Press Release

IACHR Deplores Violent Deaths in Mexican Prison

January 3, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the violent death of at least 24 inmates at the Center for Social Re-adaptation for Adults (CERESO) No. 2 of Gomez Palacios, state of Durango, Mexico. The IACHR urges the State of Mexico to implement the necessary measures to prevent the repetition of similar incidents, and to investigate and punish the perpetrators.

According to information widely disseminated in news reports, on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 18, 2012, at least fifteen inmates and nine prison guards lost their lives by gunfire at the CERESO No. 2 of Gomez Palacios; according to official statements the fight began as a result of a massive escape attempt. After this incident, more than five hundred prisoners were transferred to other prisons; moreover, many persons are still seriously injured.

In view of these facts, the IACHR reiterates that States, as guarantors of the rights of persons deprived of liberty, have the fundamental obligation to ensure the control and internal security of prisons. Proper control by the authorities of internal order inside prisons is an essential condition in order to guarantee the human rights of persons deprived of liberty.

Likewise, States have the obligation to investigate, on its own initiative and with due diligence, all deaths of persons under its custody. These investigations must not only aim to establish the material perpetrators of the crimes, but also the possible intellectual authors, and any degree of responsibility that the authorities might have, either by action or omission.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights again expresses its deep concern about the high levels of violence at the penitentiaries of the North of Mexico, where there are constant riots, brawls, fights between members of rival gangs, escapes, other disorders and acts of violence. In this regard, in its Press Releases No. 21/2012, 79/2011 and 9/10, the IACHR has referred to incidents such as: the death of 44 inmates at the State Prison of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, on February 20, 2012; the death of at least 30 prisoners at the State Prison of Altamira (Centro de Ejecucion de Sanciones – CEDES), Tamaulipas, on January 4, 2012; the death of 17 people at the CERESO in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, on July 25, 2011; and the death of 23 inmates at the CERESO No. 1 of Durango, on January 20, 2010 during three simultaneous brawls in that prison.

In this context, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights once again calls urgently on the Mexican authorities to adopt the appropriate measures, including structural reforms, designed to prevent outbreaks of violence in prison. In this respect, the IACHR stresses that in order to reduce rates of prison violence and to keep similar events from happening again, the State must disarm the prison population, exercise effective controls over the entry of weapons into prisons and prevent the activities of the criminal organizations present in the penitentiaries

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.

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