68 inmates lost their lives and more than 30 were injured during a riot and a fire that occurred in an overpopulated police prison in Valencia, in central Venezuela.
According to a laconic pronouncement from the Venezuelan attorney, Tarek William Saab, 68 people died in the mutiny and supposed fire that took place in the jails of the Carabobo state police. However, unofficial information indicates that the figure would be more than 80 deaths and everything would have started with a riot generated by a change of government, or fight between rival groups for the control of the cells.
Another version points to an escape attempt. Apparently the inmates had caused the fire to escape, but they were not allowed to leave while the fire spread and the smoke drowned the detainees, which ended up causing death by suffocation and burns of those who were in the dungeons.
The courtyard of the prison of the police headquarters was used as an improvised morgue, where the corpses were placed on the ground, while 5 of them were treated in rusted metal plates at the same time.
A prisoner who died carbonized, reported by telephone from one of the overcrowded dungeons that they were being sprayed with fuel. They're spraying us with gas, told his wife, Judith Bello, who reported among tears to reporters.
None of the inmates were serving any sentence, since they were waiting for their respective trials to be transferred to penitentiary centers. Some of them had been waiting for their court hearing for more than 2 years.
Despite the chaos generated around the police jail due to clashes with tear gas between the police and the relatives of the inmates who tried to communicate with their relatives or get information about them, mutiny and alleged fire were the only ones words of the authorities about an incident that left dozens dead.
Through a statement, the UN Human Rights Office expressed its concern about the events that occurred in the cells and urged the Venezuelan authorities to carry out a thorough investigation:
We are appalled by the terrible deaths of at least 68 people in Venezuela after a fire swept the jail of a police station on Wednesday in the wake of alleged clashes between detainees and members of the 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 families of the victims and, when appropriate, identify and bring those responsible to justice.
We are also concerned about reports that security forces used tear gas to disperse family members 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 right of families to information and peaceful assembly.
In prisons and police jails in Venezuela, usually used as permanent detention centers, there is widespread overcrowding and terrible conditions of detention. The bad conditions, exacerbated by judicial delays and the excessive use of preventive detention, generate repeated acts of violence and riots.
The States are the guarantors of the life and personal integrity of persons deprived of their liberty. We call on the Government of Venezuela to take immediate steps to improve the conditions of detention in compliance with international human rights standards and norms, including the prohibition of torture, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.
We call on the authorities to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in order to enable independent monitoring of detention centers by an international mechanism.
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