UN torture prevention body remains seriously concerned by prison crisis after second visit: Ecuador


UN experts concluded their visit to Ecuador by calling on the State to take immediate and additional measures to tackle the country’s complex prison crisis and protect the human rights of those deprived of liberty.

“We are gravely concerned about the dire situation in various detention centres and prisons in Ecuador,” said Maria Luisa Romero, who led the UN delegation composed of four members of the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT).

“The recent violence is the consequence of decades of state abandonment. Detainees have been living in a state of tension and constant fear, in prisons lacking essential services and basic resources. Some spaces in these prisons are self-governed by detainees who are members of criminal organisations,” she added.

The SPT’s mission to Ecuador took place between 25 September and 1 October, amid recent violence in the country’s prison system that has led to the deaths of hundreds of prisoners in the past few years. The delegation visited nine places of deprivation of liberty in three cities, including joint visits with the country’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), which has the mandate under the Optional Protocol to prevent torture and ill-treatment in the country.

“We recognised Ecuador’s commitment to addressing the dramatic prison crisis. During our visit, the authorities granted us unrestricted access to detention facilities and to persons deprived of liberty and assured us the opportunity to engage in constructive and uninterrupted dialogue with various government leaders, including the President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Secretary, which we hope to continue,” she stated, “but there are actions that need to be taken, and we will provide further recommendations to the State party in our report.”

On 3 October, two days after the SPT delegation left Ecuador, a clash between prisoners occurred in one of the country’s largest prisons in Latacunga, killing at least 15 inmates, according to the authorities. The existing dynamic of self-government within so-called mega-prisons has led to rights violations and presented challenges to Ecuador’s efforts to fulfil its obligations under human rights law.

While in Ecuador, the SPT delegation shared their primary concerns with authorities from the executive, legislative and judicial branches and urged them to strengthen the NPM. The delegation also met with civil society organisations and family members of victims.

The SPT will share its report with recommendations to Ecuador in due course. The report will remain confidential until the State decides to make it public. In addition, the SPT will prepare a separate and confidential report for the NPM.

Ecuador ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2010, and the SPT conducted its first visit to the country in 2014.

Under its mandate, the Subcommittee can visit all State parties and carry out unannounced visits to places where people are or may be deprived of their liberty. The SPT has visited more than 70 countries since 2007 when it started its preventative work. The Subcommittee considers that a permanent and constructive relationship with signatory States and their preventive mechanisms is essential to prevent torture and ill-treatment.

The SPT delegation consisted of Maria Luisa Romero, head of the delegation (Panama), Maria Andrea Casamento (Argentina), Marco Feoli (Costa Rica) and Patricia Arias (Chile).

Public Release. More on this here.