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United Nations demands investigation after Brazil jail decapitations

A video showing decapitated inmates at a Brazilian jail has prompted the United Nations to demand an investigation. Violence at the northern penitentiary has been attributed to rival factions and overcrowded conditions.

The United Nations called for an "immediate, impartial and effective" investigation into a wave of violence at Brazil's Pedrinhas prison and urged authorities to restore order at the penitentiary, which is located near the northern city of Maranhaos in Sao Luis state.

The move by the UN on Wednesday followed a day after the release of a two-minute video by Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo depicting grim conditions at Pedrinhas penitentiary. The film, which was made in December, shows three inmates lying on a prison floor after being decapitated.

Over 60 prisoners have been killed in gang-related violence at Pedrinhas during 2013. The notoriously dangerous prison also suffers from overcrowding, reportedly housing 2,500 inmates even though it only has the capacity for 1,700.

Judge Douglas Martins - a judge involved in assessing the situation, according to the Associated Press news agency - attributed the violence to several factors. According to a recent report, he said the fatalities have increased due to overcrowded conditions and fighting between rival factions. There has also been an increase in the occurrence of rape of women visiting prisoners at the facility.

An attempt by the prison authorities last week to transfer gang leaders to separate prisons unleashed a wave of violence outside of the facility at least three buses were set on fire. A girl reportedly died in the fires and several other people sustained injuries.

Other human rights organizations have reacted to the revelations. Amnesty International called the government's failure to find an effective solution to curb violence in Brazilian prisons "unacceptable."

kms/hc (AP, AFP, dpa, epd)