Human Rights Day: Doubling efforts for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights During a Time of Authoritarianism and Hate Speech

Washington D.C., December 10, 2021.– Latin America is experiencing critical moments in terms of human rights. The arbitrary exercise of power and hate speech which pervades different spheres of society have given rise to a social context riddled with systematic human rights violations, where communities like Afro-descendants, indigenous, LGBTI+, women, human rights defenders and political […]

Washington D.C., December 10, 2021.– Latin America is experiencing critical moments in terms of human rights. The arbitrary exercise of power and hate speech which pervades different spheres of society have given rise to a social context riddled with systematic human rights violations, where communities like Afro-descendants, indigenous, LGBTI+, women, human rights defenders and political dissenters confront particular risks and consequences.

This December 10, in recognizing Human Rights Day, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to call attention to the international community and society in general regarding persisting issues which are worsening in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and those of which demand urgent joint action to put a stop to repressive acts that undermine fundamental rights, including the right to life.

Systemic Racism

In Colombia, the response of the Public Force to the National Strike – which began on April 28 – have disproportionately affected the Afro-descendant and Afro-LGBT+ communities. Race and Equality and CODHES, THE Commission for Life and the Humanitarian Bureau, recorded 108 homicides as of July 8, 2021, 39 of which were against people of African descent, or 36.1%.

Following their visit on June 8, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) released a report of Observations and Recommendations, in which expresses their concern for racial profiling, stigmatizing dialogues and political violence, and also highlighted gender violence which affects Afro-descendant women differently.

However, the Colombian State has adopted a position of denial and has not recognized the recommendations brought forth by the IACHR, questioning the report’s legitimacy since the Commission’s findings do not match that of the State’s. When referring to systemic racism and racist violence, officials have argued that the State already has regulations to deal with discriminatory practices, essentially denying that the existing normative framework fails at handling these issue effectively in Colombia.

Political Violence

Brazil is currently in a time of heightened political tension, which black and LGBTI+ women candidates are under constant threat of political violence which has spread throughout the country. Political violence is a phenomenon which undermines and eliminates the life and integrity of peoples, and also the right to practice political rights for entire communities, which are represented by these women who, in general, have extensive histories as human rights defenders.

 In 2021, along with organizations like the National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals (ANTRA), Criola, Land of Rights, Marielle Franco Institute, Global Justice and the National Network of Blacks and Black LGBT+ (Afro LGBT Network), Race and Equality had a session with the IACHR to denounce the situation of political rights of Black councilors (cis and trans) in Brazil. Those in attendance on April 2021 submitted recommendations for the IACHR to guarantee the rights and protection of women who form part of the political arena in the country.

Politically Motivated Imprisonments

Within Nicaragua’s prisons, citizens find themselves deprived of their right to defend human rights, participate in social protests, speak openly about their desire to run for the presidency of Nicaragua and/or demonstrate their discontent towards Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s government on social media and other platforms.

Following the most recent bulletin from the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) of the IACHR, published in October 2021, since the beginning of the sociopolitical crisis in April 2018, the Nicaraguan State has arbitrarily detained more than 1614 people and 149 continue to be under arrest. Unfortunately, these numbers have increases in recent days, during and after the presidential elections on November 7, without guarantees of liberty, justice, transparency, or legitimate democracy.

It should be noted that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (the Court) declared the State of Nicaragua to be in contempt following its failure to comply with the order for the release of 21 persons identified as opponents, as well as other measures to safeguard human rights for Juan Sebastian Chamorro and others.

Repression against Civil Society and Independent Press

2021 has been decisive in the repressive situation in which civil society and the independent press confront in Cuba, most of which follows the historic protests of July 11. Recently on December 8, Cubalex published a report concerning arbitrary detentions in within the context of the protests, which notes that 1,306 persons were deprived of liberty that day and in the days that followed, and of those, 703 remain in prison. Among those detained are activists, human rights defenders and journalists.

This situation is exacerbated by the intense repression that the Government has unleased since September 20, when the civil society called for the Civic March for Change. Since that date, interrogations, raids, arbitrary arrets, police siege, assaults and defamation campaigns have been recorded among many other acts that kept the November 15 protests from reaching fruition. On that day, authorities resorted to confining demonstrators to their homes to prevent them from joining the march, and in many cases, cut access to internet.

Although the Government of Cuba has received numerous calls from the international community to guarantee and respect the human rights of the population, such as the rights of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of expression, authorities have taken no action and the situation continues to worsen as the country plunges deeper into an economic crisis.

Discrimination and Violence for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The lack of recognition of the rights of persons with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity generates a precarious environment of discrimination and violence against LGBTI+ people in the region. In 2021, Latin America continue to be the region with the highest murder rates of trans people in the world. Of the 375 registered globally, 311 occurred between Mexico, Central American and South America. The LGBTI Nonviolent Platform, a system of information on violence against the LGBTI population in Latin America and the Caribbean, documented more than 600 LBGTI+ people killed between 2019 and 2020.

Despite this adverse context, LGBTI+ activists and organizations continue in their struggle for respect and the guarantee of their rights. In Peru, for example, the trans community remains steadfast in its demand for a Gender Identity Act that contributes, first and foremost, to the recognition of their identities and, therefore, ensuring their access and equality in varying societal spheres.

In the Dominican Republic, organizations working for the rights of LGBTI+ people have intensified their efforts after the Dominican Chamber of Deputies approved a reform of the Penal Code, on June 30, which excluded sexual orientation as a cause of discrimination. Indeed, the struggled continues for gender identity to be included among the causes of discrimination.

Promotion of Equality

On September 2, the “Toward a Region Free of Racial Discrimination” campaign was launched and will be active until 2024, seeking to promote the universal ratification and implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI).

Race and Equality considers that the ratification and implementation of CIRDI is essential for progress in increasing visibility and recognizing the systematic forms of oppression that exist in this hemisphere against the people of African descent, indigenous peoples and other racial groups and minorities. It also believes that this Convention represents a key point for the countries within the region to fulfill their obligations to promote equitable conditions, equal opportunities and combat racial discrimination in all of their individual, structural and institution manifestations.

To date, the campaign has launched in Colombia and Uruguay, and this December 10 is Brazil’s turn. In Colombia, the case is being made before the State to promote the ratification of CIRDI, while in Uruguay and Brazil, the movement is starting to gain momentum in ensuring the effective implementation of the Convention.

Race and Equality hopes that this Human Rights Day will help to make these worrying situations in the region visible and unites the efforts of many to promote changes for a more democratic, just society that is more equitable and respectful of human rights. We also reaffirm our commitment to continue working with local activists and organizations in the promotion and defense of these fundamental rights.

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