Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern regarding Violent Deaths in Guatemalan Prison

December 7, 2015

   Contact info

IACHR Press and Communication Director
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern with regard to the acts of violence that took place inside the Granja Penal Canadá (Canadá Prison Farm) located in the Guatemalan province of Escuintla. The IACHR urges the State of Guatemala to adopt the necessary measures so that such events do not happen again, and to investigate the incident with due diligence and punish those responsible.

According to publicly available information, on November 29, 2015, a riot broke out in Guatemala’s Granja Penal Canadá, reportedly leaving at least 16 inmates dead and an undetermined number injured. News media reports said most of the inmates who lost their lives appear to have died from knife wounds to the head, neck, and face. Information available to the IACHR indicates that the riot broke out at the end of a football game. According to statements by a spokesman for the Guatemalan prison system, Rudy Esquivel, the cause of the riot was a clash between rival gangs. The Guatemalan police reportedly regained control of the facility, with the help of the Army, the following day.

These incidents took place in a context of overcrowding at the Granja Penal Canadá. According to publicly available information, this detention facility was designed to house 600 inmates, and at the time of these incidents it had a population of around 3,000 prisoners.

In this context, the Inter-American Commission urgently calls on the Guatemalan authorities to adopt appropriate measures, including structural reforms, to prevent these types of acts of violence. The IACHR urges the State to take concrete steps such as disarming inmates and imposing effective controls to keep out weapons and other illicit items; increasing security personnel and surveillance inside prisons; investigating and punishing any acts of violence and corruption that may take place in correctional facilities; and preventing the activities of criminal organizations with a presence inside prisons. The State should also take steps to reduce overcrowding and the use of pretrial detention, through the implementation of alternative measures. In that regard, this Commission has indicated that the use of precautionary measures other than pretrial detention is consistent with the exceptional nature of pretrial detention and with the right to presumption of innocence; moreover, the use of alternative measures tends to be sustainable and effective as part of a comprehensive strategy to address prison overcrowding.

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. 144/15