Press Release

The IACHR expresses strong condemnation for George Floyd's murder, repudiates structural racism, systemic violence against Afro-Americans, impunity and the disproportionate use of police force, and urges measures to guarantee equality and non-discrimination in the United States

June 8, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its strongest condemnation for the cruel murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, the systemic violence against Afro-Americans, and the impunity and disproportionate use of police force against protesters in the United States, especially with regard to Afro-descendants. The Commission urges the State to combat and eradicate the historical racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination to which Afro-Americans have been subjected to in that country, and to adopt urgent measures to guarantee equality; as well as to put an end to police violence and impunity as a symptomatic element of the persistence of this discrimination based on ethnic-racial origin. The IACHR recalls that these patterns were exposed in its thematic report on African Americans, Police Use of Force, and Human Rights in the United States (2018).

The IACHR reaffirms that the murder of George Floyd (Minnesota, 2020), and those of Trayvon Martin (Sanford, 2012), Michael Brown (Missouri, 2014), Eric Garner (Nueva York, 2014), Tamir Rice (Ohio, 2014), Alton Sterling (Los Angeles, 2016), Philando Castile (Minnesota, 2016), Terence Crutcher (Oklahoma, 2016), Breonna Taylor (Kentucky, 2020), as well as all other assassinations of Afro-Americans due to racial police violence, are not isolated acts of violence, but rather part of a historical and structural process of systematic discrimination based on ethnic-racial origin in the United States. The Commission observes that these serious crimes are framed in a context of historical impunity; and of insufficient or no accountability by the criminal justice system and police institutions, respectively.

The IACHR understands that the abolition of slavery did not end stigmatization and differential treatment and exclusion of Afro-Americans. In this sense, the end of this unacceptable social practice did not fully realize the rights of Afro-Americans --without distinction as to race, color or ethnic origin-- to equality and non-discrimination. This process only ended the forced labor to which they were subjected, as the positive measures adopted in some historical periods have not been sufficient to help overcome the socio-economic and cultural structures which shape the current context of structural discrimination, as well as each and every one of the superiority doctrines based on racial differences which are socially unjust, dangerous and morally reprehensible.

On various occasions, the Commission has warned that racism permeates State institutions and manifests itself in an increase of police abuse cases and racial profiling; militarization of the police forces; impunity in cases of homicide committed by police officers; and excessive use of force by security organs in the cycles of protest, all of which become evident for this reason.

The consequences of structural discrimination disproportionately promote racial disparities in the practice of criminal arrests, prosecution, and prison terms; differentially affecting for Afro-Americans the enjoyment of rights such as personal liberty, access to justice, effective judicial protection and equality before the law.

Given the context of structural discrimination evidenced by the murder of George Floyd, these protests constitute a legitimate and peaceful mobilization, as well as the largest collective demand for the right to equality and the fight against racism in recent years, further enhanced by public demonstrations of solidarity from different parts of the world. In this sense, the Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RFOE) express serious concern about the stigmatization, mass arrests and excessive use of force by the authorities in some of the protests that have occurred in recent days in all 50 states of the United States. At the same time, it is worth noting that the perpetration of some isolated acts of violence does not make a threat to public order of the entire social movement that has exercised their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly.

The IACHR and its RFOE are alarmed by the fact that these protests, which shows a vibrant civil society supportive of the cause of non-discrimination in the United States, would be branded as "terrorist" or "subversive." In this regard, we call upon the authorities to establish a broad dialogue with protesters that calls for effective measures; as well as not to criminalize or use figures linked to terrorism to guide the response to this situation.

Likewise, the Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur reiterate their serious concern at the number of reports showing attacks and arrests of journalists covering the protests. It is worth noting that communicators play an essential role in documenting the demands of those who demonstrate, as well as in the control of police action. The State should protect journalists in the course of demonstrations and protests, instead of targeting them with use of force and the confiscation or suppression of records from their equipment.

The IACHR again urges the United States to combat structural racial discrimination and to strengthen accountability mechanisms for police activity by reviewing the doctrine of qualified immunity, which hinders civil liability of police officers.

Additionally, the Commission urges the State to adopt urgent measures to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for killings and acts of racial police violence against Afro-Americans, as well as to grant comprehensive and satisfactory reparation in an intercultural manner. Likewise, the Commission emphasizes the urgency of adopting comprehensive citizen security policies that combat the use of discriminatory criteria in police actions, in order to eradicate racial profiling and the excessive use of force in accordance with the principles of equality and non-discrimination; and that include training on these matters for State agents.

The Commission also reiterates the need to move forward with the adoption of radical public policies that promote cultural change in society aimed at eliminating structural and systemic racism, as well as promoting equality and ethnic and racial diversity. Also, to review its justice system in order to eliminate structural racism, pursuant to inter-American standards on citizen security. In this regard, the IACHR reiterates its call to the United States to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, the Inter-American Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, as well as the American Convention on Human Rights, stressing that the universal ratification of inter-American instruments is a an indispensable step for the respect and guarantee of the human rights of all people in the Americas.

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. 129/20