Detainees in overcrowded cells go on hunger strike, demand arraignment hearings

There are more than 200 detainees at the headquarters of the Investigative and Scientist Police in Los Teques, denouncing big overcrowded cells and undue delays in arraignment hearings.

244 inmates jailed in cells built only for 80 prisoners: In the Cicpc headquarters, the overcrowding exceeds 150%. Photo by Pola Del Giudice.

By Pola Del Giudice.

Some 244 detainees in the temporary cells of the Scientific, Criminal and Investigation Police (Cicpc in Spanish) in Los Teques, capital of Miranda state, declared a hunger strike, demanding transfers to the courts for their arraignment hearings or trials and denouncing an undue delay in the judicial processes.

Detention time at such a temporary cell should not exceed 48 to 72 hours, according to Venezuelan law. But some 244 inmates are housed in spaces built to hold only 80 prisoners, and most have been there since before mid-March when the Coronavirus outbreak began in Venezuela. Inmates’ relatives say some of the prisoners have been there for two years or even more.

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On the morning of Monday, 13 July, those arrested decided to stop eating to pressure authorities of the Ministry of Interior and Justice and Prison Affairs, to allow transfers to courts despite strict quarantine regulations. Arraignment and other hearings stopped over 100 days ago when the courts stopped working due to the COVID-19.

The hunger strike was triggered “by the situation of overcrowding in the cells, those spaces were building for 80 people, and currently have some 224 defendants live together, who should have been there for only 48 hours. Many of them have been there for more than two years,” said a family member outside the place, asking reserve his name.

The detainees said the hunger strike do no stop until they see taking actions about their petitions, because several of them have months behind bars without progress in their criminal proceedings, while others have already get sentenced.

Authorities in the Cicpc notified about the hunger strike measure to the Twenty-fourth Prosecutor’s Office with jurisdiction over Fundamental Rights and the Prison System and the Sixteenth Prosecutor’s Office in Venezuela.

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