Press Release

IACHR Condemns Violent Deaths in Brazilian Prison

October 25, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern regarding the recent acts of violence that took place in Penitenciaria Agrícola de Monte Cristo, located in the state of Roraima, Brazil. The IACHR urges the Brazilian State to investigate the circumstances under which these events occurred, and to identify and judge those responsible.  Moreover, the State must adopt the necessary measures to prevent events such as these from happening again.

According to publicly available information, on October 17, 2016, a prison riot took place in Penitenciaria Agrícola de Monte Cristo, located in Boa Vista, capital of the state of Roraima, Brazil. According to The Special Operations Battalion, the riot started when a group of detainees entered a section occupied by members of a different faction.  The Secretary of Justice and Citizenship of Roraima, Uziel Castro, informed that approximately 100 detainee family members were taken hostage during the confrontation, which happened during visiting hours. The events resulted in at least 25 deaths, of which 7 were found decapitated and 6 carbonized, according to journalistic reports. The Inter-American Commission takes notice that this severe event happens in a context of prevalent violence in Brazilian prisons, which are generally overpopulated. It is estimated that Boa Vista prison holds 1,400 interns, even though its capacity is for 740.

As guarantors of fundamental human rights of persons deprived of liberty, States have the juridical obligation to adopt concrete actions to guarantee the rights to life, personal integrity and security of the recluses. This obligation includes guaranteeing the detention conditions established in international standards concerning human rights. The IACHR must also recall that the State has the obligation of investigating with due diligence all the deaths of people under its custody. These investigations should not only be oriented to establish material responsibilities but also to determine the possible intellectual authors or those  state agents or employees that contributed with actions or omissions.

The Inter-American Commission urges the Brazilian State to adopt all the necessary measures to prevent the occurring of similar events, in particular the implementation of actions to adequate the detention conditions in Penitenciaria Agricola de Monte Cristo and other detention centers to international standards, to guarantee the life and integrity of persons deprived of liberty. The State must maintain the internal security in penal centers and control the access of weapons and illicit substances, as well as the circulation of money. Moreover, the IACHR urges Brazil to create and implement mechanisms to reduce the overpopulation in prisons and other detention centers.

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. 156/16