Press Release

IACHR Condemns Violent Death of Teenager in a Detention Center in Guatemala

June 8, 2012

Washington, D.C., - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the violent death of a 17-year old teenager in the Juvenile Center for Pretrial Detention (Centro Juvenil de Detención Provisional), better known as the Las Gaviotas correctional facility, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The IACHR urges the State to implement the necessary measures to prevent the repetition of similar incidents.

According to the information received, on June 3, 2012, a teenager was killed with bladed weapons in an internal fight between groups of persons deprived of liberty at the Juvenile Center for Pretrial Detention. It is alleged that other ten teenagers, ages 15 to 17, were injured.

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 omission. The investigation must also aim to find effective responses to prevent the repetition of similar incidents.

Likewise, the 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 recalls that the deprivation of liberty of juveniles should always be a measure of last resort and for the minimum necessary period. In addition, it must be integrally intended for the re-socialization. In this sense, the special position of the State as guarantor of juveniles deprived of their liberty implies the adoption of special measures and must be assumed by the State with a particular concern and responsibility, taking into account the principle of the best interest of the child.

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. 61/12