted injured with burns, as a result of a fire occurred in the said correctional facility on August 5, during the Sunday visiting day. According to the information received, the fire would have destroyed the cellblock No. 1, whose structure already had serious deficiencies.

The IACHR calls to mind that the State is in a special position of guarantor when it comes to the rights of persons deprived of liberty. This means that the act of incarceration implies a specific and real commitment by the State to guarantee the conditions required under international standards to safeguard the life and humane treatment of those who are incarcerated. This obligation to guarantee implies that the State must take all necessary measures to prevent situations of risk, such as this one, that may pose serious threats to the fundamental rights of those in custody. Along these lines, the States have the obligation to ensure that prisons have adequate, safe structures and the appropriate measures, action plans, and sufficient, trained staff in place to maintain security in its prisons and to handle these types of emergency situations.

The Inter-American Commission also underscores that States have the obligation to conduct meaningful, diligent and impartial investigations into fires that occur at centers of deprivation of liberty, that lead to the clarification of the facts and the sanction of everyone involved; and constitute a way for the victims to obtain reparation. Furthermore, States have to provide the appropriate psychological treatment to the relatives of the inmates that lost their lives in the fire and the survivors that have resulted traumatized.

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 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. 102/12