Press Release

IACHR Repudiates Hate Speech and Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

August 18, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) strongly condemns the demonstrations of racial hatred and xenophobia and the use of violence at a White Nationalist Rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, August 12. The IACHR urges the State to adopt comprehensive measures to investigate these events, prevent their repetition, and strengthen protections against discrimination, hate speech, and violence.

On Saturday, August 12, hundreds of persons gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the city’s plan to remove one Confederate-era monument from the city's former courthouse. According to the information available, white nationalist groups, including White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and others, voiced white supremacy, bigotry, and hatred towards different minority peoples. Counter-protesters were also present in the city and violent clashes ensued between the groups.  In this context, a man allegedly identified with the white nationalists groups crashed his car into the counter-protesters, killing a woman of 32 years of age and injuring 19 people.  

The IACHR calls on the State to continue investigating these alarming acts of racism and violence exhaustively. The Commission also urges public officials in the United States to unequivocally condemn bigotry and racial hatred and recognize the role such discrimination plays in contributing to violence against African Americans, immigrant, indigenous peoples and minority communities around the country. Elected and other public officials in particular have the duty to ensure their statements uphold human rights standards, principles and norms, including the fundamental principles of equality and non-discrimination. 

“Throughout history, racial hatred, discrimination, violence, and intolerance have been deployed as tools to harass, persecute, unjustly prosecute and justify the deprivation of human rights. The State must adopt measures to guarantee that symbols and actions that depict shameful beliefs, conducts and denigrating language used in various periods in its history, such as the "Jim Crow" laws and lynchings, are not used to foster violence against any human beings. Reparation measures should include forms of satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. The  State of Virginia and others throughout the United States have adopted certain noteworthy steps in this regard and these show the potential for further progress” declared Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Country Rapporteur for the United States and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discriminations and on the Rights of Women. 

The IACHR Commissioners are particularly alarmed at the loss of several lives and those gravely injured in these events. The Commission expresses its solidarity with the survivors and the families affected.  The State has the obligation to adopt all reasonable measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity in the context of protests. 

The Commission underscores the fact that the United States is obligated to organize its entire government – both federal and state - to address hate incidents targeting Afro-descendants; Muslims; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT); immigrants; indigenous peoples, in fact all minority groups. The State holds the obligation to put in place well-coordinated legislative, policy, and institutional measures to protect and guarantee the rights to nondiscrimination and equality. Due diligence requires prompt actions to prevent, investigate, and sanction all acts of racism, discrimination, violence and speech motivated by hate.

Racial hatred, xenophobia and hate speech that incites violence is contrary to fundamental human rights, including those related to life and personal integrity, and it weakens democracies. The IACHR urges the State to ratify key regional instruments for the advancement of equality and non-discrimination, such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance 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. 124/17