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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ecuador – Prison violence

10 May 2022

Members of the police guard the exterior of the Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas prison after a riot, in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, 09 May 2022

Delivered by

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell



In light of the shocking news from Ecuador that dozens of inmates died in a prison on Monday, we reiterate our deep alarm at recurring prison violence in the country. 

According to the authorities, at least 44 people died and more than a dozen were injured after riots broke out in a prison in the northern city of Santo Domingo. According to the police, the riots were provoked by the transfer of a prisoner known as 'Anchundia', linked to the R7 gang, from La Roca prison in the south-west to the Santo Domingo prison.

Monday’s violence is the latest to erupt in the country’s prisons. Clashes between prisoners from different gangs left 15 people injured in El Inca prison in Quito on 25 April. Three days earlier, on 22 April, disturbances at the Esmeraldas No.2 prison, on the northern coast, left 12 inmates injured.

These worrying incidents once again highlight the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system, including the penitentiary system to tackle what has been a protracted crisis in the country. From December 2020 to May 2022, at least 390 people have been killed in Ecuador’s prisons, including some 20 inmates at a prison in the south of the country on 3 April.

We emphasize that the responsibility of the State for the security of all people in its custody creates a presumption of State responsibility for these deaths and call for a full investigation of these incidents.

In February, President Lasso launched a public policy of social rehabilitation of prisoners. The new policy, as we mentioned at the time, was developed with significant technical support from the UN Human Rights Office, and in consultation with a large cross-section of Ecuadorian society, including the families of prisoners and prisoners themselves. We encourage the State to take vigorous steps and provide adequate resources to implement this policy.

In addition, we call on the Government to carefully examine the practical recommendations aimed at reducing violence, deaths and serious injury in detention contained in the High Commissioner’s 2019 report on human rights in the administration of justice (A/HRC/42/20). The Government should also consider a roadmap proposed by the UN Human Rights Office and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) – to guarantee security in prisons, to improve conditions under which people are deprived of their liberty and to ensure there is better prison management, including by combating corruption. The roadmap also recommends that penal policies be changed to reduce the excessive use of incarceration.

The UN Human Rights Office will continue collaborating with other UN agencies as we remain committed to support Ecuador in facing this urgent challenge, based on human rights and in line with international norms and standards.

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected]or
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or
Seif Magango - +254 788 343 897 / [email protected] or
Lori Brumat - + 41 22 928 9149 / [email protected]

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