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International Consultation on Human Rights in the Americas

Delegates at the Consultation: Dr. Reginald Hopkins, Chair Psychology Dept. Virginia State University; Mama Tomiko Shine, APP-HRC; Dr. Jo-Ann Rolle, Dean School of Business, Medgar Evers College; Dr. Farid I. Muhammad, IHRAAM (International Human Rights Association of American Minorities). Not in photo: Dr. Justin Hansford, Law Professor, Howard University.EDITOR’S NOTE: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR) held a Regional Consultation of the Regional Mechanisms to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Related Forms of Intolerance on Saturday, December 8. The official announcement of the Regional Consultation reads,

“In recognition of the vital role played by regional and sub-regional human rights mechanisms, the Human Rights Council (HRC) since 2007 has requested OHCHR to bring together International and regional human rights mechanisms to exchange views on good practices and lessons learned aiming at enhancing cooperation between them. … In 2017, the HRC requested OHCHR to hold a workshop in 2019 to take stock of developments … including a thematic discussion on the role of regional mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and in the implementation and commitment in the Durban Declaration and Program of Action [DDPA]. … The [December 8] regional consultation will generate discussion on good practices, challenges and lessons learnt in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in Americas and measures to be taken to enhance the effectiveness of the Inter-American human rights mechanisms in following up on the [DDPA], including through strengthened cooperation with other regional and UN human rights mechanisms [and] will allow participants, who may not be able to attend the international conference to provide input into the discussion …. “

The following report was compiled by Mama Tomiko Shine, Director of the Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC), one of the participating organizations. Also included is her written contribution to the Consultation, concentrating on issues in the Criminal Justice System, as well as several recommendations for action.

Consultation of the Regional Mechanisms of Human Rights in the Americas and the United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Other Related Forms of Intolerance

December 8, 2018

OAS, Washington DC; IACHR Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

by Tomiko Shine
Director, Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC)

On Saturday, December 11, 2018 an all-day civil society consultation was held in Washington, DC at the Organization of American States with human rights defenders from the Americas to discuss human rights mechanisms to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance. Most of the participants represented South America from countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador, with a few representing North America.
Organizations represented from the Americas were: Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN); Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations; Inter-American Court of Human Rights; The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights; Centro de Desarrollo de la Mujer Negra Peruana (CEDEMUNEP); Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH); Ilix-Acción Jurídica; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); UNEAFRO; Consejo Comunitario Casimiro y Casimirito Chocó – Colombia; WOLA; Asociación de Comunidades Afrocolombianas del Centro del Valle; Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights – Howard University; Defensoria Pública da União; Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia REDLAD; Inter-American Commission of Women; Mano Amiga de la Costa Chica A.C.; Coletivo de Advocacia em Direitos Humanos (CADHU); The Sentencing Project; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; US Human Rights Network (USHRN); Secretariat for Access to Rights and Equity (OAS); Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC); Mesa Departamental de Tierras para Comunidades Afrocolombianas del Departamento del Valle del Cauca.

Panels of discussion and interventions included Racial Discrimination in the police and criminal justice system, Under-representation of Afro-descendant persons in politics, Special Measures and affirmative actions, and Cooperation with international mechanisms to combat racism.

President Commissioner IACHR, Special Rapporteur on Women, and Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and Against Racial Discrimination Margarette May Macaulay expressed concerns on police/state violence, mass incarceration, under representation of Afro-Descendant women in politics, and the current hostile climate towards human rights of Afro-Descendants men and women in the Americas. Human rights defenders in testimony spoke about rising Police/State Violence, and the assassination of Brazilian politician Marielle Franco. Also, there was alarm at the growing denial of their Afro Descendance by the youth in countries like Dominican Republic, and throughout the Americas.

In addition, much testimony was given towards the astronomical numbers of Afro Descendants in North America incarcerated both young and old; it was concluded the prison experiment has been a complete failure. In addition to speaking on Police/State Violence, Criminal Justice, Education and Political Under-representation, much talk was given to the topic of Reparations and the continued poor living conditions of Afro Descendants throughout the Americas centuries later. It was echoed that the back-breaking work done by enslaved Africans over the centuries in building international, national, and generational wealth for the Americas should never be forgotten.

President Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay implored several times throughout the day for civil society to unify and work together as organizations in solidarity to combat racism and racial discrimination.

The few North American participants spoke to the historical and current situation of Criminal Justice, Education (Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs), and Reparations on the national, state, and university level regarding the descendants of enslaved Africans. Below is one intervention by North American participant Tomiko Shine, Cultural Anthropologist and Director of Aging People in Prison Human Rights Campaign (APP-HRC).

APP-HRC Written Testimony and Recommendations
Intervention Panel: Criminal Justice

Delegates at the Consultation. Mama Tomiko Shine (APP-HRC) and President Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay are second row, third and fourth from left.

In the US Criminal Justice system today, we are no longer in the mass incarceration era but generational incarceration. Where the black bodies of African descent have been confined, contained, or imprisoned for the last 400 years from racialized laws, plantations, Jim Crow, segregation and prisons. Thus, the same laws and policies that confined the slave/sharecropper to the land of his oppressor/slave master are the same laws/policies that imprison the woman and man of African descent in prisons across the nation. In effect we must conclude after 400 years the US criminal justice system has failed US families of African descent generationally, and reparative justice must begin immediately to salvage the future of unborn children of African descent in American society. To combat historical institutional racism, we can no longer engage in talks or activities of reform, but that of transformation to dismantle the criminal justice system transforming it into a human rights system based on justice, rebalancing human identities, narratives, and conditions.

Recommendations

⦁ The criminal justice system must begin to move away from colonial/race language ushered from 18th century European philosophical thought that only lends itself to incarcerate identities and narratives and use a human rights language that speaks to liberation and freedom of the person.
⦁ The criminal justice system must become a human rights system based on the human being and their historical lived experience in America.
⦁ The criminal justice courts should begin to be replaced with human rights courts.
⦁ The international mechanisms of human rights need to be inserted more into the current system of the criminal justice system.
⦁ Persons of African Descent that stand before the courts should have access to all forms of justice which includes international and regional human rights mechanisms.
⦁ As 2019 is the 400th year of the first enslaved Africans brought to American ports, the tools of reparative/restorative justice and human rights mechanisms must begin to be used in releasing aging prisoners across America who have been in prison for 30, 40, 50 and 60 years.
⦁ A Human Rights Office should be established in every major city and state across the nation.
⦁ In US law schools a human rights curriculum should begin to be taught to law students for them to develop into human rights agents, builders, and defenders.
⦁ Criminal Justice Departments/Criminology Studies across US colleges should now evolve into Human Rights Departments/Studies.
This intervention is dedicated to human rights defenders Maria Elena Moyano Delgado and Marielle Franco.

References

Books:
Slaves of the State: Black Incarceration from the Chain Gangs to the Penitentiary, by Dennis Childs
Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America, by Judge Andrew Napolitano
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward Baptist
Perpetual Prisoner Machine, by Joel Dyer
Journals/Articles:
Black Power Incarcerated: Political Prisoners, Genocide, and the State, by Laura Whitehorn
Generations of Philly Families Are Incarcerated Together, by Samantha Melamed
Hearing:
⦁ 1985 Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission/MOVE
Films:
500 years Later, by MK Asante
13th, by Ava Duvernay
Campaign:
2015-2024 UN Decade for People of African Descent

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