alert jail situation in colombia

TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

23 March 2020


In the framework of the emergency measures resulting from the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Sars-Cov 2 (COVID-19), on March 21, a day of protest was held on March 21, 2020 from 9:00 p.m, in many of Colombia´s prison and penitentiary centers, in which those people who are deprived of liberty demanded effective sanitary measures that would protect those in State custody.

The list of demands presented by people deprived of liberty contained measures to alleviate overcrowding, which is at an alarming 153% in Colombia, as well as basic health measures to prevent contagions in prisons. The lack of responses from the Central Government triggered a series of mutinies at a national level that ended with more than 20 dead prisoners.

It should be noted that the Colombian prison population, according to figures from November 2019, is 33.5% made up of people who have not had their legal situation resolved, and are thefore innocent until proven guilty. 24.9% of the population are seniors, 10.9% for the disabled and 0.9% are pregnant and lactating mothers, with 69 children under three years of age in the detention centers, living with their mothers. Faced with these population groups, the application of differential measures has been requested in recent months by the National Prison Movement.

Faced with a the persitent neglect of any requests presented by prisoners and the scenario of generalized panic, caused by the lack of effective sanitary measures in the prison centers, the government’s response translated into a massacre on the night of March 21 and dawn on March 22 in the Modelo prison in the city of Bogotá. It is important to note that now at two days after the events, there has been a systematic refusal to provide official information on dead and wounded people, in addition to subsequent punitive measures against the prison population, such as prolonged deprivation of food and water, forced undressing and beatings in the Combita, Modelo, Cúcuta, Picota, Picaleña and Puerto Berrio prisons, mainly incurring in cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

As organizations defending Human Rights, social organizations and associations of relatives of people deprived of liberty, we demand the application of the Minnesota Protocol1 for the investigation of deaths caused in the repression of these riots. You can’t cover up ineptitude, procrastination, and neglect with deaths. Each of the people who have lost their lives is a result of a systematic and prolonged omission by the Colombian State.


In this scenario, we watch with frustration as the emergency´s most severe effects fall on the most vulnerable population. We ask for nothing less than the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the vulnerable population deprived of liberty, the enforcement of the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and effective measures by the National Government to confront the imminent deepening of the public health crisis.

Exercising universal jurisdiction over crimes against humanity and serious violations of Human Rights, we request the international community:

  1. Express their rejection of these treatments that violate the Human Rights of the population deprived of liberty.
  2. Demand that the Colombian Government carry out an effective, impartial and independent investigation; with full application of the Minnesota Protocol on the serious events that occurred on the night of March 21 and the early hours of March 22 in penitentiary centers located around the entire national territory.
  3. Execution of all measures aimed at safeguarding the life and integrity of persons deprived of liberty, within the framework of the emergency measures issued to counteract the effects of Sars-Cov 2 (COVID-19).
  4. Request the visit of the United Nations Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty, to the different prison centers in the country; as well as the effective application of the emergency measures arranged to counteract the effects of Sars-Cov 2 (COVID-19) on persons deprived of liberty.

National Human Rights Committee

Congreso de los Pueblos

1 The purpose of the Minnesota Protocol is to protect the right to life and to promote justice, accountability, and the right to reparation by promoting an effective investigation of any potentially wrongful death or suspected enforced disappearance. It is used to investigate those deaths that occur when the person was detained, or was in the custody of the State, its organs or agents. This assumption includes, for example, all deaths of people detained in prisons, in other places of confinement (official and otherwise) and in other facilities where the State exercises greater control over their lives.

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