Press Release

IACHR Deplores Violent Deaths in Prisons in Venezuela

February 9, 2011

Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the violent deaths of five inmates at the national prison in Ciudad Bolívar, Venezuela—Villa Hermosa Prison—and two inmates at the penitentiary in Aragua, Tocorón Prison. The IACHR urges the State to adopt any necessary measures to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents.

According to the information the Commission has received, on January 30 and February 2, 2011, two inmates at Tocorón Prison lost their lives in clashes among prisoners. In addition, in the early morning hours of February 1, a fight broke out in Villa Hermosa Prison in which five inmates died and at least one was injured. In both cases, the acts of violence were apparently motivated by rivalries among inmates having to do with the control of the prison facilities.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights handed down provisional measures with respect to Tocorón Prison on November 1, 2010, requesting that the State adopt any necessary and effective measures to prevent the loss of life and damage to the physical, mental, and moral integrity of all those who are deprived of liberty at the prison, as well as any individual who may be at that establishment.

The IACHR reiterates that States have the responsibility to adopt security measures to protect individuals subject to their jurisdiction, an obligation that is more evident when it comes to those deprived of liberty, over whom the State is in the position of guarantor. The State not only must ensure that its own agents exercise appropriate control over security and order in prisons; it must also adopt any measures that are necessary to protect individuals in custody from possible attacks by third parties, including other inmates.

The IACHR once again urges the Venezuelan authorities to implement actions that would have an immediate impact on the situation of risk being faced by persons deprived of liberty. This includes bringing detention conditions at Venezuelan prisons in line with international standards and taking immediate steps, in addition to any medium- or long-term plans, to guarantee the life and personal integrity of persons deprived of liberty in Venezuela. The State must, as basic measures, guarantee and maintain the internal security of prisons and prevent the entry of weapons and illicit substances and control the circulation of money inside prisons. It must also find mechanisms to break up the criminal organizations that operate inside prison facilities.

The Commission reiterates that the State has the authority and obligation to guarantee security and maintain public order inside prisons, using methods in line with the parameters established under international human rights law.

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 matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 7/11