Press Release

The IACHR condemns the killing of an African American person and regrets violent incidents during demonstrations in the United States of America

June 2, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of the police, in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America; and regrets the violent acts registered in the context of recent demonstrations in reaction to police violence against African Americans in the country.

According to public information, on May 25 George Floyd died in a police operation in which he was arrested, allegedly as a consequence of the excessive use of force. As seen in a published video, a police officer pressed his knee against George Floyd's neck while he remained immobilized on the ground, as two officers were kneeling on the lower part of his body and legs, and another police officer observed without intervening. The four police officers involved were reportedly expelled from the police force and criminal investigations were initiated. One of them was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The IACHR calls on the State to proceed with the investigations in a comprehensive, impartial, effective and prompt manner, and to judicially penalize all those who are responsible as well as to provide full reparations to the next of kin.

In reaction to these incidents, which have exposed the disproportionate use of force by the police against African American people in the country, protests have been held in at least 75 cities across the United States in recent days, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, Louisville, Chicago, New York, Miami and Washington, D.C. These protests have led to clashes, looting, fires, and damage to police cars, state establishments and private property. The IACHR condemns these acts of violence, as these behaviors are incompatible with the right to peaceful protest. On their part, the authorities have allegedly used non-lethal weapons to disperse the protests and hundreds of protesters have been detained throughout the country.

For example, according to public information, on May 26 a series of protests began in the city of Minneapolis that led to confrontations, looting and fires in different parts of the city, including a Police Station. During these events, the authorities allegedly used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. Authorities have reportedly issued a curfew in the city and deployed the National Guard. Similarly, protests have started in Atlanta that led to the destruction and fire of police cars and the arrest of multiple people. Damages to private property were also reported, including the headquarters of CNN television network.

Furthermore, in Louisville, Kentucky, protests took place regarding the death of Breonna Taylor, an African American woman who was reportedly shot by three members of the police when they entered her home last March. On May 27, seven people were reportedly shot and wounded in events not yet clarified. Authorities have reportedly deployed the National Guard. In addition, the police allegedly used non-lethal weapons against journalists while covering the protests. In this regard, the IACHR takes note of the public apologies made by the Louisville Police on said incident.

In New York, reported protests allegedly led to acts of violence and the arrest of at least 345 people. In addition, in Chicago four people were reportedly shot and wounded, and one of them died in events not yet clarified. Likewise, the deployment of the National Guard was allegedly requested. In Miami, violent acts were also reported in the context of these demonstrations, such as the firing of firecrackers against members of the police and setting fire to official vehicles. Tear gas was used by police to disperse the protesters. The right to free demonstration and peaceful protest are essential elements of the functioning and existence of the democratic system, as well as a channel that allows individuals belonging to different groups in society to express their demands, to dissent and make claims with respect to the government, to their particular situation, as well as for the effective exercise of their rights. The Commission makes a call for the protests to remain peaceful in order to allow participants the free expression of their ideas.

The Commission emphasizes that the use of force must comply with the principles of exceptionality, necessity and proportionality. Additionally, the use of less lethal weapons must be strictly regulated. Any incident that has involved the use of any type of weapon by authorities must be registered, regardless of whether or not it has affected the integrity of any person.

The IACHR calls on the competent authorities to investigate with due diligence the acts of violence that have occurred in recent days in order to punish those who are responsible. Likewise, the IACHR makes a call to guarantee that journalists and communicators can carry out their informative work and reminds that State agents must respect and guarantee the right of freedom of expression, including for journalists, photo-reporters and videographers of the media that cover protests, and not to detain, threaten, attack, or limit in any way in their rights for exercising their profession.

The Commission observes that the events that have given rise to the protests are framed within a structural situation of broader discrimination against African Americans in the United States that must be addressed and eradicated. Likewise, the Commission expresses its concern regarding the situation of inequality and discrimination in which African Americans have historically found themselves in, and which, among other consequences, has limited their access to justice and enjoyment of equal protection of the law.

According to information from the National Police Violence Map, 1099 people would have lost their lives at the hands of the police in 2019, of which 24% were African Americans, although this group constitutes 13% of the total population of that country. The Commission reiterates to the State the recommendations made in its report "African Descent, police violence, and human rights in the United States.” In particular, the IACHR urges the State to adopt coordinated legislative, political, and institutional measures aimed at eradicating racial discrimination and to train members of the judicial systems, armed forces, and security agencies on the principles and standards of protection of human rights, as well as on the limits to which the use of weapons by law enforcement officials must be subjected to under all circumstances.

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. 125/20