UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Venezuela
29 January 2013
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
We are seriously concerned about a riot which took place on January 25 at the Uribana prison in Venezuela leaving 58 inmates dead and around 100 injured, in the context of an arms seizure.
This latest example reflects an alarming pattern of violence in Venezuelan prisons, which is a direct consequence of poor conditions. Chronic prison overcrowding, lack of access to basic services and the generalised presence of firearms are widespread in Venezuelan prisons. These conditions are further exacerbated by judicial delays and excessive resort to pre-trial detention.
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. States must ensure that conditions of detention are compatible with the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They must also be compatible with the right of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, as recognised by international human rights instruments.*
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.
We also call on the Venezuelan government to adopt urgent measures to ensure that conditions of detention comply with international human rights standards. In line with the recommendations made to Venezuela under the Universal Periodic Review in October 2011, 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 and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism.
*This humane treatment is a basic standard of universal application which cannot depend entirely on material resources, and which must be applied without discrimination, as stated by the Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No 9.