Press Release

IACHR Condemns Deaths of at least 21 People in Brazilian Prison

April 23, 2018

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the acts of violence that led to the deaths of at least 21 people and left several injured in the state of Pará, in Brazil. The Inter-American Commission urges the Brazilian State to investigate and clarify the circumstances in which these events happened, and also to identify and punish those responsible for them.

A mass escape attempt took place on April 10, 2018 at the Pará III Penitentiary Recovery Center, a unit at the Santa Izabel Prison Complex. According to the state of Pará’s Public Security Department, a group of armed attackers stormed into the prison facility by blasting through a wall using explosives, and they took several prison guards hostage to allow inmates to escape. Following the blast, there was a shootout between prison guards, military police officers, armed inmates and members of the criminal gang that stormed into the prison. The authorities officially told reporters that at least 21 people – a prison guard, five inmates and 15 members of the attacking gang – died as a result of those events. At least 13 inmates and several prison guards were also reported injured.

According to publicly available information, various measures were taken to reinforce security within the prison complex following the attempted escape. Further, the Homicide and Organized Crime Division of Brazil’s Civil Police had launched an investigation into the matter. In this respect, the Commission urges the Brazilian State to carry out such investigations with due diligence and to seek to establish not only the criminal liability of those who perpetrated the events, but also to hold accountable any masterminds and any authorities who might be to blame based on their actions or omissions.

The Inter-American Commission warns that these deaths happened in a context of persistently high levels of violence in facilities operated by Brazil’s penitentiary system. In particular, this is the third time over the course of the current year that the Commission releases a public statement to condemn acts of violence in Brazilian prisons. On this occasion, the IACHR urgently calls upon the Brazilian State, as the guarantor of the fundamental rights of persons deprived of their freedom, to take concrete action to protect their rights, such as updating conditions of detention to comply with international standards, enforcing internal security within prisons and checking the inflow of weapons and illegal substances.

"High levels of overcrowding, deplorable conditions of detention and lack of control by prison authorities, often led to riots, escapes and clashes between,” said Commissioner Joel Hernández, Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty. “It is essential for the Brazilian State to take measures for the prevention of events like those that happened at the Pará III Penitentiary Recovery Center, which reveal a lack of effective control by state authorities.”

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 and to defend 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.


* Versión corregida el 27 de abril de 2018

No. 084/18