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and that for some days prior to the fire, their family members knew they were being threatened by some
INAM employees and inmates.
8.
The petitioners report that the five alleged victims died from burns and suffocation in a fire
that occurred in cell No. 4 at the San Félix INAM at approximately 4:30 p.m. on June 30, 2005. They allege
that when the fire alarm sounded in the cell the authorities were unable to open the door in time because
they could not find the keys and did not have a set of spare keys. They also allege that the fire truck that
came to the INAM had no water or foam to smother the fire and that the 171 emergency service employees
failed to act promptly. They argue that this conduct on the part of the authorities responsible for the custody
of the alleged victims was obviously negligent and constitutes failure to meet the State’s obligations as
established in Articles 4 and 1.1 of the American Convention.
9.
They allege that the investigation of the facts began on June 30, 2005, but that the progress
of that investigation and the submission of the final proceeding to the competent courts were delayed
without justification for more than two years, even though the three accused had been properly and
individually identified and the events occurred in a detention center under the control of the authorities.
They maintain that in response to the inaction of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the petitioners filed a
complaint with the competent courts in 2006, a complaint that produced no results.
10.
They also allege that more than two years after the investigations began the Scientific,
Criminal, and Criminalistic Investigations Force (CICPC) had still not conducted several of the tests ordered
by the Prosecutor’s Office and that the procedure to reconstruct the crime was conducted more than one
year after the investigation began. They state that the procedure was futile because the San Félix INAM
authorities had completely changed the facilities to the point that it was impossible to determine the location
of the cell where the fire occurred and that even though it was obvious that the alleged victims died from
burns and suffocation, the forensic experts failed to determine the cause of death after exhuming their
corpses. They also alleged that the reports filed by the fire department of the Municipality of Caroní did not
adhere to the truth of what happened.
11.
The petitioners state that the criminal process with respect to the facts reported is “stuck”
in the trial phase and additionally that the proceedings in this phase have been systematically delayed. In
this regard, they state that the hearing opening the trial was originally scheduled for May 14, 2010 and was
successively postponed to January 12, 2011 and then to July 18, 2011, because the court itself failed to
issue the notices correctly.
12.
In view of these facts, the petitioners believe that the State failed to investigate the reported
facts with due diligence; that there was an unwarranted delay in the investigations conducted by the Office
of the Public Prosecutor; and that the judicial authorities in charge of the process have systematically
delayed their proceedings. They allege that there was a pattern of denial of justice to the detriment of the
alleged victims’ family members, which constitutes a violation of their right of access to justice, in violation
of Article 25 of the American Convention. In view of this, they believe that the exceptions to the requirement
of prior exhaustion of domestic remedies provided in Article 46.2.c of the American Convention are
applicable to this petition.
13.
The petitioners also allege that the State violated Article 19 of the American Convention in
connection with Articles 6 and 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, “even in the case of youths
who had recently reached the age of 18 but were not yet 21.” In this regard, they maintain that the alleged
victims had been tried and convicted for crimes committed while they were minors –hence tried in
accordance with the Organic Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents–; thus, they were
incarcerated in a correctional facility for minors at the moment of the fire.
14.
Finally, they allege that the deaths of the alleged victims is not inconsistent with the reality
of the Venezuelan penitentiary system but is, rather, part of the State’s general failure to comply with its
obligation to protect the lives of and ensure humane treatment for those in its custody. In this regard, they
maintain that statistically Venezuela has the highest rates of prison violence on the American continent.

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