Prisoners Sow Mouths Shut in Hunger Strike

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The 54 hunger strikers in Valledupar high security prison have now been joined by others, bringing the total to 70 hunger strikers. The inmates have sewn their mouths together in a shocking protest at abuses and poor treatment. The prisoners have been carrying out a campaign of peaceful disobedience since early May, protesting overcrowding, inhumane treatment and abuses by guards, lack of water and medical treatment, as well as the arbitrary solitary reclusion of prisoner spokesmen.

On June 13th a human rights delegation visited Valledupar and was able to confirm the poor conditions prisoners are held in. Since then nothing has changed for the prisoners. Prisoners are now reporting that protesting inmates are being arbitrarily transferred from Valledupar to other prisons, as has been the case with Jairo Fuentes who was transferred from Valledupar to La Picota in Bogota. In a similar case two prisoners, Leydy Sarmiento and Jeisson Murillo, have been transferred away from Bogota, despite their cases being held there. Leydy has reportedly been held in solitary for the last five days in Cucuta prison on the border with Venezuela, and Jeisson was transferred to Valledupar.

Meanwhile prisoners in the La Dorada prison in Caldas Department have reported collective punishments in which Tower 9 inmates were gassed and beaten, resulting in 5 injured prisoners. The inmates are complaining that the authorities have used indiscriminate and disproportionate force and that prisoners are also being forbidden from receiving visitors.

Other prisoners being held in Tolima have also reported that authorities have been mixing political prisoners with common criminals. The situation is such that one man hanged himself in the prison’s Yard 7 (although some allege he may have been killed), and tensions throughout the prison are running high. Despite prisoners complaining to the prison authorities, they claim a guard said that nothing will be done ‘until someone is killed.’ Another inmate has had two paramilitaries put in his cell – despite the fact that the two paramilitaries were involved in the massacre of the man’s family. In addition inmates endure inhumane conditions, only receiving 30 minutes or so of water every 24 hours, in a massively overcrowded prison.

Colombia holds hundreds of political prisoners such as Liliany Obando, Carmelo Agamez and David Ravelo who are often held in high security prisons in dangerous and inhumane conditions.

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