Press Release

IACHR Deplores Violent Deaths in Mexican Prison 

October 29, 2013

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expresses its concern over the violent deaths of at least seven persons at the Altamira prison facility—Centro de Ejecución de Sanciones de Altamira—in Tamaulipas, Mexico. The IACHR urges the State to adopt the appropriate measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again and to investigate and punish those responsible.

According to publicly known information, on October 26, 2013, seven inmates reportedly died and two were injured in a fight with sharp weapons at the Altamira facility. According to accounts by official sources, the clash came about due to personal disputes among the inmates.

In light of these events, the IACHR must once again emphasize that States, as guarantors of the rights of persons deprived of liberty, have a basic duty to ensure control and security inside prisons. Authorities must maintain proper order in prisons as an inherent obligation to guarantee prisoners’ human rights.

Moreover, States have the obligation to investigate ex officio and with due diligence any deaths of individuals in their custody. These investigations must not only attempt to establish the perpetrators of the crimes, but also any possible masterminds and any authorities who may bear some degree of responsibility due to their actions or failure to act.

The Inter-American Commission once again expresses its deep concern over the high levels of violence in prisons in northern Mexico, which have repeatedly been the scene of riots, clashes between members of criminal gangs, escapes, and other disturbances and irregularities. In this regard, in previous press releases the IACHR has expressed its concern regarding the deaths of at least 24 individuals at the Center for Social Re-adaptation (CERESO) No. 2 in Gómez Palacios, Durango; the deaths of 44 inmates at the Apodaca prison facility in Nuevo León, on February 20, 2012; the deaths of at least 30 prisoners at the above-named Altamira facility in Tamaulipas, on January 4, 2012; the deaths of 17 prisoners at the CERESO facility in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, on July 25, 2011; and the deaths of 23 inmates at the CERESO No. 1 in Durango, which took place on January 20, 2010, during three simultaneous riots at that facility.

In this context, the Inter-American Commission again calls urgently on the Mexican authorities at the various levels of government and within the competent agencies, to adopt appropriate measures, including structural reforms, so as to prevent outbreaks of violence in prisons. To this effect, the IACHR emphasizes that disarming the prison population and imposing effective controls to prevent the entry of weapons and other illicit items into prison facilities, as well as preventing activities by the criminal organizations inside the prisons, are concrete measures the State should take to reduce the levels of prison violence and to keep similar incidents from happening again.

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. 81/13