May 25, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Haiti) – PRISONERS are dying in quake-hit Haiti’s largest jail due to ‘alarming’ conditions, human rights groups warned, saying that new facilities need to be built to relieve overcrowding.
Two prisoners died in fights in the last two weeks as inmates battle for survival in the squalid National Penitentiary in the capital Port-au-Prince, the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (RNDDH) said.
‘The situation is very alarming,’ the group’s spokeswoman Marie-Yolaine Gilles told AFP Monday, adding that detainees are being crammed into tiny cells and not given any medical attention.
The jail is ‘hell,’ said Jean-Claude Bajeux, director of the Ecumenical Centre for Human Rights, warning that conditions are so extreme that inmates ‘are sleeping standing up or just on scraps of fabric.’ It is ‘scary what’s happening in overcrowded prisons in Haiti – the inmates are not considered human,’ said Mr Bajeux, calling for the building of more jails.
After Haiti’s catastrophic January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people, more than 5,000 inmates escaped from prisons and several prison uprisings were also reported after the disaster.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Haitian police attempting to quell a riot killed up 19 inmates in a prison in Les Cayes, one week after the earthquake, and proceeded to blame the massacre on a prison ringleader. Citing a confidential UN report and testimony of former inmates, prison workers and relatives of the deceased, the daily said that unarmed prisoners were made to lie down and were shot. — AFP