Prison bars

REDRESS argues case of diabetic British citizen who died in a prison in Venezuela

Today, REDRESS has submitted its arguments on behalf of S.L. and her parents in a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, one of the two main bodies responsible for monitoring, promoting, and protecting human rights in the Americas. S.L. was a young British citizen who died in a prison in Venezuela, after a lack of medical care for her diabetic condition.

S.L. was sentenced to prison in Venezuela in 2000Although the prison staff were aware that S.L. was suffering from type I diabetes, they failed to provide her with the necessary medical care, including when she went into diabetic shock in March 2001. Likewise, S.L. received insufficient medical attention during the hours immediately following this at the local hospital to which she was eventually 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 until nearly 12 months after her death. Indeed, it took the Venezuelan judicial system more than 9 years to reach 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. 

Lack of adequate medical care for prison inmates is one of the many concerns that have been expressed by the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission and Court, and civil society organisations regarding the generally poor conditions of prisons in VenezuelaIn addition to the often non-existent medical care within prisons, attention has been drawn repeatedly to the structural violence and insanitary conditions which have resulted in cruel and inhuman treatment in prisons across Venezuela. Despite the international condemnations and national legal reforms of the prison systemprison conditions in Venezuela in 2020 remain in a parlous state 

In 2011, REDRESS filed a petition at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on behalf of S.L. and her parents. After the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared the petition admissible on 5 December 2019, REDRESS has now filed a full submission on the merits of the case arguing that the lack of proper medical attention constituted a violation of Articles 4 (right to life), 5 (prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 26 (right to health) of the American Convention on Human Rights. Further, it is 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 of those responsible and judicial protection (Articles 8 and 25 of the American Convention).  

On behalf of S.L.’s parents, REDRESS seeks an effective investigation of the events that led to S.L.’s death and the delays in the judicial process, along with a prosecution of those responsible; an official apology from the President of Venezuela to S.L.’s parentscompensation for the economic and emotional damage suffered; and measures to try to ensure that these issues are not repeated, including the guarantee of urgent medical treatment to those inmates who need it. 

Photo credit: Mitchell Haindfield, CC BY 2.0.