N° 110/10




Washington, D.C., November 9, 2010—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has received information indicating that fights are periodically organized between prisoners in the Penitentiary Center of the Central Occidental Region of Venezuela, known as the Uribana Prison. The practice is known as "The Coliseum," after the amphitheater of the Roman Empire where contests between gladiators were organized for public entertainment.


According to information the Commission has received, The Coliseum consists of confrontations arranged between inmates to "settle their accounts." The fights are organized and led by the heads of the criminal organizations that control the prison. Under the codes established by the inmates themselves, participants are allowed to use bladed weapons and to wound their opponents on certain parts of their bodies. So far this year, four prisoners have died and more than 113 have been wounded in these fights, which take place in the presence of officials who are responsible for law enforcement in the prison.


The Inter-American Commission reiterates that the State is in the position of guarantor with respect to persons deprived of liberty, and as such it has the absolute obligation to guarantee the rights to life and to humane treatment of those persons in its custody. This obligation also applies with regard to the actions of third parties. Based on this fundamental obligation, the States have the duty to take concrete steps to prevent acts of violence from occurring in prisons.


On February 2, 2007, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights granted provisional measures with respect to this prison and required that the State "adopt forthwith and definitively all such provisional measures as are necessary and effective to prevent the loss of lives and the harm to the physical, mental and moral integrity of all persons deprived of liberty in the Uribana Prison."


In this regard, the Inter-American Commission urgently calls on the prison authorities to exercise effective control of internal security at the Uribana Prison and to put an end to this form of collective violence among inmates known as The Coliseum.


The Inter-American Commission has been following the situation in Venezuela's prisons for several years through various mechanisms, including contentious cases and provisional measures requested of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In hearings held during its recently concluded 140th period of sessions, the Commission received updated information about the prison situation in Venezuela, particularly with respect to the high levels of prison violence. It was informed that this year there has been a 25% increase in the number of deaths in Venezuelan prisons compared to 2009, with 352 deaths so far in 2010, and a 31% increase in injuries over last year, with a total of 736 injuries recorded through the third quarter of 2010. The IACHR once again urges the Venezuelan authorities to take appropriate measures to prevent situations of violence in its prison facilities.


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 human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.


Useful links

Principles and Best Practices on the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas

Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Matter of the Penitentiary Center of the Central Occidental Region (Uribana Prison) regarding Venezuela:

IACHR Press Office

Website of the IACHR




Read this press release in Spanish / Lea este comunicado de prensa en español


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