Violation of Articles 4 and 5 of the American Convention in relation to Articles 19 and 1(1) thereof
(Right to Life and Right to Humane Treatment)
135. The Commission argued the following with reference to the violation of Article 19 of the American Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) thereof:
a) the State is responsible for violation of Article 19 of the Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) thereof, not only in the case of the alleged victims that it has expressly admitted to, but also in the case of all the children interned at the ‘Panchito López’ Center between August 14, 1996 and July 25, 2001, and those who were subsequently transferred to adult prisons;
b) Article 19 of the American Convention, taken in combination with the specific rules for the protection of children, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, spells out specific rules in the case of children, such as the principle that deprivation of liberty shall be reserved for exceptional cases;
c) the inmates at the Center were not treated in a manner commensurate with their dignity as individuals; the special rules governing deprivation of liberty in the case of children were not observed. The Commission alleged that the inmates were indiscriminately deprived of their liberty and endured subhuman conditions; their court cases were delayed, which meant that the vast majority of the inmates were languishing in prison awaiting trial, in preventive detention; they suffered through three fires in which ten inmates perished because proper safety measures were lacking; the inmates were then transferred to adult prisons, which constitutes a continuous violation of their human rights; adequate reparations have not been made as the State has not taken the measures necessary to correct the overcrowding, filth, poor diet, lack of qualified staff, unsatisfactory educational programs, and the practice of holding children and adolescents in preventive custody for longer than is reasonable;
d) the State failed to comply with its obligation under the Convention to provide special protection to the alleged victims; instead, the conditions at the Center also exposed the children and adolescents held there to greater danger, in direct violation of the mandate it is given under the Convention;
e) the State failed to guarantee the children’s right to health, as it did not provide regular medical attention to the inmates; it did not have sufficient medical staff to care for the children and did not provide proper medical care to those inmates with psychiatric disorders and addictions;
f) the State failed to guarantee the children’s right to play and leisure, as the inmates were shut in for most of the day and were permitted to leave their cells for only around two hours every day;
g) confinement in small, overcrowded cells for 22 hours a day is a violation of Article 19 of the American Convention and of subparagraphs 1, 2 and 6 of Article 5 thereof; and
h) the State also failed to ensure the right to education, as the children never had a formal program of continuing formal education and the physical structure of the premises was not suitable for teaching. Subsequent to the fires, the State did very little to implement educational programs and provide space for the children to play; what little was done was in response to repeated requests from the Commission.
136. As for the violation of Article 4 of the American Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) thereof, the Commission asserted that:
a) both Articles impose upon the State the reasonable obligation to prevent violation of the rights to life of persons deprived of their liberty. This obligation is all the more compelling in cases where the alleged victims are children deprived of their freedom, as their situation is one of vulnerability and dependence upon the State;
b) the State failed to comply with its obligation to respect and ensure the right to life of the nine inmates who died in or as a result of fires at the Center, and the right to life of Benito Augusto Adorno, who was shot and died as a result;
c) two adolescents, Richard Daniel Martínez and Héctor Ramón Vázquez, died after being transferred to the Emboscada Regional Penitentiary for adults;
d) the unjustifiable absence of even the most rudimentary fire prevention and extinction devices and the authorities’ disregard of the security staff’s warnings about the imminent danger, meant that the victims’ deaths were not fortuitous; instead, they were foreseeable and preventable; the State has incurred international responsibility because of this negligence; and
e) the State incurred international responsibility for violating the right to life because it did not take the necessary measures to prevent the fires or so that they would not be as disastrous as they were, quite apart from any intentional or criminal responsibility of the prison guards or certain inmates who may have started the first fire, which are questions the Paraguayan courts have to determine.
137. As for the violation of Article 5 of the American Convention, in relation to Article 1(1) thereof, the Commission asserted that:
a) the State has incurred international responsibility for violation of the right to humane treatment of the inmates burned or injured as a result of the three fires, of all the inmates incarcerated at the Center between August 14, 1996 and July 25, 2001, and those who were subsequently sent to adult prisons. Its international responsibility has been engaged by its failure to take the minimum and most elementary measures necessary to ensure the free and full exercise of that right to personal integrity and to prevent its violation;
b) the injured and burned inmates who survived the fires clearly sustained physical and emotional harm; the State is therefore responsible for violation of those former inmates’ right to humane treatment; and
c) time and time again, the State transferred inmates from the Center to adult penal institutions, particularly after each fire, thereby placing these transferred children’s personal safety at risk. That practice violated international standards on the treatment of children deprived of their liberty.
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