The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Living Instrument Guiding the Defense and Protection of Human Rights in the Americas

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Living Instrument Guiding the Defense and Protection of Human Rights in the Americas

Washington DC, December 8, 2023.– What are human rights? How can human rights be fully enjoyed? Who has the obligation to ensure respect for and fulfilment of human rights? The answers to these questions are as obvious as they are complex. Despite the fact that human rights are inherent to all people, the enjoyment of these rights is determined by a diversity of factors that every day, in every corner of the world, bring people closer or further away from the goal of living in freedom, justice, and peace.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wants to assert the relevance of the UDHR to the work of defending and protecting human rights carried out every day by civil society organizations and activists in the Americas. Although human rights violations persist and worsen in the region, we believe that the Declaration is the tool that pushes and strengthens the struggle for human rights.

“In these 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to look back and recognize all that has been achieved since its adoption. Thanks to the Declaration, the world, and the Latin American region in particular, today has a solid mechanism for the protection of the rights of all people. From civil society we know that there is a lot of work to be done to achieve full guarantees, especially at the level of the obligations of States, but we see the Declaration as a living instrument that guides our work,” says Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

A Bit of History

Following the atrocities committed during World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the international community set out to create a road map to ensure the rights of all people everywhere and at all times. Thus, on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But how did they get there? The UN General Assembly considered an initial document at its first session in 1946 and then forwarded it to the Economic and Social Council for consideration by the Commission on Human Rights, which was entrusted with the task of drafting what they initially called the “international bill of human rights”.

At its first session in early 1947, the Commission on Human Rights directed its members to formulate a preliminary draft of the charter, which was later taken up by a Drafting Committee composed of representatives of eight countries, which were chosen on the basis of geographical distribution. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR Drafting Committee.

The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 and more than 50 Member States participated in the final draft. In its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eight nations abstained from voting, but none voted against.

Did you know?

Delegates from several countries played a key role in ensuring that women’s rights were included in the Declaration. Hansa Mehta of India is widely credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 Learn more.

75 Years Later

That document, which was formulated under the common ideal that all people live in freedom, justice, and peace, has paved the way for the adoption of more than seventy human rights treaties, which are now permanently applied at the global and regional levels. Race and Equality, in its work to defend and protect the rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous populations, LGBTI+ people, and other vulnerable groups, recognizes and champions international human rights law.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a permanent foundation for our work in documentation, capacity building, advocacy, and strategic litigation. To cite one example, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has been a key tool for strengthening allied organizations in their advocacy processes before States and the Inter-American and Universal Human Rights Systems on the rights of persons of African descent.

Meanwhile, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been a fundamental piece in documentation and advocacy processes with partner organizations in the defense and protection of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LBTI+ women. In 2022, Race and Equality supported and accompanied a collective of Peruvian feminist organizations in their participation in the review of the CEDAW Committee in Peru, achieving that it included recommendations to the State based on the demands of lesbian women for the first time.

In these 75 years of the UDHR, Race and Equality recalls that the application of human rights must be governed by the principles of universality, interdependence, indivisibility, and progressivity. We believe that the recognition and respect of the following are imperative: (a) that all persons are entitled to all human rights; (b) that human rights are linked to each other and, therefore, the recognition and exercise of one of them implies respect for and protection of many others; (c) that human rights must be recognized, protected and guaranteed in their entirety, that they cannot be fragmented; and d) that it is the obligation of States to ensure progress in the constructive development of human rights, and that any kind of regression is completely prohibited.

In addition, as a way of honoring these 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have produced an illustration that recognizes the diversity of people in the Americas—and, therefore, the diversity of circumstances that affect them—and symbolically places at the center the Declaration that, in the days of its drafting, Eleanor Roosevelt envisioned it as a document of support, guidance, and inspiration, noting, “this is the first step in an evolutionary process.”

We also recall and put again as a point of reflection an excerpt from the speech “Where do human rights begin?” that Eleanor Roosevelt gave in 1958 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the UDHR:

“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home. So close and so small that they cannot be located on any world map: each person’s environment, the neighborhood in which they live, the school or university they attend; the farm, factory, or office where you work. These are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity, without discrimination. If these rights don’t mean anything there, they don’t mean anything anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to assert these rights close to home, we seek progress on a larger scale in vain.

Violence Against Women and the Importance of Addressing it Through an Intersectional Lens

Washington D.C., November 24, 2023 – Violence against women is as common as it is diverse in its manifestations. Similarly, its impact on victims is determined by the diversity of factors that intersect in their lives, from age and ethnicity to social status. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed every November 25th, the Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) emphasizes the importance of addressing violence against women through an intersectional lens while providing recommendations to States.

In this regard, it is necessary to start with a definition of violence against women, its main manifestations, and an explanation of what intersectionality is, with references to examples of how the intersectional approach has been applied within the United Nations and the Inter-American System. UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, defines violence against women and girls as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering.

Regarding the types of violence, the organization refers to physical, psychological, economic, emotional, and sexual violence, including sexual harassment, rape, corrective rape, and rape culture. There are also issues such as human trafficking, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and online or digital violence, including cyberbullying, sexting, and doxing. And, of course, the most extreme form of violence against women, femicide.

About the Intersectional Approach

Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer and scholar specializing in race and gender issues, was the first to address the concept of intersectionality concerning gender to understand structural inequality. She defined it as “a metaphor for understanding how multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage sometimes combine and create obstacles that are often not understood in conventional ways.”[1]

Initially, the term was heavily criticized because it seemed to favor certain individuals or groups concerning rights, departing from the concept of equality. However, to date, the term intersectionality is fully accepted and integrated into human rights systems, not only concerning gender issues but as a necessary tool for providing comprehensive responses to situations of discrimination.

Within the Inter-American System, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) first used the concept of “intersectionality” in analyzing the discrimination suffered by a girl in accessing education in the case of Gonzales Lluy and Others Vs. Ecuador.[2] In this case, the Court affirmed that “multiple factors of vulnerability and risk of discrimination associated with being a girl, woman, person in poverty, and a person with HIV intersected.” The discrimination experienced “was not only caused by multiple factors but also resulted from the intersection of these factors. In other words, if any of these factors had not existed, the discrimination would have taken a different form. Indeed, poverty affected initial access to healthcare, which was not of quality and, on the contrary, resulted in HIV transmission. Poverty also impacted the difficulties in obtaining better access to the education system and decent housing,”[3] reasoned the Court.

For Race and Equality, the intersectional approach is one of its main working tools with civil society organizations. Through a recently initiated project, they aim to ensure that the priorities and needs of diverse women in Latin America are reflected, respected, and defended in international human rights protection mechanisms. They work specifically with women from Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, and Brazil, primarily with Indigenous, LBTI+, and Afro-descendant women who are in situations of particular vulnerability due to their gender and belonging to these discriminated groups. They seek to strengthen their capacities to have a voice in international human rights protection systems and at the national level, as well as to share their experiences with each other.

Race and Equality considers that defending and protecting women’s human rights is fundamental to advancing towards a just and equal society, and to ensure the inclusion of the intersectional approach in gender equality and women’s rights policies, they make the following recommendations to States:

  • Conduct awareness campaigns to break down gender stereotypes about women.
  • Provide training to state officials, especially judges, on the importance of adopting an intersectional approach to discrimination, to provide comprehensive responses to situations faced by women.
  • Review and develop legislation that allows officials to approach and respond to issues with an intersectional focus. Without legislation establishing an intersectional approach, it is difficult to implement policies in that direction.
  • Involve women from different groups in the exchange of experiences, allowing them to speak out about the types of violence they experience due to their living conditions. This interaction enriches perspectives and potential policies.
  • Implement special programs to ensure women’s access to basic services, education, and employment.
  • Collect data on violence against women using intersectional indicators, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Monitor the implementation and scope of women’s rights and gender equality policies with an intersectional approach.

[1] VOX, The Intersectionality Wars, https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination

[2] Case available at: https://summa.cejil.org/en/entity/s2eqbnvn4m0hh9gfp83t0529

[3] Cfr. Caso Gonzales Lluy y Otros Vs. Ecuador, supra, par. 290.

Race and Equality and Colombian Congress Members Join Efforts to Promote the Ratification of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism

Colombia, november 16, 2023. The Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) organized a breakfast meeting to discuss the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) with representatives from the Afro-Colombian Legal Commission and the Office of the Vice President of the Republic. During the activity, the Afro-Colombian Legal Commission committed to making all necessary efforts to promote the ratification of the Convention in the country. Race and Equality, in turn, pledged to provide technical assistance to promote the ratification of the international instrument by the Colombian state. 

The discussion addressed the current political context in Colombia, with a special emphasis on the significant representation of Afro-descendant individuals in the Congress of the Republic. Additionally, it highlighted the historic milestone of having the first Afro-descendant vice president in the country, underscoring the need to reach consensus on the adoption of normative instruments to eradicate racial discrimination and all forms of intolerance. 

 Moreover, a comprehensive analysis was conducted regarding the presence of racism in all sectors of society, including the Congress of the Republic and racialized communities. The need to undertake efforts leading to the eradication of systemic and structural racism was emphasized.
 

Among the identified points to promote the ratification and implementation of the CIRDI, the need for the Afro-Colombian Legal Commission to join forces to jointly drive this initiative was highlighted. It is important to invite all relevant stakeholders, such as the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to participate in the discussion. 

The event featured the participation of Cristóbal Caicedo Ángulo, President of the Afro-Colombian Legal Commission, James Hermenegildo Mosquera Torres, Representative to the Chamber from Chocó-Antioquia, Dorina Hernández Palomino, Representative to the Chamber for the department of Bolívar, Gerson Lisimaco Montaño Arizala, Representative to the Chamber for the department of Nariño, etc.
 

The ratification of the CIRDI is a fundamental step to strengthen the commitment of the Colombian Government to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as the fight against structural racism and racial discrimination. 

 

 

The Strategies Employed by Cuba’s Authoritarian Regime to Restrict Mobility and Silence Dissident Voices

Washington, DC, October 11, 2023 – In 2019, five activists out of the six interviewed for this article were banned from leaving the island by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The coordinator of the Red de Líderes y Lideresas de Cuba (RELLIC), María Elena Mir Marrero, was prevented from boarding a plane under the argument that she was regulated. The vice-president of the Consejo para la Transición Democrática en Cuba, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, was also prevented from flying to Belgium that same year. Osvaldo Navarro, member of the Comité Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR), was informed, before his flight date, that he was regulated. Marthadela Tamayo, also a member of CIR, was not allowed to board, being told that she had been fined and had to pay up before traveling abroad. And the National Coordinator of the CIR, Juan Antonio Madrazo, was not allowed to leave Cuba at that time either, because he was one of the regulated persons. They were trying to leave the country to denounce the serious social, political, economic, and rights crisis in this country, which has worsened in recent years.

But that has not been the only time that María Elena, Manuel, Osvaldo, Marthadela, and Juan Antonio have tried to travel outside the island to participate in academic spaces, assemblies, and dialogues, where human rights violations recorded in this country are addressed. After 2019 they have tried again and have been detained inside their homes or upon arrival at the airport. All with the aim of preventing them from boarding their flights. They have also been repeatedly told that they are regulated and are prohibited from traveling to another country, unless they want to leave and never return to the island.

In July of this year, the coordinator of the Centro de Estudio, Liderazgo y Desarrollo (Celide), Fernando Palacio, tried to travel to Trinidad and Tobago, and while inside the airport the Cuban authorities informed him that he was not regulated, but he could not leave the country because the commemoration of the Assault on the Moncada Barracks, an armed action carried out on July 26, 1953 by a group of young people led by Fidel Castro, to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, was approaching. Fernando is the other human rights defender interviewed for this article.

“The term regulation is a euphemism that the regime uses to prevent activists from leaving the country,” says Marthadela, who also maintains that it is an arbitrary measure. “As a human being you feel powerless, you feel fragile before a state that has all the power to decide when you leave, when you enter, when they put you in prison, when they take you out of prison…”, reflects Osvaldo. That, he says, is what he has felt every time he is notified that he is regulated.

A report released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which reveals that more than 220 people and 25 organizations around the world suffered reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations, mentions the human rights violations suffered by Juan Antonio and Marthadela. The document points out that in the last year Cuban authorities prevented the two from leaving the country, and this has hindered their engagement with the UN, “including the current preparations for the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba, scheduled to take place in November 2023,” the report states.

From One Province to Another

The six human rights defenders who were consulted also say that state authorities have prohibited them from moving from one province to another. In 2008, Fernando was banned for two years from visiting Holguín. He was notified of the measure after being detained and held incommunicado for almost a week. Marthadela cannot go to that same region, even though she is a native of that part of the country. María Elena and Juan Antonio have been arbitrarily detained every time they go to Santiago de Cuba, while the authorities do not allow Manuel to travel to Villa Clara.

The Cuban state has restricted the mobility of this group of activists, who were also expelled from their jobs for being dissident voices against Cuba’s political system. All in order to silence them and prohibit them from continuing their struggle for a “free country”.

“I dream of a real Cuba, where we as mothers can raise our children, see them grow and develop. I dream of a Cuba full of freedoms, where the population is not oppressed, where each and every one of the laws that the country itself regulates is complied with. I dream of a free Cuba”, says María Elena, who has not seen her son for more than a year, nor her grandson or daughter-in-law. All three left the country because of the serious situation on the island.  

From the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we reject the strategies of unjustified restrictions on mobility implemented by the Cuban State, whose sole purpose is to silence activists, human rights defenders, artists, independent journalists, jurists, and, in general, all dissident voices. We also urge the international community to follow up on the denunciations of Cubans who have suffered repression and harassment on the island, and to condemn these tactics carried out by the authoritarian regime of Cuba.

Principle Conclusions on the Situation of the Afro-Venezuelan Population in Migratory Contexts in Colombia

  • Race and Equality and the USAID INTEGRA Project present aninvestigation on the situation of the Afro-Venezuela population in migratory contexts in Colombia.
  • The research shows that Afro-descendant and migrant women suffer disproportionately from lack of access to services, mainly sexual and reproductive health services, due to a combination of discriminatory factors from a structural point of view, such as socioeconomic vulnerability, racial discrimination in medical settings, and lack of information and confidence in the mechanisms for access to justice to guarantee the fulfillment of their reproductive rights.
  • The report finds that, from an intersectional perspective, Afro-descendant women in migratory contexts have greater vulnerability and profound barriers to accessing their rights.
  • There is a close connection between racism, gender-based discrimination, and xenophobia. This means that migrant women of African descent are often victims of gender-based violence in their workplaces, formal and informal, and in accessing the health system. This violence is based on the reproduction of racial, gender-based, and xenophobic stereotypes. For example, due to hypersexualization and fetishization of Afro-descendent bodies constructed around the vulnerability of migrant women, in work spaces both formal and informal, the report identified cases of sexual assault, comments, and hypersexual insinuations.
  • The research findings highlight the need to integrate multiple approaches in sociodemographic and socioeconomic characterization procedures and to ensure the interoperability of information systems at the national level regarding the conditions of Afro-descendant individuals in migratory settings.

 

Colombia, September 29, 2023. The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), in the framework of the work carried out with USAID’s INTEGRA Project, presents the report: Situation of the Afro-Venezuelan population in migratory contexts in Colombia: Analysis and recommendations for the application of the ethnic-racial approach, product of the research conducted by Race and Equality, whose purpose is to generate recommendations for the inclusion of the ethnic-racial approach in the institutions of the migratory system and to promote the guarantee of their rights.

The investigation employed a methodology of life stories to analyze how gender, ethnic-racial belonging, and sexuality influence migratory trajectories. This came together in a qualitative investigation that identified sociodemographic and socioeconomic information, and life experiences of the Afro-descendant Venezuelan population residing in Bogotá, Cúcuta, Cali, Riohacha, and Medellín.

Findings

The lack of information and consideration of the differentiated experiences of Venezuelan Afro-descendants from a rights perspective and an intersectional approach cannot continue in a region historically and structurally marked by ethno-racial inequalities. In order to advance in the recognition of the rights of Afro-descendant people and to break down the matrix of racial and gender inequality in migratory contexts from a differential approach, it is necessary to recognize the existence and persistence of racial discrimination and racism. The current situation of Afro-descendant women interviewed in the framework of this research reflects that, although the notions of ethnic-racial self-recognition are different in the process of Venezuelan identity construction, the dynamics of inequality based on structural racism are reproduced in everyday life and condition the life experiences of these women. Furthermore, the lack of specific information about their experiences reinforces practices of institutional racism by not recognizing and characterizing this population in the same way as the rest of society.

In the workplace, research shows that there is a close relationship between racism, gender discrimination, and xenophobia. As a result, migrant women of African descent often experience gender-based violence in their workplaces, whether formal or informal, based on the reproduction of racial, gender, and xenophobic stereotypes.  Afro-descendant women tend to have access to jobs related to low-paid domestic work and mainly assume care duties in their homes, which acts as a barrier to their insertion into the labor market. Challenges were also recognized in accessing health, education, and justice mechanisms.   Therefore, it is urgent to advance in the construction of information from a differential perspective that recognizes these experiences, characterizes the population and their needs, and based on this, builds policies, programs, and projects to guarantee their rights.  Although socioeconomic indicators show that Afro-descendant women face greater economic vulnerability, this is not a “natural place”, but rather is the result of the inequalities among Afro-descendant women. It is the result of historical inequalities and power relations that condition and limit women’s lives.

Recommendations

According to the results of the research, Race and Equality recommends promoting the participation of all institutions that generate statistical information on people in migratory contexts to produce specific data on Afro-descendant people from Venezuela. The creation of variables on the socio-demographic and socioeconomic conditions of Afro-descendant people in migratory contexts should be guaranteed, incorporating variables from the approach of ethnic-racial self-recognition and heterorecognition. In this way, the identification of the population can be facilitated by understanding the Venezuelan socio-political and socio-cultural context and its diffuse relationship with ethnic-racial categories.

Likewise, it is important to guarantee the implementation of the ethnic-racial approach in the Comprehensive Migration Policy, recognizing the cultural and social contexts of migrants. It is recommended that characterization processes be carried out to collect relevant information. In addition, it is essential to promote and apply international standards against racial discrimination and migration, such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), to develop policies and programs that benefit Afro-descendent migrants.

It is suggested that civil society organizations implement training processes with an ethnic-racial approach to the rights of Afro-descendant people in migratory contexts in Venezuela. Likewise, it is recommended to promote political advocacy processes to guarantee the rights of Afro-descendant Venezuelan people in migratory contexts in Colombia, establishing spaces for dialogue with state institutions. It is also important to stimulate knowledge management and training processes on the ethnic-racial categories in Colombia, as well as the normative opportunities that exist for the Afro-descendant migrant population.

 

Consult and Download the report: Situación de la población afrovenezolana en contextos migratorios en Colombia: Análisis y recomendaciones para la aplicación del enfoque étnico-racial

 

 

Press Contact:

Pablo Suárez / +57 3505824900 / periodista@raceandequality.org

 

Spokespersons:

Sofia Muñoz / +57 312 3233157

Lina María Velásquez / +57 318 2598076

 

In the Framework of the UPR Pre-Session in Geneva, Activists will Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba

Geneva, August 28, 2023.- This Wednesday, August 30, representatives of Cuba’s independent civil society in Cuba and international organizations working for the defense of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, to denounce human rights violations on the island. 

The event entitled ‘Cuba: Five Years After the Universal Periodic Review (UPR),’ will commence at 1:30 p.m. (Geneva time) at Rue de Varembé 1 (5th floor). This meeting is being held within the framework of the UPR pre-session, taking place from August 29 to September 1 in Geneva, where representatives of civil society organizations from 14 countries, including Cuba, will address the human rights situation in each of these territories.

The panel discussion will feature the lawyer and consultant to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Livia Lemus; the Director of Cubalex, Laritza Diversent; the Director of Strategy at the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, Yaxys Cires; the officer of the Central America and the Caribbean Program of Article 19, Claudia Ordoñez; independent journalist Mario Luis Reyes, and Cuban artist Nonardo Perea.

The panelists will discuss labor and trade union rights, individuals deprived of liberty for political reasons, independent journalism, and freedom of expression on the island. The aim is to raise awareness before international and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as representatives of the states, about the human rights reality experienced in this country prior to the IV UPR cycle, where Cuba will be evaluated in November of this year. 

In 2018, the Cuban state was last reviewed during the III UPR cycle. At that time, Cuba received 339 recommendations, of which it accepted 226, took note of 83, and rejected 30. To monitor the implementation of these recommendations, several independent civil society organizations submitted alternative reports to be considered in the new UPR cycle.

The panel discussion on Wednesday, August 30, will allow attendees to gain more information about what has transpired on the island five years after its last UPR evaluation. 

From Race and Equality, we emphasized the importance of creating such spaces to denounce human rights violations taking place in Cuba. We call upon international and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as state representatives, to listen to the  appeals of independent civil society organizations in Cuba and condemn the repression, harassment, and various forms of violence documented daily in this country.

Colombia: Concern over the territorial expansion of armed groups and their violent strategies of social control. UN High Commissioner.  

Colombia, August 22, 2023.- The Colombian Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented its analysis of Colombia’s human rights situation, in which it recognized the current Government’s approach to human rights, its willingness to address important issues, and its commitment to the protection of human rights, which has resulted in significant and positive changes. However, the Representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner Juliette De Rivero, highlighted the concerns and challenges that the Office has observed in the country and that require immediate attention.1 In particular, she expressed concern about the territorial expansion of armed groups and their violent strategies of social control over the civilian population and grassroots organizations, despite dialogue processes offered.  

 

Increase in massacres in the country    

During the first half of 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) recorded an 11% increase in the number of verified massacres compared to the same quarter of the previous year. A total of 52 massacres were verified during this period. Most of the massacres were allegedly perpetrated by non-state armed groups and criminal organizations. The most affected departments were Atlántico, Antioquia, Cauca, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Norte de Santander, Putumayo and Valle del Cauca. For its part, the Institute for Development and Peace Studies, INDEPAZ, has registered a total of 59 massacres in the country to date.2  

 

Violence against social leaders continues to be of concern.  

In the first half of 2023, the OHCHR reported a 19% reduction in cases of homicides of human rights defenders compared to the previous half (July-December 2022). While this decrease is encouraging, the number of killings of human rights defenders in Colombia remains unacceptably high. In total, 46 cases of homicide have been recorded, of which 39 were men and 7 women. Among them, 11 were indigenous, 9 were Afro-descendants, and 15 were campesinos. In addition, 35% of the human rights defenders killed were members of Community Action Boards. To date, INDEPAZ has registered 105 massacres or killings during 2023 in the country. 

In terms of displacement, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported a 33% decrease in cases of displacement compared to the previous six-month period and a 2% increase in cases of confinement during the same period. In addition, the UN Verification Mission has verified two fewer cases of killings of ex-combatants during this period.  

 

Sexual violence and human trafficking   

During the first half of 2023, the Office has received a total of 42 complaints of sexual and gender-based violence in the context of armed conflict, of which 27 have been confirmed. These complaints have been registered in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Chocó, Nariño, and Norte de Santander. Of particular concern is the situation of trafficking of girls and adolescents for sexual exploitation by non-state armed groups, as well as the rape of women and girls. These differentiated situations demonstrate the need to adopt effective and specific measures to guarantee the protection and effective participation of women, girls and LGBTI+ persons in all spaces of dialogue and decision-making for the comprehensive construction of peace. 

Race and Equality calls on the government of Colombia to take into account the report presented by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which points out the existence of human rights violations that require immediate measures to protect the lives and rights of citizens in its national territory, especially in areas of the country that continue to be affected by the armed conflict and illegal armed groups. Regarding the protection of ethnic communities at risk, it is crucial that the State take effective measures to guarantee the full exercise of their individual and collective rights, especially due to the impact of the armed conflict and violence. The national government must work to repair and protect the rights of these communities, who are entitled to special protection according to international standards. 

We also urge the State to carry out a Comprehensive Reform of the National Police with the genuine and effective participation of civil society, especially the victims of racist police violence. Additionally the state should adopt, abide by, and effectively implement international standards against racism and discrimination, such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the standards that have been developed to prevent the disproportionate use of force against people of African descent by security forces. 

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