[JURIST] Amerigo Incalcaterra, the regional representative for South America [official website, Spanish] from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website], expressed concern [press release, Spanish] Tuesday over the violence in prisons in South America after the death of at least three prisoners in Uruguay, two in Argentina, two in Venezuela and one in Chile over the last few days. The OHCHR sets out guidelines for the treatment of prisoners through General Comment No. 9 [text], issued in 1982, which Incalcaterra notes should have been followed more closely in order to prevent the inhumane treatment that is believed to be linked to the violence. There is also an Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture [text] that sets up preventative measures that none of the countries at issue here have taken steps to implement. Incalcaterra said in a statement:
These events reflect an alarming pattern of prison violence in the region, which is a direct consequence of—or is aggravated by—among others, poor conditions of detention, including chronic prison overcrowding, the lack of access to basic services such as adequate floor space, potable water, food, health care, and lack of basic sanitary and hygienic standards.
These types of conditions are addressed in both the OHCHR General Comment as well as the Optional Protocol.
The violence has been linked to overcrowding and poor hygienic conditions [LAT report] in many South American prisons. A report [text, PDF] written by he Washington Office on Latin America and the Transnational Institute [official website] two years ago credits the overcrowding to stricter drug laws throughout South America.