Ecuador: UN experts call for urgent action to stop prison violence

UN human rights experts today called on Ecuador to take urgent action to prevent further loss of life in the country’s jails following a series of riots which have left more than 280 inmates dead and hundreds injured this year.

During the most recent outbreak of violence, on 12 November, at least 62 inmates were killed and 44 were injured at the Centre of Deprivation of Liberty Guayas Nr. 1 (El Litoral Penitentiary) near the coastal city of Guayaquil. This was the fourth deadly riot at the prison this year. A few days earlier, four inmates were shot and killed during clashes inside the wards. In September, El Litoral Penitentiary saw the deadliest riot ever recorded in Ecuador, with 118 inmates killed and more than 80 injured. In July, eight people had been killed during an uprising at the same prison and 13 in another. Nearly 80 other inmates were killed in incidents earlier in 2021.

“We are appalled and gravely concerned by repeated riots that have resulted in the death of so many prisoners, and the clear risk of further incidents,” said the experts.

According to information received by the experts, specific concerns include severe overcrowding in detention facilities – largely as a result of a highly punitive “war on drugs” policy – budget cuts and lack of staff, including professionals trained in fields necessary for social rehabilitation. Availability of weapons, violence between rival criminal gangs and inadequate separation of inmates in prisons have further exacerbated problems at jails. In addition, the medico-legal investigations which followed resulted in confusing reports about the number of dead, which were first reported by the authorities as totalling 68 bodies and later 62 deceased inmates. This discrepancy is a source of additional suffering for the anguished relatives of the deceased.