December 22, 2014
San Luis prison photos look like Abu Ghraib
Provincial official ‘ashamed’ after news website’s humiliating photos of incarcerated youth
Investigations were launched against the police officers who carried out a humiliating frisk search on youth detained in a prison in San Luis province.
A local news website published the photos of the 2013 search yesterday, showing youths completely naked, kneeling with their heads on the floor, which led to strong criticism from human rights groups.
The website SanLuis24.com published the pictures taken inside the prison that reveal degrading behaviour toward young adults who had allegedly taken part in crimes.
“These pictures are proof of practices of torture and degrading punishment that extends throughout the country’s prisons,” the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) human rights organization said in a news release.
‘Needs to be corrected’
The head of the provincial penitentiary service Inocencio Carpio acknowledged this kind of action “needs to be corrected.”
“My head hangs in shame,” Carpio told local reporters. “I hope it won’t happen again. I don’t deny what happened.”
The photographs show a group of young inmates naked and on their knees while they are being searched by guards accompanied by their dogs in one of the prison’s courtyards.
Carpio questioned the methods used by police forces and said he had launched investigations against all officers involved in order to bring them to justice.
The officer said the frisk was carried out “by a small group at odds with the new policies” implemented by the provincial penitentiary system.
According to the news portal, the photographs were taken at noon on April 22, 2013, “during a frisk in a cellblock for minors, following an internal investigation of a fight that took place the previous night” in which a youngster was injured with a knife.
The news portal identified officer Mariano Ibáñez, described as the leader of the juvenile unit, and his assistant, José Vélez, in the pictures.
Carpio said “he was unaware” of the situation before the website published the pictures.
“Frisk searches take place every day,” he said. “But these types of procedures are not allowed.”
The official added that there were now a record-high 59 inmates in the youth cellblock.
“This brings problems,” he said.
‘Not an isolated situation’
As shocking as the pictures may be, CELS highlighted that the abuses depicted are hardly isolated episodes.
The human rights organization said yesterday that it “has repeatedly denounced the structural, daily basis of human rights violations against detained people in Argentina.”
Throughout last year, cases of “torture, humiliating treatment and inhumane detention conditions” at the federal and provincial levels were revealed, CELS added. “These practices are part of the culture at prisons, precincts and juvenile detention centres.”
Last year, a Salta provincial police officer was expelled and ordered to be detained while three other officials were suspended after footage was released showing an arrested youth being brutally assaulted by a police officer in the Orán police station.
A national programme to prevent torture must be implemented as soon as possible to prevent the proliferation of this type of cases, the human rights organization concluded.
Herald staff wit DyN