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Rights groups call for investigation of Argentina prison deaths

[JURIST] Human rights groups, including the The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on Tuesday called for a government investigation [IACHR press release] into a fire that killed at least 32 prisoners in northern Argentina [JURIST news archive] on Sunday following a riot at the facility. The government claims that the fire, which detainees at the Santiago del Estero facility started, was part of a failed escape attempt; family members report that the prisoners were protesting conditions of their detention. The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) cited overcrowding and lack of security at the prison [press release] as the reason for the deaths. CELS reported that in addition to crowded conditions, 276 of the 444 persons detained there had not yet been sentenced.

Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed concern [AI report; HRW report] about conditions of detention facilities in Argentina, where reports [AI report] of prisoners being abused and killed in custody have been common. In 2005, a similar incident killed 32 people in a Buenos Aires prison, and prison officials were blamed for abandoning the detainees when the fire started. CNN has more. Clarin has local coverage, in Spanish.

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