“In Cuba there is no social tolerance for censorship”: IACHR

“In Cuba there is no social tolerance for censorship”: IACHR

Washington D.C., June 22, 2023 – On Tuesday, June 20, 17 art pieces by Cuban graphic artists were exhibited, as part of ‘At Pen Point’, an exhibition that captures and denounces the human rights violations registered on the Island. The exhibition was accompanied by a discussion entitled ‘Graphic Humor, Art and Satire in the Face of Social Protests and the Human Rights Crisis in Cuba’, which took place at the National Press Club, in Washington D.C. The event was co-organized with the multimedia platform El Toque, and took place within the framework of the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).

When discussing how art has served to reject repression on the Island, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Pedro Vaca, assured that in this country “there is no social tolerance for censorship.” 

“Art usually walks on the edge of collective self-censorship. Verbalizing, writing, capturing… What many want to say can imply tremendous levels of fear of retaliation. That is why art fills us with hope when it is capable of reflecting something that  people collectively want to say: a stifled cry that reflects a citizen’s feeling,” said the rapporteur, acknowledging that artists in Cuba continue to denounce the human rights violations registered in this territory, despite repression, harassment, arbitrary detentions and short-term disappearances. 

Vaca also recalled singer Maykel Castillo Pérez, better known as ‘El Osorbo’, and artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who remain in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression. And he stated that, since 2021, at least 22 members of the San Isidro Movement have been beneficiaries of precautionary measures in an attempt by the IACHR to protect their rights. 

For his part, the director of El Toque, José Nieves, said during his intervention in the conversation that “humor can be an extremely useful tool for public debate. The symbolic irreverence of humor, which takes politicians out of their pedestal and comfort zone, is a new form of struggle.” 

Cuban visual artist and columnist Camila Lobon, who was also part of the panel, recalled that, in Cuba, with the entry of the Internet, its inhabitants found a tool to know what is happening in their territory, and thus build a narrative from art. “Cuban artists have been able to show and launch to the world a new type of activism that has made the country’s reality visible,” she added.

The lack of guarantees for Cuban citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression not only affects Cuban artists, but also those who work as journalists in Cuba. Independent journalist Orelvys Cabrera affirmed during his contribution in the conversation that freedom of the press has not existed on the island for many years. 

“Cuban independent journalists are persecuted, threatened, and harassed so that we hide the reality of journalism. At all times we work under persecution making us feel like war correspondents”, he pointed out. 

From the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we echo the words and testimonies of the people who participated in the discussion on how Cuban art has served to denounce human rights violations in this country. Also, we reiterate our request to the State of Cuba to guarantee the human rights of its inhabitants, including freedom of expression. We demand an end to repression and harassment against artists and journalists on the Island, who through their work question the decisions of Cuban authorities, and reflect the reality of the Cuban people.

Rewatch the event here:

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination celebrated the 10th anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI within the framework of the OAS General Assembly

Washington D.C., June 20, 2023 – The Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, an annual event organized by the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality), took place during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). It brought together representatives from the governments of the United States and Brazil, as well as experts and Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI+ leaders from the region, for an effective dialogue on racial discrimination in the Americas.

This year, the Forum’s theme was the “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI),” which was held at the iconic National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C.

Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, highlighted in his welcome speech that the CIRDI is a Convention that broadly addresses racial discrimination, serving not only Afro-descendant peoples but also indigenous peoples and Romani communities.

The first panel, “The Historical Debt: State Responsibility towards the CIRDI and the CIDI,” featured the participation of Joy-Dee Davis Lake, Counselor Minister of the OAS Embassy and Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda. In her remarks, the Minister emphasized the importance of building a better world for diversity, free from discrimination, where every individual can fulfill their full potential. This panel also included Luz Elena Baños Rivas, Ambassador of the OAS Permanent Mission in Mexico, who could not attend in person but sent her message calling for commitment and strengthening of the CIRDI to OAS Member States.

Moderated by Carlos Quesada, the second panel, “International Efforts to Combat Racial and Ethnic Discrimination,” featured the contributions of Margarette May Macaulay, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH); Desirée Cormier-Smith, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice (SRREJ) of the U.S. Department of State, and Symmy Larrat, National Secretary for LGBTQIA+ Rights of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship of Brazil.

“It is necessary to pay attention to racial representation in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and in the United Nations Secretariat. Additionally, I call on government ministers and political parties to reflect on their resistance and inaction regarding the approval of the CIRDI by OAS Member States,” stated Margarette May Macaulay.

“We must commit to keeping the window of racial and social justice open. It is our responsibility to prevent this window from closing,” emphasized Desirée Cormier-Smith, urging all Afro-descendant individuals to empower themselves and influence their governments to build an antiracist democracy.

In her speech, Symmy Larrat celebrated the reestablishment of the LGBTI Popular Participation Council and announced the creation of a Working Group on ‘Memory and Truth,’ which will include experts and members of civil society to implement public policies addressing the historical reparation of the LGBTI population. “It is a challenge to strengthen LGBTI social movements with such a conservative congress. We won the elections, but we didn’t win the fascist wave,” she said.

Afro-descendant and indigenous leaders from civil society in Latin America shared their experiences in the panel titled Regional Experiences: Inclusion as a Tool to Strengthen Diverse Voices.” Moderated by Cecilia Ramírez, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of Afro-Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP), the dialogue included participants such as Maurício Yek’uana, Director of Hutukara Yanomami Association, who drew attention to the advance of drug trafficking in the countries bordering Yanomami indigenous lands in Brazil. “In addition to the miners we have been denouncing for years, criminal factions are arriving, and the government’s action is still insufficient to contain the invaders in the region,” stated Maurício Yek’uana. Adailton Moreira, Babalorixá Ilê Axé Omiojuarô, denounced religious racism and the State’s consent due to the lack of public policies that could curb violence against African-origin religions.

Representing the LGBTI agenda, the panel included Sandra Milena Arizabaleta, Legal Representative of the Afro-descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversity (SOMOS IDENTIDAD) from Colombia, and Yader de los Ángeles Parajón Gutiérrez, an LGBT activist and member of the Mothers of April Association and the Unamos Party from Nicaragua.

Education and political will for anti-fascism are necessary for real inclusion. Authorities must bridge the gap between activism and the government,” expressed Sandra Milena Arizabaleta.

Yader de los Ángeles Parajón concluded, “Nicaragua owes a debt to gender identity. The violence generated by the dictatorship permeates all levels and remains silent. Many activists are persecuted. In this system, they no longer live, but they survive.” The panel also featured Wendy Geraldina López Rosales, an indigenous Guatemalan member and lawyer of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), and Cuban activist Jorge Luis García Pérez, who called for an effective alliance for the rights of their peoples.

The Guatemalan state issues arrest warrants against indigenous peoples, criminalizing them and subjecting them to inhumane treatment. They treat us as invaders, but no one can be an invader of land that historically belongs to them,” warned Wendy López.

I am a former political prisoner of Castro’s regime. My family is also a victim of fierce persecution because we are Black, because we are opponents. The dictatorship does not tolerate any form of faith either,” said Jorge Luis García Pérez, pointing out that religious persecution based on racial discrimination also exists in Cuba.

The last panel, “Coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly,” moderated by Elvia Duque, Senior Officer of the Race and Equality Program on Race and Ethnicity, provided the audience with a deeper understanding of the 53rd OAS General Assembly. It featured Paulina Corominas, Director of the Office of Civil Society of the Department of International Relations of the OAS, and Rosa Castro from the Association of Women of the Oaxaca Coast and Coordinator of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas at the 53rd OAS General Assembly.

Paulina Corominas explained that there are 34 thematic coalitions formed within the 53rd OAS General Assembly, and on June 21, a dialogue would take place between OAS representatives and civil society. Rosa Castro highlighted some of the demands of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas, which include a high-level meeting for the 10th anniversary of the CIRDI and an agenda that considers a fund for Afro-descendants.

Based on the diverse voices that resonated with the different realities and contexts of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI peoples in Latin America, Race and Equality issued a call for unity in the Americas in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. With the CIRDI as the motto for an effective plan for its implementation by all OAS Member States by 2024, the alliance continues to support and empower civil society organizations to occupy these strategic spaces such as the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination.

Missed the event? Relive it through this link: fb.watch/lhnPl8jt7F/

Learn about our CIRDI 2024 campaign! https://cirdi2024.org/en/

At OAS Assembly: Race and Equality to Commemorate 10th Anniversary of CIRDI and Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba and Religious Persecution in Nicaragua

Washington D.C., June 14, 2023 – On the occasion of the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) will hold three parallel events. In the first event, the organization will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI) and promote its signature, ratification and implementation. The second event will denounce human rights violations in Cuba; and the third will demand that the Nicaraguan regime cease the persecution of religious leaders and release all persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons.

The OAS General Assembly will be held June 21-23, 2023 at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., under the theme “strengthening a culture of democratic accountability with promotion, protection and equality of human rights in the Americas.” In this sense, the Race and Equality events aim to encourage OAS Member States to take action to combat impunity, promote inclusive and sustainable peace and a democratic transition in the region.

Inter-American Forum Against Discrimination: Tenth Anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI

Race and Equality, as part of its ongoing advocacy work on behalf of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, will bring together renowned representatives of the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the governments of the United States and Brazil, and civil society leaders from Latin America at the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination: “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI)” on June 20, 2023.

The Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) was approved by the OAS General Assembly on June 5, 2013, after thirteen years of advocacy by Race and Equality and other ethnic civil society organizations. This is an instrument that consolidates the commitment of States to the total eradication of these scourges; however, of the 35 member States of the OAS, only 6 States are party to CIRDI, only 7 have signed it, and 29 have not signed, ratified, or implemented it.

In this sense, the Forum will be divided into thematic panels on the historical debt and the responsibility of the States before the CIRDI and CIDI treaties, international efforts to combat racial and ethnic discrimination, and towards LGBTI+ people; as well as the participation of civil society leaders, regional experiences, and inclusion as a tool to strengthen diverse voices. Finally, there will be a dialogue on the coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd regular session of the OAS General Assembly.

Cuba: At Pen Point

In order to continue denouncing the serious human rights violations in Cuba, particularly the cases of harassment against activists and human rights defenders, Race and Equality invites you on June 20 to the art exhibition “At Pen Point,” an exhibition co-organized with the platform El Toque, which brings together a selection of 20 cartoons and vignettes by Cuban artists who traverse with humor, nonchalance, and wit several transcendental socio-political events of recent years on the island.

In Cuba, as of May 31, there were 1,880 people deprived of liberty for political reasons, according to the 11J Justice working group, which has also documented that 773 people continue to be imprisoned for having participated in the peaceful protests of July 2021, the most massive in the last decade. Parallel to these human rights violations, there are already 38 cases of femicides on the island, a figure that exceeds the annual record for the year 2022. 

In this regard, the opening of “At Pen Point” will be accompanied by a discussion entitled ‘Graphic humor, art, and satire in the face of social protests and the human rights crisis in Cuba’, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Pedro Vaca; the editor of El Toque, José Nieves; the Cuban visual artist and columnist, Camila Lobón; and the Cuban independent journalist, Orelvys Cabrera.

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Finally, to reflect on Nicaragua’s deepening socio-political and human rights crisis and how this country is setting a standard for democratic setbacks in the region, Race and Equality – in coordination with the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ) – will hold the event “Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region” on June 22.

Five years after the start of the peaceful protests of April 2018, 355 murders of protesters continue in impunity, more than 47 people remain deprived of liberty for political reasons in Nicaraguan prisons, at least 2,090 people have been arbitrarily detained, more than 320 people have been stripped of their nationality, and the repression is at a stage characterized by the persecution and criminalization of the Catholic Church and restrictions on religious freedom.

Given this context, in the first part of the event, legal experts will discuss the repressive patterns against people considered opponents and against the Church; and in the second part, victims of the regime and representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will discuss arbitrary imprisonment for political reasons and other reprisals against those who exercise their fundamental freedoms.

*** More information about the events ***

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 9:00 am

Venue: National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Washington D.C.

Live: via Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here

Simultaneous translation in Spanish, Portuguese and English. 

Cuba: At Pen Point

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 6:30 pm

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English. 

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Date: Thursday, June 22, at 5:30 pm.

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English.

#31M: Recognize and respect the gender identity of trans people for the full guarantee of their human rights

Washington DC, March 31, 2022. – On International Transgender Day of Visibility, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to magnify the importance of recognizing and respecting the gender identity of trans people, as a basis for the full guarantee of their human rights, specifically their economic and social rights. In Latin America, people with diverse gender identity and expression face great challenges in accessing basic services which, in turn, constitute fundamental rights that every person should enjoy without suffering any type of discrimination or violence.

In at least 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean there are legal or administrative processes for trans people to rectify their identification documents according to their gender identity. For example, in Brazil—the country with the highest number of murdered trans people in the world—the Federal Supreme Court (STF) established in 2018 that trans people and transvestites over 18 years of age, regardless of sex reassignment surgery, hormonal treatment or the presentation of medical or psychological documents, have the right to change their name, gender, or both, at any Civil Registry office in the national territory, without the presence of a lawyer or public defender.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, 14 of the 32 States of this country recognize in their legislation the right to gender identity, so that trans people can access the modification of their sex or gender through an administrative process, without having to go through a judicial process. The State of Mexico was the last to incorporate this recognition, in July 2021, with a vote in Congress that had 59 votes in favor, one against and eight abstentions. The other states are Coahuila, Colima, Chihuahua, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora and Tlaxcala.

In countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, there is no legal or administrative framework for trans people to rectify their identity documents, or there is no jurisprudence in this regard; therefore, if a trans person decides to start the process, this is at the discretion of the administrators of justice and it can be a long and costly path economically and emotionally. That is the case of Mística Guerrero, a trans woman from Nicaragua who until May 2021 did not have an identity document. In 2012 she began the process of changing her name before the Supreme Court of Justice and since then there has been no ruling on her case, according to a local media report.

The lack of recognition of the gender identity of trans people is not only determined by the existence or not of processes to change their name, but also by the will and management capacity of State institutions that must implement these regulations in civil registries. And the fact is that, despite the existence of these processes in many countries, activists and LGBTI+ organizations usually experience difficulties for trans people to access them, due to factors such as lack of clarity and transphobic attitudes, which generates delays and people desist from continuing the process.

Added to this is the fact that there are very few trans people who have the support of their families in these processes. The home is configured as the first space in which people with diverse gender expression and identity experience acts of rejection, violence and discrimination, a dynamic that is maintained throughout their lives.

“[…] There are countless barriers that keep trans and gender diverse people from being able to develop their full potential and from accessing basic rights from an early age, which has to do with the rejection and violence they receive since they begin to externalize their gender identity. In that order, there are numerous reports that show a high prevalence of trans and gender diverse adolescents who suffer expulsion from their homes at an early age”, explains the Report on Trans and Gender Diverse People and their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, published in August 2020 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Gender identity and economic and social rights

The non-recognition of gender identity has serious implications for the recognition and exercise of human rights, including economic and social rights. It is important to point out that States have an obligation to fulfill and guarantee these rights based on the principle of equality and non-discrimination of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.

“The lack of guarantee of the right to recognition of gender identity has as a consequence because trans and gender diverse people often carry identification documents that are not consistent with their gender identity,” the IACHR points out in the aforementioned report. In this way, access to rights such as health, education, housing and employment is limited and subject to prejudice. In addition, the possibilities of people suffering situations of violence and discrimination are increased.

Agatha Brooks, a trans woman from the Dominican Republic and a member of the organization Trans Siempre Amigas (TRANSSA), has experienced discrimination when trying to access housing. “We are not allowed to rent a house, because they believe that we are depraved people and that we are bad examples for children or families around us,” she indicates.

Apart from the problem of access to these rights, trans people also face violence and discrimination when they exercise them. Arturo Nicolás, a trans man from Peru and a member of Transmasculine Diversity, says that urgent measures are needed in the educational field to guarantee full access of trans people to this right. “ This does not mean only opening the spaces through quotas or similar measures. The care and containment protocols in case of violence are pillars to support trans or gender diverse people in educational spaces”, he affirms.

While Bruno Pfeil, a trans man from Brazil and coordinator of the Revista Estudios Transviades, shares his experience in access to health: “In the field of health, the (dis)access that weighs me down the most is gynecological health. Whether it’s for testing, or just for a routine checkup; It is always a headache to have to explain that I have a uterus, that I need a certain consultation, and that the regard that should be given to my body cannot be built under the cisgender prerogative.”

In its Report on Trans and Gender Diverse Persons and their economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights, the IACHR gives a comprehensive account of how the impossibility of rectifying personal documentation has been identified as one of the greatest obstacles to the effective enjoyment of other human rights, both civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural, for which it considers it urgent that the States adopt measures to guarantee this right in accordance with inter-American and international standards on the matter.

Although we recognize and celebrate the adoption of judicial and administrative processes for the recognition of the gender identity of trans people in several Latin American countries, we believe that this does not only depend on correcting their name and/or gender in their respective identity documents, but it is also closely related to the implementation of educational processes and public policies to eliminate LGBTIphobia in society and guarantee effective services that are tailored to their needs, respectively.

We also appreciate and thank the role of the United Nations Independent Expert on Gender Orientation and Identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, who, through reports—such as the latest titled Law of Inclusion and Exclusion Practices—and numerous interventions before civil society and States, has positioned the issue of gender identity as a determining experience in people’s lives and, therefore, subject to a framework of rights that States must guarantee.

Along with this, we submit some recommendations to the States, many of which were set out by the IACHR in the aforementioned report and which we consider key steps to guarantee the human rights of trans people in the region:

  • Adopt gender identity laws that recognize the right of trans and gender diverse people to correct their name and the sex or gender component on their birth certificates, identity documents, and other legal documents. This is based on Advisory Opinion 24/2017 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court).
  • Eliminate from their legislation and public policies any form of criminalization, direct or indirect, of the conduct of people in the exercise of their gender identity or expression.
  • Include protections against discrimination based on gender identity, in the public and private spheres.
  • Develop and implement policies and programs to promote respect for the rights of trans and gender diverse people and their acceptance and social inclusion. These must be comprehensive, transversal and based on the human rights approach and particularly including the gender perspective.
  • Develop and implement informative awareness and awareness campaigns in the public and private media on body and sexual diversity and the gender approach.
  • Promote information campaigns for trans and gender diverse people about all their human rights and existing protection mechanisms.

Specialists and activists call for the activation of the Inter-American Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance

Washington D.C., March 29, 2022.- Specialists and activists from Latin America and the Caribbean called for the activation of the Inter-American Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination and All Forms of Discrimination and intolerance. In order for the Committee to be activated, at least ten member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) must ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI).

This call for activation of the Committee took place during a webinar organized by the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality)—with the support of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)—in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The event had the participation of Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of People of African Descent and Against Racial Discrimination, of the IACHR; Dayana Blanco, Executive Director of Ilex Acción Juridica, of Colombia; Aniella Franco, Executive Director of the Marielle Franco Institute, of Brazil, and Manuel de Jesús Dandre, Executive Director of the Jacques Viau Network, of the Dominican Republic.

On behalf of Race and Equality, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada, and the Brazil Program Officer, Nathaly Calixto, participated. Ms. Calixto served as moderator. In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Quesada highlighted the fact that the Americas have tools such as the CIRDI to combat racism and racial discrimination, although he also recalled that to date, this Convention has only been ratified by six OAS countries and that, according to its article 15, it is necessary for ten countries to ratify it so that the Inter-American Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance can be created.

Likewise, he drew attention to the situation of violence and discrimination faced by Afro-LGBT people in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. In the case of Brazil, he explained that the ANTRA organization documented that in 2019 there were 124 murders of trans people, of which 75% were Afro-descendants. Quesada emphasized that mechanisms established several years ago should be used, such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and recently created mechanisms, such as the United Nations Permanent Forum for Afro-descendants.

Structural transformation

The Executive Director of Ilex Acción Jurídica, Dayana Blanco, referred to the need for the content and scope of the CIRDI to be disseminated among Colombian society and organizations, in order to learn how this instrument can contribute to the fight against racism and racial discrimination, and how it differs from the regulations on this matter that are already part of Colombian legislation. The activist emphasized that the Law is not the only way to transform societies, for which she also highlighted the importance of implementing educational strategies aimed at the various sectors that comprise them.

Recognition and identity

From the Dominican Republic, the Executive Director of the Jacques Viau Network, Manuel de Jesús Dandre, praised the importance of the Inter-American Convention against Racism and the Committee for the development of educational processes on ethnicity and race, saying that in this eminently Afro-descendant country, only 8% of the population is recognized as such. In addition, he expressed his concern that the State does not recognize racism and racial discrimination as latent problems in Dominican society.

Fight against racist police violence

Anielle Franco, Executive Director of the Marielle Franco Institute, from Brazil, referred to the problem of racist police violence in this country, alluding to the case of the young woman Kathlen Romeu, who died in June 2021 as a result of a stray bullet when she was 13 weeks pregnant in a Military Police operation in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. “Police violence has cut off our dreams. Since we were little, we experience in our skin the sensation of always wanting to flee from the presence of the police, from stray bullets,” said the activist, pointing out the need to articulate actions to activate the Committee and other spaces to combat racism and racial discrimination.

Commitment for 2022

Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur on the Rights of People of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, of the IACHR, also recognized the impact that racism and racial discrimination have on the integrity and quality of life of people of African descent, to the point that she assured that in Brazil there is a “racial genocide”. For this reason, she pointed out that it is urgent that during 2022 we achieve the ten ratifications that would allow the activation of the Inter-American Committee for the Prevention and Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

Race and Equality recognizes and appreciates the contributions of the specialists and activists who participated in this event and joins the call to combine efforts to achieve the creation of the aforementioned Committee, as a regional mechanism to combat racism and racial discrimination in the Americas. We firmly believe in the principles and mandates of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, so from our CIRDI 2024 campaign “Towards a region free of racial discrimination” we will continue working hand in hand with civil society to pressure the States for their signature, ratification, and effective implementation.

Race and Equality recognizes and appreciates the role of Antonia Urrejola in promoting human rights in the region

Washington, D.C., November 12, 2021. – The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) joins in the expressions of recognition and gratitude to the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Antonia Urrejola, for her outstanding and committed work for the promotion and protection of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. We especially recognize the key role she played in monitoring and making visible the grave human rights situation in Nicaragua since April 2018, as well as pushing for the adoption of measures to address the crisis.

This Friday, November 12, 2021, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) elected representatives of its organs, agencies, and entities, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In this process, Urrejola presented her candidacy for reelection as Commissioner of the IACHR on September 22, a role she has held since January 1, 2018 — after being elected in June 2017 — which ends on December 31.

Within the IACHR, Urrejola is currently the Rapporteur for Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Nicaragua, as well as the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Rapporteur on Memory, Truth and Justice. In addition, on March 15, she was elected internally to the IACHR as its President, along with Julissa Mantilla and Flávia Piovesan as its first and second Vice President. Notably, it is the first time in history that this body’s board was composed entirely of women.

In 2018, Urrejola was also the Rapporteur for Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Cuba. In the case of the latter country, her Rapporteurship was instrumental in monitoring and making visible the human rights situation on the island. As the Rapporteur for Colombia and on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, she has closely observed the problems faced by this population in the country, mainly because of their territories being intruded upon by illegal armed groups and the lack of implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Agreement.

In this Friday’s vote, held in the framework of the 51st OAS General Assembly, most of the country representatives voted for Joel Hernández García, of Mexico (27 votes), Carlos Bernal P, of Colombia (21 votes), and Roberta Clark, of Barbados (23 votes) as new members of the IACHR, thereby not reelecting Urrejola.

A friend of Nicaragua

Since the socio-political and human rights crisis broke out in Nicaragua, Antonia Urrejola’s voice has been particularly tireless in two ways. On the one hand, the Chilean lawyer and specialist in Transitional Justice has kept the critical situation in the country visible, and on the other, she has been a close figure of consolation and hope for the relatives of political prisoners, exiles, and those who have been tragically murdered. Her forthcoming departure from the IACHR causes a shock within civil society and human rights organizations in the country.

Likewise, international human rights organizations, such as Race and Equality, are particularly shaken by the news. Urrejola has been a key ally in the process of monitoring the crisis in Nicaragua and influencing the Inter-American System for the Defense and Protection of Human Rights in the country. Race and Equality counts on her committed participation in international events, campaigns, and thematic hearings.

When referring to the situation in Nicaragua, Urrejola has been insistent in stating that impunity and injustice will not perpetuate in the country. Today we return to the words she provided Race and Equality with during an interview conducted on the third anniversary of the crisis in Nicaragua: “Efforts in international human rights law usually do not have immediate effects, but it is also true that history shows that these are efforts that ultimately produce results.”

With this hope as well as the commitment to continue the work of defense and protection of human rights in Nicaragua, Race and Equality extends our sincere recognition and gratitude to Antonia Urrejola, and expresses our desire to continue to work hand in hand in the promotion of fundamental rights in the region.

Race and Equality launches regional campaign to promote the ratification and implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance

Washington, D.C.; September 4, 2021.- On September 2, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) launched its new campaign Toward a Region Free From Racial Discrimination, which will last until 2024 and seeks to promote the universal ratification and implementation of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (known by its Spanish acronym CIRDI).

The campaign, which takes place in the context of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), was launched in a virtual event that featured Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, Rapporteur for the Rights of Afro-descendants and Against Racial Discrimination at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); Gay McDougall, who was recently re-elected to serve a third term on the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD); and Vice President of Costa Rica Epsy Campbell.

Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, and Mexico, all State Parties to the Convention, also participated. Carlos Quesada, Race and Equality’s Executive Director, introduced the campaign while Latin America Program Officer Elvia Duque served as the moderator.

“This campaign is necessary, especially during the International Decade for People of African Descent, for the majority of countries in the Americas to ratify and implement this important Convention,” remarked Quesada in his introduction to the event.

The campaign

Race and Equality considers the ratification and implementation of CIRDI a necessary step to make the systemic forms of racism and discrimination against Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and other minorities in the region more visible. Race and Equality also emphasizes that the Convention is a key step for states to fulfill their international obligations to promote equitable conditions, ensure equality of opportunity, and combat racial discrimination in all individual, structural, and institutional forms.

The ultimate goal of the campaign is for all 35 members of the Organization of American States (OAS) to sign, ratify, and implement CIRDI by the end of 2024.

To that end, the campaign will consist of bilateral and multilateral initiatives across the region. These activities will offer accompaniment and resources to states as they move towards ratifying and implementing the Convention. Civil society organizations will also play an important role in the campaign, receiving training and tools to monitor the ratification and implementation processes.

The importance of CIRDI

Although the OAS General Assembly approved the Inter-American Convention against Racism in 2013 and it entered into force in 2017, only 6 of the 35 OAS Member States have ratified it: Antigua and Barbuda, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay. During the event, Costa Rican Vice President Epsy Campbell explained that improving the rate of ratification had become all the more important after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a report on global systemic racism in 2020.

Bachelet’s report stemmed from UN Human Rights Council Resolution 43/1 (Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers), which was passed in the context of worldwide protests against the killing of George Floyd. The Resolution calls on all states to take an active role in achieving racial justice, using all available human rights instruments to combat racism and discrimination.

Joy-Dee Davis Lake, the Alternative Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS, stated that CIRDI was passed by the OAS General Assembly in a moment of international attention on the need to build upon the human rights protections enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Together, said Davis Lake, the CERD and CIRDI “represent the most ambitious efforts to prohibit discrimination under international law, be it on the grounds of race, color, national or ethnic origin, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, language, religion, cultural identity, opinions of any kind, social origin, socio-economic states, level of education, refugee or migrant status, or disability.”

Paulo Roberto, Brazil’s National Secretary for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, celebrated his country’s ratification of the Convention and called on other states to do the same: “We ratified the Convention on May 13 of this year, which is also the date of the Áurea Law [which abolished slavery in Brazil], a great step forward for Brazilian society. The Convention is an instrument to fight racism and the cultural impacts of colonialism.”

Christopher Ballinas, General Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the Secretariat of Foreign Relations of Mexico, stated that “racism and discrimination is a theme of vital importance in our region because it allows us to integrate our multicultural societies, and also because failing to fight racism and discrimination in multicultural societies leads to hateful discourses and hate crimes.”

Ballinas explained that Mexico was motivated to ratify CIRDI by a hate crime committed in August 2019, when 23 people, including 9 Mexican nationals, were murdered in El Paso, Texas.

Commissioner Macaulay pointed out that CIRDI calls for the creation of an Inter-American Committee to Prevent and Eliminate Racism, Racial Discrimination, and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance, an independent body that will consist of one representative from each State Party and will monitor the State Parties’ commitments under the Convention.

“I strongly recommend that all Member States ratify and implement the Convention. The structural discrimination against Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and other groups demands a strong and serious commitment to combatting discrimination and all forms of intolerance in our hemisphere,” said Macaulay.

Gay McDougall of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) emphasized that the entire international community has a responsibility to combat racism and racial discrimination, saying, “the killing of George Floyd created a new level of urgency to speed up our response.”

Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who serves as the Executive Coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), celebrated Brazil’s ratification of CIRDI, but also denounced ongoing structural, institutional, and environmental racism in the country, challenging the audience to ask themselves, “racial harmony for who?” when considering these issues. Guajajara discussed the experiences of the Lucha por la vida (Fight for Life) protest movement, in which 6,000 people have assembled to oppose the Hito Temporal court decision that puts indigenous territories protected under Brazil’s Constitution at risk.

“In Brazil, there is a tendency to deny the existence of racism or only acknowledge it in cases of extreme hate crimes. Indigenous people have fought for respect for our ways of life around the world, and in the Americas it is no different. We have seen our leaders killed, our women raped, our territorial rights violated, and our young people dying of suicide,” she said.

Paola Yáñez, Regional Coordinator of the Network of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, discussed the work of women’s organizations in the region to bring issues of racism to the foreground across the region, saying, “the adoption of the Convention is an important milestone for the Afro-descendant movement that will allow us to move forward in recognizing racism and the need to act against it across the region.”

According to Noelia Maciel, a member of the National Afro-Uruguayan Coordination, “It is important for all states to ratify this Convention because it represents the culmination of three decades of struggle against racism and racial discrimination, and it is necessary to integrate this into our national frameworks so that we can protect the rights of Afro-descendants, indigenous peoples, and other ethnic or racial minorities.”

Join us

More information about the campaign’s goals, strategies, and activities can be found at Cirdi2024.org. The website also includes more information about CIRDI and the region’s progress towards signing and ratifying it, along with the tools needed to advance this process. The website is available in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. The campaign will also be active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Inter-American Court decision in the case of Vicky Hernández and others vs. Honduras: an unprecedented ruling for the region’s trans community

Washington ,D.C., July 1, 2021.– On June 28, 2021, as the LGBTI+ community celebrated its struggle for human rights worldwide, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights released its decision in the case Vicky Hernández and others vs. Honduras. The decision is only the Court’s fifth ruling on LGBTI+ rights and its second on the rights of trans people. The Court decided, for the first time, that the rights of trans and travesti women are protected under the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para). The Court also ordered the State of Honduras to implement a law on gender identity within two years, an unprecedented reparations order for the region.

Vicky Hernández was a trans woman, sex workers, and human rights defender who was killed in 2009 during Honduras’ coup d’état. On June 28, 2009, a state of emergency was ordered amidst the unrest of the coup. According to witnesses, that day, police attempted to arrest Hernández and other women who were outside pursuing sex work. The women fled, and the next day Hernández was found dead. Her death came amidst many arbitrary detentions and homicides that accompanied fierce protests in the context of the coup.

Among the Court’s findings is that Honduras suffers from “a context of continuous violence against LGBTI people dating back at least to 1994” that worsened, particularly for trans women pursuing sex work, during the 2009 coup. The Court pointed out that the Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed concern about violence and discrimination against LGBTI+ people in the region since 2008, emphasizing that this population lacks social visibility and protection across the Americas.

The Court emphasized that even before Hernández’s death, she suffered multiple violent attacks at the hands of the police. Citing Claudia Spellmant Sosa, director of the Color Rosa Collective, it wrote that Hernández had approached the Collective multiple times to report arbitrary detentions and physical attacks. The Court held the State responsible for these abuses, for the context of unaccountable police control over public spaces during the coup, for the situation of generalized abuses against LGBTI+ people in Honduras, and for violence and discrimination by the police against trans women.

The State of Honduras accepted some responsibility, acknowledging failures in the investigation of Hernández’s death that violate its obligations under Article 8.1 (judicial guarantees) and Article 25 (legal protection) of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. The Court made several additional points regarding the State’s responsibility, including the unmet need to account for Hernández’s gender identity, her work as an activist, and the possible role of state agents in her death during its investigation. The Court reiterated its findings in Gutiérrez Hernández and others vs. Guatemala and Azul Rojas Marín and other vs. Perú, which discuss gender stereotypes and their impact on the actions of public officials.

Finally, the Court’s decision lays out standards on trans people’s and people of diverse gender identities’ right to a name, stating that “States must respect, and guarantee to every person the possibility of registering, changing, rectifying, or adapting, their name and other essential components of their identity such as image and reference to sex or gender, without interference from public authorities or third parties.” This decision opens the doors for more States to guarantee meaningful rights to gender identity.

Race and Equality welcomes and celebrates this ruling as a historic victory. It not only names a State as responsible in the murder of a female trans sex worker and rights defender, it also includes reparations orders that, if implemented, will mark an important advance in the recognition and protection of LGBTI+ rights in Honduras and in the rest of the region.

Race and Equality applauds the Court’s decision, especially its reparations order requiring the implementation of a gender identity law and the collection of disaggregated data on violence against LGBTI+ persons including variables of “ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, health status, age, and class or immigration or economic status.” We hope that the ruling will become a reference as civil society demands justice in cases of violence against LGBTI+ people throughout the region. We are confident that this ruling will be a tool for civil society to identify patterns of violence and discrimination against the LGBTI+ population and seek justice and reform. For states, it has great potential to advance policies and laws that advance the rights of LGBTI+ people.

Nicaraguan civil society and international experts call for a new Human Rights Council resolution to address the crisis in Nicaragua

Washington, D.C., February 18th, 2021.– As the United Nations Human Rights Council prepares to open its 46th period of sessions, representatives of Nicaraguan civil society, including victims of human rights violations, joined international experts from the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to urge the Council to approve a resolution strengthening High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s mandate to monitor Nicaragua’s human rights crisis.

The event “The role of the United Nations Human Rights Council in the face of the continuing human rights crisis in Nicaragua” included the participation of Thelma Montenegro, family member of two political prisoners and four people killed in the context of the repression unleashed by the social protests of April 2018; Lottie Cunningham, founder and president of the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN); Aníbal Toruño, director of Radio Darío and victim of constant police raids on his home and radio headquarters; Clément Voule, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association of the United Nations, and Pedro Vaca, Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR. The moderator was Erika Guevara, Director for the Americas of Amnesty International.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet will present her report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua during the upcoming session of the Human Rights Council (February 22-March 23). Twelve Nicaraguan and regional organizations, among them the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), organized the virtual panel event to update attendees on the ongoing human rights violations in Nicaragua and to emphasize the importance of renewing and strengthening the High Commissioner’s mandate.

The Montenegro Family

Thelma Montenegro took part in the panel to expose the persecution, criminalization, and violence that her family has suffered for participating in the protests of April 2018. “Our participation unleashed hate, persecution, and cruelty on the part of the government’s supporters,” she said, revealing that since the protests, four of her family members have been killed, among them her two brothers Oliver and Edgar Montenegro and her husband Francisco Blandón.

Ms. Montenegro also shared that two of her nephews remain in prison as a consequence of their beliefs. Oliver Montenegro Muñoz, who was detained on June 21, 2020, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the supposed crime of attempted homicide. Dorling Montenegro Muñoz, detained November 30, 2020, is charged with obstruction of justice, illegal possession of weapons, and attempted murder.

“We ask for monitoring and decisive action towards our country…We are in an election year, and now is the moment of opportunity to change our history, so that all this suffering does not repeat itself,” she stated.

Violence and vulnerability in the Northern Caribbean

In her presentation, human rights defender Lottie Cunningham stated that Nicaragua’s closing civic spaces and weakening democratic protections are causing displacement and systematic violence against indigenous peoples and those who defend their rights. In 2020, she stated, 13 indigenous Nicaraguans were killed, 8 were wounded, 2 were kidnapped, and at least one community was displaced from their territory. Since 2011, 49 indigenous people have been killed, 52 injured, 46 kidnapped, and 4 disappeared.

“As a result of this violence, it is estimated that 3,000 individuals from the Miskitu people alone have been forcibly displaced from their communities, including in the Honduran border region,” Ms. Cunningham explained, reporting that this violence is usually carried out by non-state actors with the consent or complicity of the state and that the perpetrators enjoy total impunity.

Cunningham also expressed her concern at the approval of the Law to Regulate Foreign Agents and the Law on Cybercrime, which she labeled as “repressive against the effort to defend indigenous rights.” She recounted how the Ministry of the Interior has refused to accept CEJUDHCAN’s registration as a non-governmental organization and how pro-government actors frequently slander the organization’s members as spreaders of ‘fake news.’

“We call on the international community and exhort the Human Rights Council to approve a resolution on Nicaragua that accounts for the needs of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples,” she emphasized.

Attacks on the independent press

Aníbal Toruño, director of Radio Darío in the city of León and a beneficiary of protective measures granted by the IACHR, discussed the prosecution of at least three journalists, the confiscation of the offices of independent outlets Confidencial and 100% News since April 2018, and other government efforts to repress independent journalism.

Mr. Toruño explained that pressure from the government of President Daniel Ortega has caused the closure of over 20 news outlets and at least 10 news and opinion programs. Furthermore, of the 13 free-to-air television channels that once broadcasted in Nicaragua, only two remain. One of these, Channel 12, has been under embargo since September 2020.

Toruño himself has suffered 125 police actions against Radio Darío and 32 against his home. His home was raided by police, violently and without a court order, three times between January 4 and February 4 of this year.

International concern

Both UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association Clément Voule and IACHR Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Pedro Vaca expressed great concern at the situation in Nicaragua, agreeing that the recent passage of laws to restrict civil and political rights, including by imprisoning those who broadcast information that the government considers threatening, has worsened the outlook for human rights in the country.

Mr. Voule expressed that “We have concerns, including the use of arbitrary force against those who go out to the street to protest, criminalization and attacks against political opponents, and attacks on the press,” reminding the audience that he has made several requests for an official visit to Nicaragua since 2018, but has received no answer. “Also concerning is the lack of information or false information used against victims-including women, LGBTI people, or environmentalists-who are accused of being terrorists or drug traffickers.”

Mr. Vaca concluded that Nicaragua has unleashed a sophisticated program of censorship and that the National Assembly’s legislative initiatives appear to be focused on eroding the rule of law. He observed that Nicaragua is suffering a “dismantling of the social fabric” and that there is a risk of losing key information about human rights violations. “Nicaragua is fearful, and we are listening. This is part of what can hopefully be included in our ongoing analysis,” he concluded.

 Calls for a new resolution at the Human Rights Council

Amnesty International’s Americas Director, Erika Guevara, insisted that Nicaragua’s human rights crisis is ongoing and that with the government refusing to cooperate with the regional and international human rights protection systems, action by the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is critical.

Speaking for all the co-sponsors of the event, Ms. Guevara called on the Council’s member states to adopt a strong resolution renewing the High Commissioner’s mandate to address the Nicaraguan situation. She emphasized that such a resolution should establish clear criteria to judge Nicaragua’s cooperation, sending a message to victims, human rights defenders, and independent journalists that the international community is committed to truth, justice, and reparations for the abuses of their rights.

Race and Equality celebrates Brazil’s ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism

Brazil, February 19th, 2021 – The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) congratulates the Brazilian State for its ratification  of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance [1], originally signed by the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Guatemala in 2013 [2]. The Brazilian Senate’s ratification of the Convention marks a major achievement for the Afro-Brazilian movement, which has fought for the adoption and strengthening of the Convention for over 20 years. In signing and ratifying the convention, Brazil has committed to fighting intolerance and racism, presenting an opportunity to break with the racism ingrained in Brazilian society.

With its ratification, the Convention gains the status of a constitutional amendment in Brazil, allowing laws which go against its statutes to be challenged in court. These potential challenges represent a new path for anti-racist discourse and activism in the country. Aligning domestic legislation with human rights standards is of paramount importance in the fight to end, prevent, and punish racism and discrimination. It is noteworthy that in Article 5, Subsection 42, the Brazilian Constitution makes the crime of racism ineligible for bail and exempt from a statute of limitations. In Article 3, Subsection 4, the Constitution rejects prejudice and other forms of discrimination.

Lúcia Xavier, General Coordinator of the Brazilian organization Criola, welcomes Brazil’s ratification of the Convention, telling Race and Equality that the Convention now represents a fundamental instrument for promoting the rights of Afro-Brazilians, especially Afro-Brazilian women, amidst attacks on human rights and the continuing effects of COVID-19 in Brazil. “While conservative governments are advancing against rights, the Convention will mean having more instruments for human rights and  strengthening the regional human rights system itself. It will be a fundamental political instrument going forward to confront racism in Brazil and in the region,” she remarked.

“Now that it has been ratified by Brazil and consolidated in our legislation, the Convention reinforces the effort that the Afro-descendant and Afro women’s movements have been making for years to definitively eradicate racism – especially institutionalized racism, that which does not consist of laws, rules, or policies, but is implemented by the State in all its instances, every day. So, the possibility of having this instrument against the conservative attacks that the current Brazilian government is making on the Black population is very good,” Lúcia Xavier, General Coordinator, Criola. 

Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, commented that in Brazil, there are many forms of racism which are hidden at first glance, but can be found in the high levels of violence facing the Black population and in unequal access to the labor market, housing, health, and education. “Given the historical circumstances of Brazil, starting with the fact that Brazil is the country with the most Afro-descendant people outside Africa and a country whose Black population faces serious discrimination and the erasure of their human rights, the ratification of this agreement opens more possibilities for tackling and undoing structural racism”, explained. 

In Brazil, structural and systematic racism is evident in the statistics regarding incarceration, poverty, and suicide among Afro-Brazilians. These outcomes reveal institutional racism throughout social and legal structures, including many public institutions that are historically rooted in efforts to maintain privileges through exclusion and marginalization. The Convention will allow activists to challenge these structures and pursue democratization of rights through public policies oriented towards social justice.

Lívia Casseres, a lawyer with the Public Defender’s Office of the State of Rio de Janeiro, was a leader in the effort to ratify the Convention. She recalls that Brazil played a leading role in urging other OAS members to draft and sign the Convention. She believes that this leadership is a testament to the work of the Afro-Brazilian movement. “It’s a Convention that attacks indirect discrimination and provides for the prohibition of public policies with discriminatory impacts,” she explained.

“We have for the first time a legal document with the capacity to face the complexity of the phenomenon of racism. It is a great advance, because it is a Convention that has much more sophisticated and refined legal elements, capable of accounting for the complexities of racism that we were unable to fully address with the legal framework that existed before ratification.” Lívia Casseres, Public Defender of the State of Rio de Janeiro.

With the Convention now ratified, Race and Equality emphasizes that the implementation of the Convention must take place in consultation with civil society. Article 15, Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Convention call for each State Party to appoint an independent expert tasked with monitoring the commitments made in the Convention. In addition, a committee should be created to exchange ideas and review the progress made by State Parties in their implementation [3]. Consultations with civil society are an opportunity for the State to dialogue with different sectors of society, especially with the Afro-Brazilian population, so that the challenges in the fight against racism can be addressed.

Faced with this conjuncture of new possibilities to combat racism, Race and Equality celebrates the work of the Afro-Brazilian movement in the struggle for the approval and ratification of the Convention. We are committed to strengthening this movement and contributing to the anti-racism and human rights struggles of Afro-Brazilians. We recognize the great importance of this agreement for repaying the social debt owed to Afro-Brazilians and for improving the lives of Afro-descendants facing great vulnerability across the country. We recommend that the State of Brazil:

1 – Implement the articles of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance in consultation with different sectors of civil society, especially in dialogue with Afro-Brazilian movement;

2 – Formulate a plan so that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches can each implement actions for immediate compliance with the Convention;

3 – Create public policies that punish racist acts and repair structural racism with a view to promoting equality and affirmative action in the areas of ​​health, work, well-being, education, and political participation.


[1] https://g1.globo.com/politica/noticia/2021/02/10/senado-aprova-projeto-que-ratifica-texto-da-convencao-interamericana-erca-o-racismo.ghtml

[2] and [3] https://www.cut.org.br/system/uploads/ck/files/interamericantreatiesA-68ConvencaoInteramericanaracismoPOR.pdf



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