Nº 48/06




In connection with the visit to Bolivia, from November 12 to 17, 2006, by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Commission member Florentín Meléndez – Rapporteur for Bolivia and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas – visited the Chonchocorro Penitentiary (in El Alto), the San Pedro Jail (in La Paz), and the Centro de Orientación Femenina Obrajes (also in La Paz), to examine the situation of the human rights of persons deprived of liberty.


First, the Commission is deeply concerned over the high percentage of persons deprived of liberty in Bolivia who have not been convicted—approximately 75% of the 7,682 inmates in Bolivian jails, according to official figures from October 2006.


The Commission has also found, with great concern, that the precarious state of prison infrastructure, sanitation, and security has heightened the overcrowding problem observed during the visits to the San Pedro Jail and the Centro de Orientación Femenina Obrajes. It stresses that the number of inmates at San Pedro, for example, is about five times its capacity.


Another matter of concern to the Commission is the lack of criteria for separating and classifying persons deprived of liberty. It found defendants held alongside convicts, and children under 18 together with adults, in violation of the American Convention and other international instruments on the matter.


The Commission also found relatives, wives, or female companions of inmates—especially children and adolescents whose parents were inmates—living with their relatives in the San Pedro and Obrajes Jails. The Commission notes that family cohabitation within jail can be a positive alternative in terms of the rehabilitation and resocialization of persons deprived of liberty.  However, measures must be implemented to ensure that family cohabitation in prisons conforms to international human rights standards. In particular, the Commission is concerned over the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of children and adolescents who live with their fathers and mothers in the prisons visited, given the precarious state of infrastructure, sanitation, and security at those prisons.


Lastly, the Commission recognizes that the prison situation observed in Bolivia and the severe problems identified are complex and have been inherited by the present government.  The Commission believes the situation of Bolivian jails calls for a governmental response determined through dialogue and coordination among the branches of government, with participation by the community through its various organizations and institutions. It urges the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government in the Republic of Bolivia to promote dialogue and inter-agency discussion aimed at correcting the human rights situation of persons deprived of liberty, with a comprehensive perspective and approach agreed upon by all involved sectors of the country.



Washington D.C., November 30, 2006