Press Release

IACHR Releases New Report on Police Violence against Afro-descendants in the United States

March 18, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) releases today a report on police violence against Afro-descendants in the United States. The report African-Americans, police use of force, and human rights in the United States examines the persistent situation of structural discrimination against people of African descent in the United States and, in particular, deep-seated racial disparities in policing and the criminal justice system.

Under its mandate to monitor and promote human rights in the Member States of the Organization of American States, the Commission prepared this report on the basis of information gathered from the State, civil society organizations, and victims of police violence in several public hearings held since 2014 on issues related to racism in policing and criminal justice in the U.S.; during a 2015 visit to the states of Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri; as well as information gathered via its petitions and cases mechanism; press releases; and other public sources of information, including from the State, reports produced by United Nations mechanisms; and by civil society and the media.

This report evaluates the current panorama of policing and criminal justice issues in light of the historic situation of racism and discrimination in the United States, highlighting the structural nature of discrimination and the corresponding need for systemic reforms to fully address past abuses and ensure non-repetition. In this report, the Commission analyzes information received regarding issues of over-policing and racial profiling; the militarization of police forces; police use of excessive force; impunity in cases of police killings; police responses to protests; racial disparities in criminal arrests, convictions, and sentencing; and the lifelong consequences of prior incarceration and felony convictions.

The Commission highlights that racial disparities that permeate the criminal justice system, are widespread and represent a clear threat to the human rights of African Americans, including the rights to life, personal integrity, non-discrimination, and due process, among others. The Commission further considers that issues of discrimination in policing and criminal justice in the U.S. are inseparable from social stigma and hate speech; violence by private citizens; an enduring situation of racialized poverty; and intersectional discrimination; as all of these are also governed by a structural situation of discrimination and racism. These issues are reviewed in the report from a human rights perspective considering the obligations of States under international law.

“In this report, the Commission analyzes racial disparities throughout the policing and criminal justice systems in light of the United States’ international obligations regarding non-discrimination, use of force, and access to justice. Through this report, we hope to provide the State with guidelines to better improve its data collection system, carry out law reforms and reverse militarization in its police system,” said the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-descendants and against Racial Discrimination, Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay.

The Commission acknowledges the efforts of the State to date to address discriminatory police practices, excessive use of force, and impunity, among other challenges. It encourages the State to continue those efforts. The IACHR reiterates that it is open to dialogue with the State and willing to provide technical assistance to support the process of compliance with the recommendations in this report, in order to move forward in the protection of human rights of the people of the United States.

The IACHR thanks to the State for its engagement with the Commission on this issue and for facilitating its visit to the U.S., as well as to members of civil society, the academic sector, victims of police violence and racial discrimination, and their family members for their willingness to share information and collaborate in the search for solutions to this entrenched human rights issue.

The report was published with the support of the State of France and is available on the Commission’s website.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 069/19