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Monday, March 1, 2021

scores of people die in prison riots in Ecuador

Prisons should make people fear not committing any crimes.  Given that Venezuela has the world’s second highest homicide rate, it’s probably no surprise that Venezuelan prisons are considered to be some of the most violent in the world.  Another dreaded one is in Guantanamo.   The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a United States military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base,  on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The camp was established by President George W. Bush's administration in 2002 during the War on Terror.  .. .. .. yet the cruelest one would be ‘Kala pani’ – the Cellular Jail @ Andamans. .. this is no post on the history of prisons or on its cruelty – but on prison riots in Ecuador.

Ecuador  is a country in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia,  and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (621 mi) west of the mainland. The capital is Quito.

The word "Prison" the synonym of the word 'Jail' or 'gaol' or 'Penitentiary' has been defined as a place properly arranged and equipped for reception of persons who by legal process are committed to it for safe custody while awaiting trial or for punishment. It is stated that during the period of Kings, hardcore criminals were housed in a different prison than others who committed petty crimes.  Lord Macaulay a member of the Indian Law Commission initiated the Prison reform in 1835 for the first time in India. Indian Prisons Act of 1894 regulated the prison system in the country.  The Presidency Jail for women in Vellore, was the first prison constructed in Tamil Nadu during the year 1830 followed by Madras "Penitentiary" during the year 1837. 

There have been riots inside the prison leaving people dead too. In 1999, nine prisoners died  as a result of a pitched battle with warders on November 17. More than 100 were injured and two jailers  also died.  The riot erupted after news reached the prisoners of the death of a 35-year-old prisoner, Vadivelu, nicknamed “boxer”. The previous week he had received basic treatment in the jail hospital for severe stomach pain and diahorrea. In the early hours of November 17, he again complained of a stomach pain and was taken to the Government Hospital by ambulance and died.  When the news that “boxer” Vadivelu had died reached the prisoners lining up for their morning roll call they went on a rampage, attacking prison staff, damaging furniture and setting fire to bedsheets, pillows and other materials.  Some prisoners entered the prison record room, bound the deputy jailer Jayakumar to a chair, covered him with record books and set him ablaze.  

Responding to an emergency call from prison authorities, police reinforcements rushed to the jail. The rapid action force, known as the Tamil Nadu Commando Force, backed by local police stormed into the prison, attacked prisoners with batons and later opened fire on them.    

In 2012, in neighbouring Srilanka, at least 27 people died in clashes between inmates and guards at Sri Lanka's Welikada prison in the capital Colombo. The violence started when police commandos arrived at the prison to provide security whilst prison officers searched for illegal items. After some prisoners seized arms a gunfight erupted. Witnesses said guards fired on prisoners who tried to escape.Most of the casualties were inmates. Dozens were injured.

Any reference to Wellikade would bring in plightful remembrance of the massacre that occurred in July 1983 in what is often referred as pogrom and which fuelled Tamil’s fight against the ruling Sinhalese.  In that ghastly incident, 53 prisoners   were killed inside a high-security prison. Those targetted include Selvarajah Yogachandran, referred to as Kuttimani, and Nadarajah Thangavelu, alias Thangathurai who were the co-founding leaders of TLO (Tamil Liberation Organisation).  In 1976, Kuttimani’s name appeared on the list of 47 Tamil prisoners held without trial under Emergency Regulations.  The  Neervely’s Bank robbery of 8 million Sri Lankan rupees led the Sri Lankan police officials to accuse Kuttimani as the orchestrater.  The prisoners were murdered brutally whilst their trials were still pending.  

Now comes the news that more than 62 inmates have died in riots at prisons in three cities in Ecuador as a result of fights between rival gangs and an escape attempt, authorities said Tuesday. Prisons Director Edmundo Moncayo said in a news conference that 800 police offices have been helping to regain control of the facilities. Hundreds of officers from tactical units had been deployed since the clashes broke out late Monday. Moncayo said that two groups were trying to gain “criminal leadership within the detention centers” and that the clashes were precipitated by a search for weapons carried out Monday by police officers.

Photographs and videos on social media show alleged inmates decapitated and dismembered amid pools of blood. Deadly prison riots have happened relatively frequently in recent years in Ecuador, whose prisons were designed for some 27,000 inmates but house about 38,000. President Lenín Moreno tweeted that he has ordered the Ministry of Defense “to exercise strict control of weapons, ammunition and explosives in the outer perimeters of prisons” as a result of this week’s riots. Moncayo said 33 died at the prison in Cuenca in southern Ecuador, 21 in the Pacific coast city of Guayaquil and eight in the central city of Latacunga. Moncayo said that close to 70% of the country’s prison population lives in the centers where the unrest occurred. Minister of Government Patricio Pazmiño sent a tweet blaming “the concerted action of criminal organizations to generate violence in the country’s prisons," but added, "We are managing actions to regain control.”


With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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