GENEVA (29 March 2018) – We are appalled at the horrific deaths of at least 68 people in Venezuela after a fire swept through a police station jail on Wednesday amid reported clashes between detainees and security forces.
We urge the Venezuelan authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and effective investigation to establish the cause of these deaths, provide reparations to the victims’ families, and, where applicable, identify and bring those responsible to justice.
We are also concerned at reports that security forces used tear gas to disperse relatives who had gathered in front of the police station in Valencia, Carabobo State, to demand information about their loved ones. We call on the authorities to respect the families’ right to information and to peaceful assembly.
There is widespread overcrowding and dire conditions in Venezuela’s prisons and also in police jails, which are often used as permanent detention centres. These conditions, which often give rise to violence and riots, are exacerbated by judicial delays and the excessive use of pre-trial detention.
States are guarantors of the lives and physical integrity of persons deprived of their liberty. We call on the Venezuelan government to adopt immediate measures to address the conditions of detention to ensure that they comply with international human rights norms and standards, including the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
To this end, we urge the authorities to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, so as to enable independent prison monitoring by an international body.
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