UN rights office concerned at ‘alarming’ levels of violence in Venezuelan prisons

29 January 2013

The United Nations human rights office today voiced concern at an “alarming” pattern of violence in Venezuelan prisons, with the latest incident leaving 58 inmates dead and around 100 injured.

The riot that took place on 25 January at the Uribana prison occurred in the context of an arms seizure, said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“This latest example reflects an alarming pattern of violence in Venezuelan prisons, which is a direct consequence of poor conditions,” he told a news conference in Geneva.

“Chronic prison overcrowding, lack of access to basic services and the generalized presence of firearms are widespread in Venezuelan prisons. These conditions are further exacerbated by judicial delays and excessive resort to pre-trial detention.”

Mr. Colville noted that States are guarantors of the lives and physical integrity of persons deprived of their liberty. “These persons are under State custody and therefore the relevant State authorities bear responsibility for what happens to them,” he stated.

States must ensure that conditions of detention are compatible with the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, he added.

“We call for prompt and effective investigations into this incident with a view, where applicable, to identifying those responsible and to obtain redress for the victims’ families,” he stated. “We also call on the Venezuelan Government to adopt urgent measures to ensure that conditions of detention comply with international human rights standards.”

Such measures should include the adoption of a comprehensive prison policy, training of penitentiary staff and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, Mr. Colville said.


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