IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to grant temporary measures to protect the rights of individuals who are deprived of liberty at the Evaristo de Moraes Penitentiary (PEM) in Brazil. The IACHR finds that they all face an extremely serious and urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their rights, given overcrowding, poor conditions of detention, and difficult access to adequate and timely medical care at the facility.
The Evaristo de Moraes Penitentiary in Río de Janeiro was originally a warehouse for Army tanks and later came to be used to hold individuals who are deprived of liberty. In 2019, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to individuals who were deprived of liberty at the PEM, citing Article 25 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure and noting high levels of overcrowding, lack of adequate medical care, and unsanitary conditions of detention, besides the high number of inmate deaths (most of them unexplained).
While those precautionary measures were in force, the Commission received reports indicating that the risks persisted over time, as did inmate deaths. The IACHR has noted with particular concern the lack of information about the cause of death of individuals in State custody, observing that most of them were young and black and died of "illness," with no further details provided. Since the IACHR granted these precautionary measures, 50 individuals have died while they were deprived of liberty at the PEM.
The State sent the IACHR information concerning the protection measures that had been adopted, including the following: inmate transfers to other penitentiary facilities to reduce the number of inmates at the PEM; specific works of infrastructure; and the creation of a team of experts on the national policy to provide comprehensive healthcare to persons who are deprived of liberty within the Brazilian Penitentiary System that is active within the PEM. The Commission welcomed the measures that had been implemented, but also observed that, based on the information provided by both parties, overcrowding persisted, conditions of detention continued to put inmates at risk, and there continued to be high numbers of inmate deaths.
Despite the monitoring measures adopted by the IACHR with a view to ensuring the implementation of effective protection measures—including the request for periodic reports from the parties and the materialization of two working meetings—the IACHR lacks information that would indicate that the risks at the PEM may have been mitigated.
The Commission therefore considers that individuals who are deprived of liberty at the PEM face an extreme and urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm. Consequently, in keeping with these facts and with Article 63.2 of the American Convention and Article 27 of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Commission has asked the Court to grant temporary measures and to demand that the State of Brazil protect the proposed beneficiaries.
In particular, the Commission has asked the Inter-American Court to ask the State of Brazil to take the following measures:
Adopt all necessary measures to protect the rights to life, personal integrity, health, food, and good quality water of individuals who are deprived of liberty at the Evaristo de Moraes Penitentiary
Develop and implement an emergency plan to ensure the provision of adequate, timely, and sufficient medical care
Develop and implement an emergency plan to reduce overcrowding and to reduce the inmate population at the Evaristo de Moraes Penitentiary
Come to an agreement with beneficiaries and their representatives concerning any measures that need to be taken
Report on any actions implemented to investigate the events that gave rise to the request for these precautionary measures, in order to prevent such events from happening again in the future
Further, the Inter-American Commission has asked the Court to conduct an on-site visit to observe the situation of individuals who are deprived of liberty at the Evaristo de Moraes Penitentiary.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.