Press Release

IACHR Stresses Call for Thorough Investigation into the Deaths of 47 Inmates on May 1 at the “Cepello” Penitentiary in Venezuela

May 18, 2020

   Related links

   Contact info

IACHR Press Office
[email protected]

   More on the IACHR
A+ A-

Washington, D.C. - – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stresses its call for the State of Venezuela to conduct a thorough investigation into the deaths of 47 inmates at the Los Llanos Penitentiary, also known as “Cepello,” in the state of Portuguesa.

According to publicly available reports, a clash between inmates and penitentiary authorities led to a protest on the grounds of the facility on May 1, 2020. Some sources say that protests were triggered by demands for food that had been delivered by inmates’ relatives and had allegedly not made its way to the intended recipients. Other sources say there was a dispute between one of the groups inside the prison facility (known as pranes) and officers of the Bolivarian National Guard. At least 47 inmates are believed to have died in the violence that followed the protests, which also left at least 75 people injured (including two prison guards). The Commission again condemns these events.

The IACHR stresses that the State needs to launch without delay a serious, impartial, and effective investigation into the deaths of individuals who were in its custody. This investigation must use all the judicial means available and seek to establish the truth and to ensure prosecution and punishment for the perpetrators and masterminds of these events, especially given that officers of the State are or may be involved in them.

Through its various mechanisms, the Commission has repeatedly monitored the specific situation faced by individuals who are deprived of liberty in Venezuela, and it has asked the State to protect the rights of these individuals. In particular, the IACHR recently filed an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12,814—Orlando Edgardo Olivares Muñoz and Others (Deaths at Vista Hermosa Prison), with regard to Venezuela. This case is linked to extrajudicial killings of incarcerated individuals.

Given the serious events that took place at the Los Llanos Penitentiary, and considering that they happened in a recurring context, the Commission reminds the State of Venezuela that—in compliance with the IACHR’s Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas—it has an inescapable duty to take concrete, immediate action to protect the rights to life, health, and integrity of individuals who are deprived of liberty. In the context of this obligation, the State must take measures to prevent and control potential outbreaks of violence in detention centers, which include disarming inmates, imposing effective screening to prevent the introduction of weapons and other illegal objects into prisons, investigating and punishing acts of violence in penitentiary facilities, and preventing the actions of criminal organizations present within prisons without resorting to excessive force.

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 and to defend 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. 116/20