N° 28/09



Washington, D.C., May 15, 2009 – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) releases today its observations regarding the visit of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination, Sir Clare K. Roberts, to the Republic of Colombia.


The IACHR document points out that afro-descendants in Colombia have endured a history of neglect, exclusion, and social and economic disadvantage that impair their enjoyment of fundamental rights. The Afro-Colombian population comprises the largest segment of the most poverty-stricken classes in the country, with the lowest socioeconomic indicators; least access to basic services, such as education and health care; fewest opportunities for profitable employment, and the most limited access to participation in public life.


In addition, the regions of the country where this population comprises the majority are in the grip of humanitarian crisis triggered by the armed conflict. The Commission observes with special concern the lack of judicial resolution regarding most of the acts of violence that have affected Afro-descendant communities and caused their displacement.


“The disparities in social and economic conditions between Afro-descendants in Colombia and the rest of the country's population are closely linked to the social exclusion that this segment of the population has suffered for generations,” the document says. “Despite the existence of laws and policies to promote the advancement of the Afro-Colombian population, equal enjoyment of rights and elimination of structural discrimination remain an enormous challenge for this population, which remains invisible through neglect.”


The Commission values the various initiatives and measures of a legislative and administrative nature adopted by the Colombian State with a view to ensuring respect for the human rights of the Afro-Colombian population, such as the constitutional recognition of the rights of afro-descendants in the 1991 Constitution and the legislation approved to make these rights effective. In particular, it draws attention to the crucial progress toward recognition and improvement in the protection of the rights of Afro-descendants as well as protection of their cultural identity, through Law 70 of 1993. In the report, the Commission points out the need that the State provides long-term support and additional funding to these initiatives to ensure their full implementation. There is also the resulting need to implement supplementary policies and special mechanisms to ensure the full exercise of rights and fundamental freedoms for Afro-Colombians. The Commission reiterates its commitment to work with the State in the search for adequate solutions to the problems detected.


The IACHR thanks Ireland and the European Commission for their financial contributions, which made possible the visit and the production of the report.


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 the mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

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