Press Release

IACHR Concerned about Security Crisis at Venezuelan Prison

May 22, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the security crisis that took place at an incarceration facility (Casa de Reeducación, Rehabilitación e Inernado Judicial El Paraíso) known as La Planta Prison, located in downtown Caracas. The IACHR calls on the government of Venezuela to investigate the events that unfolded, investigate and punish those responsible for bringing weapons into the facility, inform the Commission about the transfer of inmates to other prisons, and adopt the relevant measures to guarantee the life and safety of the prisoners who were transferred.

According to widely reported information, from April 27 to May 17, 2012, a serious state of tension existed between inmates at La Planta—who were holding a cache of firearms and ammunition—and law enforcement bodies of the State. Three exchanges of gunfire took place between the inmates and the authorities, on April 30, May 8, and May 17; as a result, at least two individuals were killed and seven were seriously injured. The fact that the prison population at La Planta was armed, that the facility was seriously overcrowded, and that it is located in a densely populated area of Caracas created a grave security crisis in the city for more than three weeks.

In this context, and taking into account the measures the authorities have already taken to restore order, the IACHR calls on the State of Venezuela to investigate, of its own accord and with all due diligence, the acts of violence that took place in the past few weeks at La Planta Prison, particularly the deaths that occurred in the course of these events and the fact that high-caliber weapons and explosives had been brought into the facility. Given that the possession of weapons by inmates has been seen not only at La Planta Prison but at other prisons in Venezuela, the IACHR once again calls on the State to immediately adopt measures to disarm the prison population and exercise effective controls over the entry of weapons into prisons in order to reduce rates of prison violence and to keep similar events from happening again.

As of now, the Inter-American Commission is unaware of any official list or lists having been published with the names of the inmates who were transferred and the places to which they were sent. On this point, the IACHR considers it essential that the authorities, in accordance with the principle of transparency, offer official information on the number, identity, and destination of those inmates who were transferred. The Inter-American Commission also urges the State to take the relevant measures to protect the life and integrity of the transferred inmates, especially with regard to those sent to Yare I and Yare II, Rodeo I and Rodeo II, and the Tocorón Prison—facilities for which there are provisional measures in effect. These measures were ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights so as to protect the life and physical integrity of the inmates in light of situations of violence and overpopulation.

The IACHR reiterates that States, as guarantors of the rights of persons deprived of liberty, must adopt all necessary measures to protect the life and physical integrity of prison inmates. Along these lines, States have the fundamental obligation to ensure the control and internal security of prisons, and must in no way abandon this inherent duty. Proper control by the authorities of internal order inside prisons is an essential assumption in order to guarantee the human rights of persons deprived of liberty.

The Inter-American Commission is also concerned, in the context of the events to which this press release refers, about public statements made by high-level authorities of the State, discrediting the work of human rights organizations that promote the rights of persons deprived of liberty and their families.

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. 55/12