Press Release

IACHR Concerned over Violent Deaths in Prisons in Brazil

November 12, 2013

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the large number of violent deaths that have taken place so far in 2013 in prisons in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, particularly at the Pedrinhas Prison Complex. The IACHR urges the State to adopt relevant measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again and to investigate and punish those responsible.

According to publicly available information, 47 inmates have reportedly died so far this year and a number of others have been injured in the prison system in the state of Maranhão. The information the Commission has received indicates that 41 of these deaths took place at the Pedrinhas Prison Complex, 17 of them in October. According to official sources, on October 10 the state government of Maranhão declared a 180-day state of emergency in the Maranhão prison system.

In view of these incidents, 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. The 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.

In this context, the Inter-American Commission urgently calls on Brazilian 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, concrete measures the State should adopt include: disarming the prison population and imposing effective controls to prevent the entry of weapons and other illicit objects; increasing the security and surveillance staff inside prisons; reducing levels of overcrowding; investigating and punishing acts of violence and corruption that take place in prison facilities; and preventing the activities of criminal organizations with a presence inside prisons.

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. 86/13