N° 50/10



Washington, D.C., May 7, 2010—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deeply regrets the violent deaths of several inmates at the Western Penitentiary Center in the Venezuelan state of Táchira. The IACHR urgently calls on the State to adopt any measures necessary to ensure that similar events are not repeated.


According to the information the Commission has received, on May 4, 2010, a violent confrontation took place among prisoners at the Western Penitentiary Center in the state of Táchira. Information released by the authorities indicates that eight inmates died; three of them were killed with firearms, three with bladed weapons, and two burned to death. In addition, a number of inmates reportedly were injured. These events took place following a riot at the same prison on April 12, 2010, which according to the authorities left seven inmates dead.


The IACHR expresses concern about these occurrences and its solidarity with the families of the inmates who died violently and with the guards who were injured. It recalls that State human rights obligations include the obligation to adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the life and personal integrity of persons deprived of liberty, as well as of those who work in detention centers.


The IACHR also reiterates its concern over the high rates of violence in Venezuelan penitentiaries and over the fact that in several prisons, criminal organizations are in possession of large-caliber weapons. The IACHR reaffirms that the States are responsible for adopting security measures to protect persons subject to their jurisdiction, an obligation that is even more evident when it comes to those in custody, over whom the State stands in a position of guarantor. This obligation is imposed not only in relation to the authority of the State, but also in terms of the actions of private third parties.


The IACHR again urges the Venezuelan authorities to adopt appropriate measures to prevent outbreaks of violence in prisons. The Inter-American Commission has been monitoring the prison situation in Venezuela for several years through different mechanisms, including contentious cases and provisional measures it has requested of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


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 Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.


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