In response to reports that at least 46 prisoners were killed and more than 70 injured in a violent incident inside the Los Llanos Penitentiary Centre (CEPELLA) in Guanare, Portuguesa state, yesterday, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

“This is not the first time we have seen prisoners in Venezuela suffer terrible violations of their right to life. The grotesque images that are now being broadcast around the world should serve as a reminder that all those responsible for this atrocity must be brought to justice. The authorities’ lethal response must be thoroughly investigated and analyzed so that these international crimes do not go unpunished.”

Reports indicate that an officer of the Bolivarian National Guard and the director of the penitentiary are among the injured. The authorities under the command of Nicolás Maduro have attempted to justify the use of violence against the prisoners, saying that they had attempted to escape the facility.

However, according to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP), the prison protest began in response to restrictions on relatives bringing food for inmates. According to OVP, the prisoners had not received food from their relatives for several days due to this measure that was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEPELLA has a capacity of 750 people but currently houses more than 2,500 inmates, according to OVP figures. In addition to overcrowding, prison conditions are extremely precarious, and inmates’ families must provide them with food, medicine and other basic necessities. This arrangement was restricted from the beginning of the state of alarm that Nicolás Maduro decreed on March 13, in response to the pandemic.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is currently conducting a preliminary examination of whether crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela the Maduro government’s time in office. In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed a Fact-Finding Mission to determine individual responsibility for the perpetration of grave human rights violations.

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