Brazil’s chaotic prison system is facing crisis with more than 120 inmate deaths reported since 1 January 2017, Amnesty International said today after the confirmation of a further 26 killings inside Alcaçuz prision, Rio Grande do Norte state.
More than 120 government prison inmates have been killed in the past 16 days during riots in the northern and northeastern states of Amazonas, Roraima and now, Rio Grande do Norte.
“It is appalling that so many people have been killed in such a short amount of time while in government custody. The crisis that started with the killings in Amazonas State prison on 1st January is worsening and spreading throughout the country,” said Renata Neder, Human Rights Advisor at Amnesty International Brazil.
“The authorities are playing a dangerous game in underestimating the depth of the emergency in the prison system; and are therefore failing to prevent further gruesome killings.”
The vast majority of the 26 inmates killed in the latest disturbances at Alcaçuz prision in Rio Grande do Norte were beheaded. There are also reports that some of the victims were quartered and others burned. Parts of the prison facilities were destroyed during the riot, which lasted for over fourteen hours.
More than 8,000 people are imprisoned in Rio Grande do Norte state, though its prison system has capacity for just 3,500. As far back as March 2015, the government declared a “state of calamity” in its prison system due to the number of riots that had taken place.
The overcrowding and poor facilities of Brazilian prisons have been widely denounced before the National Justice Council, by the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in a 2016 report.
Amnesty International is calling on authorities to ensure a prompt, thorough and independent investigation, by civilian authorities, into the killings. All those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials.