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Argentina: “Immediate action must be taken to address the critical situation of indigenous persons” – UN expert

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BUENOS AIRES / GENEVA (24 May 2016) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, today urged the Government of Argentina to take urgent measures to sustainably address the invisibility, marginalization and systematic exclusion of indigenous peoples, one of the most vulnerable group in the country.

The human rights expert’s appeal comes at the end of his first official visit* to Argentina, from 16 to 23 May, to assess the situation of indigenous peoples, peoples of African descent, migrants from the region and beyond, and other groups.

Mr. Ruteere found that, “as elsewhere in the world, discriminatory practices in the country have often targeted the poor and, in effect, the most vulnerable who belong to minority groups including indigenous peoples, Afro-Argentines, and migrant communities.”

“Argentina has developed a comprehensive legal framework for the elimination of racial discrimination and the equal enjoyment of rights for all inhabitants, whether Argentine or foreign,” he noted. He also welcomed existing laws to protect specific vulnerable groups such as the indigenous peoples, as well as efforts made to acknowledge the existence of Afro-Argentines through a series of symbolic measures.

“I acknowledge Argentina’s progressive migration law that recognizes migration as a fundamental inalienable right, and the establishment of a number of institutions aiming at promoting human rights and anti-discrimination such as the National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (INADI),” he said.

However, the human rights expert also underscored that, despite the existing comprehensive legal and institutional framework, effective implementation is lacking and significant challenges persist.

“The situation of indigenous peoples in certain areas of the country is appalling as they live in extreme poverty, socio-cultural isolation and without access to basic services such as adequate health, descent housing or even drinkable water,” Mr. Ruteere said while calling on the Argentine authorities to develop a comprehensive multi-sectorial national strategy to address the rights of indigenous peoples and other groups subjected to discrimination.

“Most alarming are the reported trends of repression, in several parts of the country, against the mobilization by indigenous groups to claim their rights; and the reprisals against minority rights defenders and leaders as well as members of their families,” the independent expert said.

“I have heard reports of police profiling and violence against migrants from neighboring countries and beyond and that those acts remain unpunished and investigations of such crimes are seldom conduct,” he explained, and noted that the absence of an effective migrant integration polices further contributed to the marginalization and stigmatization of this group.

“Access to justice for vulnerable groups starting with indigenous peoples but also migrants and Afro-descendants remains a significant challenge,” the expert stressed. “The absence of minority groups in the judicial system including in highest positions represents a significant challenge to groups subjected to racial discrimination, in particular indigenous peoples and migrants.”

The rights expert recommended implementing affirmative action measures to enable the representation of minority groups in positions of influence such as in education including university level, judiciary, legislatures and executive positions.

The Special Rapporteur final findings and recommendations will be reflected in his report to the Human Rights Council in June 2017.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=20005&LangID=E

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. As Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.  Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/IndexSRRacism.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Argentina:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/ARIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva: Yaye Ba (+41 22 9179210 / yba@ohchr.org / or write to racism@ohchr.org.
In Buenos Aires: Gustavo Poch (+54 011 48010155)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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