Press Release

IACHR Calls on States to Commit to Adopt Legislation Defining and Prohibiting Racism, Racial Discrimination and Intolerance

March 21, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls upon States to undertake to adopt legislation that clearly defines and prohibits racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance; and to repeal or modify any legislation that constitutes or gives rise to racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance.

Through its monitoring in 2018, the IACHR received information regarding acts of threats, damage to property, assault, murder, and hate crimes motivated by discrimination on the basis of ethno-racial origin of individuals and communities in the hemisphere. In particular, the IACHR has monitored speeches that incite violence for discriminatory reasons on social networks, especially against people of African descent. The IACHR is concerned about public statements by public officials who have disseminated messages of hatred against people because of their ethno-racial and/or national origin, exposing these groups to a greater risk of suffering violence.

Likewise, the IACHR has received reports of situations related to religious intolerance directed at practitioners of African religions and the African Diaspora in the Americas, in particular the destruction of sacred and religious sites, threats to religious leaders, as well as the enactment of legislation that generates specific restrictions on their rituals.

The Commission notes that hate crimes affect the security of individuals, their communities and society at large. Effective responses to hate crimes are necessary to prevent them from posing a serious security challenge to vulnerable groups. In this regard, the Commission calls on the authorities not only to refrain from disseminating hate messages against persons on the grounds of racial and ethnic origin, but also to contribute in a firm and proactive manner to the construction of a climate of tolerance and respect.

"States must not only adopt specific legislation that prohibits racist and discriminatory practices, but must also review and repeal from their legal order any law that generates discrimination, either directly or indirectly," said Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination.

In particular, the IACHR urges States to review their laws and policies to ensure their conformity with the principles of effective equality and the duty of non-discrimination. This implies the desire to evaluate their possible discriminatory impact and their potential to generate indirect discrimination, especially in the areas of employment, participation in professional organizations, education, training, housing, health, social protection, exercise of economic activity, access to public services, among others. Likewise, States must repeal or modify any legislation that constitutes or gives rise to racism, racial discrimination and related forms of intolerance.

Finally, the Commission appeals to the States of the region to adopt the necessary measures to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance, as an effective demonstration of a serious commitment to combat racial discrimination and all forms of intolerance in the hemisphere. The IACHR salutes the State of Antigua and Barbuda for ratifying this instrument on May 23, 2018, which had already been adopted by Costa Rica and Uruguay, the only three States to have ratified the Convention. In this regard, the Commission underscores that universal ratification of the inter-American instruments is an indispensable step for the respect and guarantee of all human rights, and the prevention and eradication of racial discrimination.

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. 074/19