Prison bars

S.L. v Venezuela

S.L. (a pseudonym given to her to protect her identity) is a UK national who, whilst being held in prison in Venezuela, died on 13 March 2001 following a lack of medical care for her diabetic condition.


On 8 August 2000, S.L. was sentenced to prison in Venezuela. Although the prison staff were aware that S.L. was suffering from type I diabetes, they failed to provide her with due medical care when she went into diabetic shock in March 2001.

Likewise, S.L. received no proper medical attention during the hours after her diabetic shock at the medical centres to which she was taken. This lack of immediate and proper medical treatment resulted in S.L.’s death on 13 March 2001, a week after she was first taken ill.

Instead of investigating the events promptly and with due diligence, a criminal investigation into S.L.’s death was not launched for nearly 12 months after her death. Indeed, it took the Venezuelan judicial system more than 9 years to make a final ruling on S.L.’s case.

This unjustified delay effectively protected those responsible for the alleged crimes, who on 29 October 2010 were found not guilty due to the operation of statutes of limitation.


On 19 April 2011, REDRESS, on behalf of S.L.’s parents, filed a petition at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, seeking an effective investigation of the events that led to S.L.’s death; compensation for the economic and emotional damage suffered; and reform of the Venezuelan Criminal Code with respect to limitations on criminal actions.

REDRESS argued that lack of proper medical attention constituted a violation of Articles 4 (right to life) and 5 (prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment) of the American Convention. Further, it was argued that undue delay in investigating the events that led to S.L.’s death violated her and her parent’s right to a fair trial and judicial protection (Articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention).


On 5 December 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared the petition admissible.

The decision on the merits of the petition is pending.


Case name: S.L.  v. Venezuela.

Court/Body: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Date filed: 19 April 2011.


Photo by Mitchell Haindfield (CC BY 2.0)