Wave of prison deaths in South America sparks alarm from UN human rights office
Three prisoners died in Uruguay, two in Argentina, two in Venezuela and one in Chile, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported yesterday. A video has also emerged showing a handcuffed female prisoner in Brazil who had just given birth.
Amerigo Incalcaterra, OHCHR’s regional representative for South America, issued a statement expressing concern about the situation in a region where the rate of prison overcrowding ranges from 30 per cent to 70 per cent.
“These events reflect an alarming pattern of prison violence in the region, which is a direct consequence of – or is aggravated by – among others, poor conditions of detention, including chronic prison overcrowding, the lack of access to basic services such as adequate floor space, potable water, food, health care, and lack of basic sanitary and hygienic standards,” he said.
“These conditions are exacerbated by judicial delays and excessive resort to pre-trial detention,” Mr. Incalcaterra added.
He noted that UN human rights rapporteurs, treaty bodies and the Human Rights Council have all repeatedly criticized the state of prison conditions across the continent.
“Humane treatment is a basic standard of universal application which cannot depend entirely on material resources, and which must be applied without discrimination,” he said, citing the guidelines of the Human Rights Committee on the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty.
Mr. Incalcaterra voiced concern that none of the countries that his office covers has established a national preventive mechanism against torture, as required under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
He also called for prompt investigations into all of the recent deaths, “with a view, where applicable, to identifying those responsible and to obtain redress for the victims and their families.”