IACHR Condemns Violence Against Congress and Against the Democratic Processes in the United States

January 8, 2021

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) repudiates the violence perpetrated against the US Capitol and against democratic institutions and procedures in the United States on January 6, 2021, which left five people dead. The Commission urges the State to guarantee full respect for its democratic institutions, to conduct a rigorous investigation into these events, punish those responsible, and guarantee their non-repetition.

During the Joint Session of the US Congress on January 6—convened to count and certify the votes cast by the Electoral College regarding the presidential election held on November 3, 2020—hundreds of people took control of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., by force. According to the reports of various media outlets, these people kicked in doors and broke windows to enter the building and interrupt the proceedings of the Joint Session of Congress.

According to published reports, the violence left five people dead —including one police officer, and one woman who had been shot— as well as several persons, and security agents injured. Explosive devices and firearms were also found at various sites in Washington, D.C. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression further recorded acts of violence against reporters. These attacks were not spontaneous and certainly —as happened in the past— they are a consequence of constant stigmatization of the work of the media that has been encouraged by the country’s highest officials. In this regard, the Commission urges the State to investigate these events with due diligence, identifying all those who incited violence and attacks on democratic institutions. Likewise, it is reminded of its duty to punish those responsible and to ensure the non-repetition of these events.

The IACHR observes that law enforcement agencies regained control of the Capitol building and that the Joint Session of Congress resumed its activities in fulfillment of its constitutional duty on the same night that the events occurred.

The Commission is concerned that serious tension still persists within the social fabric in the post-electoral context, and in this sense, urges public officials to cease speeches that encourage hatred or violence against officials and institutions that embody the rule of law. Likewise, the IACHR cannot overlook the fact that this violence was preceded by a long and complex misinformation process which in itself poses a serious challenge to human rights. In this context, the Commission asks that individuals involved in these events base their complaints on proven facts, file these complaints before the relevant institutions, and fully respect the decisions of US democratic institutions.

The IACHR reiterates that protecting democratic institutions is essential for the preservation of the rule of law and respect for human rights in the country, and therefore urges the State to ensure respect for democratic processes that enable a peaceful and orderly transition within the country’s federal administration.

The IACHR notes that, regardless of a protest’s context, inter-American instruments call for the right to freedom of assembly be exercised peacefully and without weapons. The Commission also notes that States should take any measures necessary to prevent violence, protect the safety of those involved, and to preserve law and order.

The Commission and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression reiterate that public officials should condemn and not justify this type of violence, and remind those in public positions of their duty to refrain from making comments that fuel hostility against journalists, communications experts, and the media.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 005/21