Press Release

IACHR Deplores Violent Deaths in Venezuelan Prison

January 6, 2012

Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the violent deaths of five inmates at the Western Penitentiary Center in the Venezuelan state of Táchira, known as the Jail of Santa Ana. The Commission urges the State to adopt measures to investigate these deaths and punish those responsible, as well as to ensure that similar events are not repeated.

According to the information the Commission has received, the attacks were allegedly directed specifically against the five inmates whose bodies were found on January 2, 2012.

The IACHR reiterates that States, as guarantors of the rights of the persons deprived of liberty, must adopt all necessary measures to protect the life and personal integrity of the inmates. States have the obligation to investigate, on its own initiative and with due diligence, all deaths of persons under its custody. These investigations must not only aim to establish the material perpetrators of the crimes, but also the possible intellectual authors, and any degree of responsibility that the authorities might have, either by action or by omission.

The Inter-American Commission has been monitoring the prison situation in Venezuela for several years through different mechanisms, including contentious cases and provisional measures it has requested of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In May 2010, after violent acts took place in this jail and several people were killed and injured, the IACHR made an urgent call to the State to adopt the appropriate measures to stop the high levels of violence in the prisons. The IACHR once again urges the Venezuelan authorities to adopt the proper measures to prevent outbreaks of violence in 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 matter. 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.

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