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Ecuador: Latest prison riot highlights need for criminal justice reform

Quito, Ecuador's capital.
© Unsplash/David Golding
Quito, Ecuador's capital.

Ecuador: Latest prison riot highlights need for criminal justice reform

Human Rights

The latest deadly prison violence in Ecuador has again highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the country’s criminal justice system, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, said on Tuesday. 

More than 44 people died, and over a dozen were injured, after riots broke out on Monday at the prison, located in the northern city of Santo Domingo, OHCHR Spokesperson Liz Throssell said, citing the authorities. 

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The riots were reportedly provoked by the transfer of a prisoner known as 'Anchundia', linked to the R7 gang, from La Roca prison in the south-west to the facility in Santo Domingo. 

‘Worrying incidents’ 

This marked the latest violence to erupt in prisons in the South American country.  Fifteen people were injured in clashes between prisoners from different gangs in El Inca prison in the capital, Quito, on 25 April.   

Three days earlier, disturbances at the Esmeralda No. 2 prison, located on the northern coast, left 12 inmates wounded.  

“These worrying incidents once again highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system, including the penitentiary system to tackle what has been a protracted crisis in the country,” Ms. Throssell told journalists in Geneva. 

Call for investigation 

From December 2020 to May 2022, at least 390 people have been killed in Ecuador’s prisons, including some 20 inmates at a prison in the south of the country on 3 April, she added.  

“We emphasize that the responsibility of the State for the security of all people in its custody creates a presumption of State responsibility for these deaths and call for a full investigation of these incidents.” 

Ms. Throssell recalled that in February, Ecuador’s President, Guillermo Lasso, had launched a public policy of social rehabilitation of prisoners.  

The plan had been developed with significant technical support from OHCHR, and in consultation with a large cross-section of Ecuadorian society, including the families of prisoners as well as prisoners themselves. 

“We encourage the State to take vigorous steps and provide adequate resources to implement this policy,” she said. 

Roadmap for security 

OHCHR also called on the Government to carefully examine recommendations in its 2019 report on human rights in the administration of justice, that are aimed at reducing violence, deaths and serious injury in detention

The authorities were also urged to consider a roadmap proposed by OHCHR and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to guarantee security in prisons and ensure better prison management, including by combating corruption, among other measures.  

“The UN Human Rights Office will continue collaborating with other UN agencies as we remain committed to support Ecuador in facing this urgent challenge, based on human rights and in line with international norms and standards,” said Ms. Throssell.