Police in Argentina have raided an unlicensed secret rehabilitation centre that practised corporal punishment and torture, rescuing more than 80 people who were detained against their will.
In a huge security operation, Federal Police officers swarmed the “Los Valientes” centre for addicts last Saturday in the small town of La Reja, Moreno, Buenos Province.
Police sources said that 77 adults and 10 minors were freed in the operation. They were detained “in a situation of vulnerability, deprived of freedom and autonomy with corporal punishment, torture and restraints," they said.
According to the sources, an inspection of the site revealed "a frightening and chilling scene." Inmates at the centre were living “in subhuman conditions of overcrowding, confinement and deprivation of liberty” and were “locked up with barred doors, with sewage in the recreation yards and clogged toilets."
They also revealed that "a young minor was found tied up inside a chicken coop."
During the raid, overseen by local prosecutor Gabriel López of Moreno-General Rodríguez, three men were arrested on charges of running the alleged rehabilitation centre "which was not licensed for that purpose."
Only three healthcare professionals were on site to attend to the more than 80 patients at the clandestine centre, with no doctor or psychologist on call.
Underlining the severity of the claims, personnel from the national government’s Justice & Human Rights Ministry and Human-Trafficking Department took part in the intervention.
"The patients indicated that they were subjected to punishments of blows, cuts and ties, a lack of food and water and even torture. Inmates were tied up and submerged in a pool of water as form of corrective punishment," said the police sources.
Those detained at the centre were only allowed to see family members every 21 days and were accompanied by representatives from the institution who carefully managed visits and overheard conversations.
A wealth of evidence was seized at the scene, according to reports, with prosecutors planning to bring the case to trial as soon as possible.
The decision to raid the property was reached after a complaint from inspectors attached to the Buenos Aires Province Health Ministry noted a host of irregularities.