Press Release

IACHR calls on the States of the region to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, promote cultural change and adopt comprehensive reparation measures for people of Afro-descendant

September 12, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the States of the region to promote a cultural and structural change aiming to combat all different forms of racial discrimination faced by Afro-descendant people and tribal communities in the Americas. In this sense, urges countries to promote a comprehensive reparation by recognizing the Afro-descendant historical memory and adopting measures of satisfaction, restitution of rights, guarantees of non-repetition, social recovery, and compensation.

The Commission reaffirms that ethnic-racial discrimination in the Americas cannot be understood without the historical factors of its formation, such as colonial domination and slavery. These inhumane practices placed African persons and their descendants in a position of inferiority. Thus, contributing to the current context of serious human rights violations to which these persons and groups are still exposed in the whole hemisphere.

As a consequence of this structural and institutional racism, the Commission underlines the persistence of a historical cycle of violence, as well as socio-economic exclusion, cultural and political. In addition, the IACHR highlights that these violations can be aggravated by the intersection to conditions such as age, gender, immigration status, persons with disability, sexual orientation and gender identity and/or expression, among others.

According to the information received by the Commission, States of the region still register excessive institutional violence by law enforcement institutions. These acts include the use of racial profiling and police brutality. Additionally, the Commission shed a light on the impunity generated by the lack of investigation, sanction and reparation to the victims and their families, perpetrated by judicial institutions.

The IACHR reiterates the persistence of obstacles in the fulfilment of Afro-descendants’ economic and social rights. According to the Social Inequality Matrix in Latin America, Afro-descendant men earn an average of 4.3 times more than the amount of the poverty line compared to 7.1 of non-Afro-descendant and non-indigenous men. In the same sense, Afro-descendant women register 7.7 years of educational level in contrast to 9.7 of non-Afro-descendant and non-indigenous women.

The World Bank has highlighted that 10 out of 13 Latin American countries experience the highest amount of Afro-descendants living in poor neighbourhoods or favelas - geographic areas which coincide with zones of gun violence - in comparison with persons from another ethnic-racial background. In the same sense, reports present that these persons register a lower percentages of water access and other basic services in 9 countries of the hemisphere.

Moreover, the IACHR notes the existence of educational policies that directly or indirectly deny the historical legacies of enslaved Africans and their descendants. Many of these policies are based on cultural appropriation, denial of traditional languages, as well as the advance of projects that promote cultural assimilation. As per the information received by the Commission, there have been several cases of attacks against sacred sites and persecution of its believers from African background religions, marking an attempt against the right of freedom of religion.

The Commission recalls that everyone has the fundamental right not to be victim of discrimination based on their ethnic-racial background. In this sense, the States are obliged to prohibit, prevent and sanction every act that complies racial discrimination. They also must provide fair reparation when applicable. The IACHR emphasizes that all forms of discrimination, specifically based on ethnic-racial background, constitute an attack on dignity of all human beings. As a consequence, the specific manifestation of the right to equality is the right of every person not to be a victim of racial discrimination, which has a direct implication on their own development.

In this regard, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-descendant Persons and against Racial Discrimination of the IACHR, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, has indicated that “ the guarantee of appropriate reparations for Afro-descendant persons is an essential step to combat racial discrimination in the region”. The president of the Commission, Joel Hernández, reminded that States "must pool together efforts to prohibit and punish every act of violence, discrimination and intolerance against Afro-descendant persons”.

The IACHR calls on the States of the hemisphere to promote a structural change to provide formal and material equality for persons of all ethnic-racial backgrounds. To that extent, grant comprehensive reparations aiming visibility and dissemination of Afro-descendant persons’ history. In addition, the States must adopt measures of satisfaction, restitution of rights, guarantees of non-repetition, social recovery, and compensation for violations suffered. These shall keep an intersectional and intercultural approach, in accordance with Inter-American System standards and the guidelines of the Plan of Action of the Decade of African Descent in the Americas (2016-2025).

At the same time that the Commission welcomes the ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance by 5 States of the region, urges the States to continue joining efforts to ratify this treaty and the Inter-American Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

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. 216/20