Venezuela: Fatal police station fire must spur change in authorities’ treatment of prisoners

In response to the news that at least 68 people, 66 men and two women, died in a fire at a police station jail in the northern state of Carabobo in Venezuela on 28 March, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International said:

“This horrific and entirely avoidable tragedy is another sign of the Venezuelan authorities’ complete lack of concern for the human rights of people deprived of their liberty. The authorities must not only launch an impartial and independent investigation into the deaths to guarantee truth, justice and reparations for the victims and their families; they must also take immediate action to ensure that they treat all prisoners with dignity, respect and protect their human rights, and prevent events of this appalling nature from ever happening again.”

Venezuela’s prisons and police stations, which often serve as permanent detention centres, are notoriously overcrowded. According to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, there are more than 32,000 people in detention just in police station jails across the country, 400% more than their capacity to hold 8,000 prisoners. When the state detains a person it has a heightened obligation to protect their right to life and other rights.