Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over growing violence against Afro-descendants in Brazil in 2017. The IACHR urges the Brazilian State to put policies, laws, and practices into place to prevent and eliminate this discrimination, whether it be direct or indirect, against Afro-descendants, keeping in mind elements that broaden the situation of vulnerability of these people, such as gender, sexual orientation, and poverty.
According to figures generated by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (acronym in Portuguese, IPEA) and the Brazilian Forum of Public Security (acronym in Portuguese, FBSP) in their 2018 Atlas of Violence, 62,517 homicides occurred in Brazil in 2018, of which 71.5% of the victims were Afro-descendants. These alarming figures indicate that young male Afro-descendants have a 2.5 times higher likelihood of dying as a consequence of violence than young people not of African descent. Additionally, a rise in the number of female Afro-descendent victims of lethal violence has been recorded. While there has been an 8% decline in homicides of women not of African descent recorded in the last ten years, the number of female Afro-descendants assassinated in the same period rose 15.4%. Finally, the study indicates that at least 4,222 deaths would have been recorded in the context of police interventions throughout the country during 2017.
The Commission has reported the existence of policies of institutional violence targeting the Afro-descendent population in various countries in the hemisphere. This institutional violence perpetuates patterns of existing discrimination, either generated by the absence or inefficiency of investigations and sanctions on the perpetrators, or by the violence undertaken by agents of the State, lacking knowledge of standards of proportionality, exceptionality, and necessity in the use of force.
Over the years, the IACHR has received, in a consistent and systematic manner, reports from Brazilian civil society organizations that denounce policies aimed at combating drugs that disproportionately affect Afro-descendants. Those policies have been leading to an overrepresentation of this group in the justice system; a pattern in extra-judicial executions committed in part by agents of the State against young men of African descent, particularly in peripheral areas; as well as the double impact of State violence and organized crime against Afro-descendent adolescents, particularly those that come into contact with penal law.
The Commission takes note of initiatives taken by the Brazilian State regarding its public security policy that, among other aspects, focuses on dropping the number of intentional homicides, reducing prisons overcrowding, and speeding up investigations and judicial processes in domestic violence cases. On the other hand, the IACHR expresses its deep concern for the lack of efficiency by these means to prevent and reverse the historic situation of systematic exclusion to which Afro-descendants and their communities have been subjected to.
Accordingly, the IACHR urges the Brazilian State to implement public policies for citizen security that address the institutional racism, which is escalated by widespread practices, such as the use of racial profiling, selective police persecution of Afro-descendants, as well as an overrepresentation of this group in the prison system.
On the other hand, the IACHR highlights the need of the Brazilian State to adopt public policies that take into account, as a matter of priority, the implementation of an efficient institutional structure that guarantees the Afro-descendent population the effective enjoyment of their economic, social, and cultural rights. They should also be directed at reducing the effects of poverty and historical social disparities, particularly against Afro-descendent women that find themselves in situations of vulnerability and accentuated discrimination.
Finally, the IACHR reminds the State that it is obligated to undertake an integral revision of its internal regulations, aiming at identifying and repealing those provisions that draw in direct or indirect discrimination, and to adopt legislation that expresses and comprehensively sanctions racial discrimination. This adjustment of regulations is not only an obligation, but also an important instrument that makes visible the situation of Afro-descendants and, further, contributes to the process of raising awareness and modifying historical patterns of segregation and exclusion.
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.