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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination examines Peru's report

Committee on the Elimination
  of Racial Discrimination 

26 April 2018

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-second and twenty-third periodic report of Peru on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Miguel Angel Soria Fuerte, Deputy Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, began his presentation of the report by condemning in the strongest terms the assassination of the leader of the indigenous people Shipibo-Konibo, Olivia Arévalo, and of Canadian citizen Sebastian Paul Woodroffe.  In continuation, Mr. Soria Fuerte noted that Peru was a country committed to the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental liberties and democracy, and to the fight against corruption.  The Committee’s concluding observations of 2014 had fed into the country’s policies aimed at fostering multiculturalism, equality and respect for diversity.  The Government had strengthened its public policies to combat racial discrimination through the National Plan on Human Rights 2018-2021, which would for the first time be translated into indigenous languages and would be delivered to leaders of indigenous communities.  In addition, Peru had approved dozens of regional and municipal guidelines on fighting racial discrimination.  According to the Criminal Code, the crime of discrimination carried a prison sentence, whereas grounds for discrimination included race, religion, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, ethnic or cultural identity, opinion, economic status, migration status, disability, health condition, affiliation, and other factors.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts inquired about the reform of the Criminal Code to bring the criminalization of racial discrimination in line with the Convention, prior consultation with indigenous communities and Afro-Peruvians, the lack of constitutional recognition of Afro-Peruvians, improved access to justice for indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians, forced sterilization of indigenous women, inter-cultural education and efforts to combat illiteracy, illegal mining and mercury pollution, indigenous land ownership, forced labour, access to healthcare and education for migrants, political representation of women, indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians, police violence against social protesters, use of force by private security forces, protection of human rights defenders, implementation of the National Human Rights Plan 2018-2021, and of the National Plan for the Development of the Afro-Peruvian Population 2016-2020, and the diffusion of racial stereotypes in the mass media.

In his concluding remarks, Pastor Elias Murillo Martinez, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Peru, welcomed the legislative initiatives of Peru, notably those on constitutional recognition of Afro-Peruvians, improved access to justice, cultural education, and a draft law on inter-cultural coordination of justice.  Mr. Murillo Martinez encouraged the State party to consider including indigenous peoples in the deliberations on climate change, and to include Afro-Peruvians in the implementation of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.  

Mr. Soria Fuerte thanked Committee Experts for their questions, which would help the country come up with better public policies, and reminded that since 1974 Peru had been showing before United Nations treaty bodies progressive efforts to guarantee human rights to its people.

Noureddine Amir, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and encouraged the State party to take all the necessary steps to follow on various recommendations of the Committee.  Mr. Amir reminded that the Committee would ask for immediate follow-up on several recommendations.

The delegation of Peru included representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Supreme Court, and the Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m. to consider the combined fourth to ninth periodic report of Saudi Arabia (CERD/C/SAU/4-9).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined twenty-second and twenty-third periodic report of Peru: CERD/C/PER/22-23.

Presentation of the Report

MIGUEL ANGEL SORIA FUERTE, Deputy Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, began his presentation by condemning in the strongest terms the assassination of the leader of the indigenous people Shipibo-Konibo, Olivia Arévalo, and of Canadian citizen Sebastian Paul Woodroffe, adding that the crime would be carefully investigated by the Peruvian national police.  Continuing with his presentation, Mr. Soria Fuerte noted that Peru was a country committed to the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights, fundamental liberties and democracy, and to the fight against corruption.  Peru would scrupulously comply with its international obligations, and combatting racial discrimination meant delivering on those obligations.  The Committee’s concluding observations of 2014 had fed into the country’s policies aimed at fostering multiculturalism, equality and respect for diversity.  Additionally, the 2017 national census included questions on mother tongue and ethnic composition of the population.  The authorities had promoted the campaign “I am proud of who I am” before the census.  The results of the census would be available in July 2018 and the Government would convey them to the Committee.  The Government had strengthened its public policies to combat racial discrimination through the National Plan on Human Rights 2018-2021, which would for the first time be translated into indigenous languages and would be delivered to leaders of indigenous communities.  In March 2018, the authorities had carried out the first national survey on perceptions and attitudes towards racial and ethnic discrimination and diversity.  In addition, Peru had approved dozens of regional and municipal guidelines on fighting racial discrimination.  According to the Criminal Code, the crime of discrimination carried a prison sentence.  Grounds for discrimination included race, religion, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, ethnic or cultural identity, opinion, economic status, migration status, disability, health condition, affiliation, and other factors.

Mr. Soria Fuerte explained that the authorities had undertaken several affirmative actions for indigenous peoples and had set up a cross-sectoral roundtable for urgent action with an objective to guarantee access to basic public services, improving living conditions, and the development of indigenous communities, with an emphasis on the Amazon region.  In that respect, Mr. Soria Fuerte highlighted the multifaceted role played by the Itinerant Social Action Platforms, which offered basic public services to the most remote indigenous communities in the Amazon region, such as health, education, culture, development and social inclusion.  In addition, the authorities had launched actions to reverse mercury pollution in indigenous areas with a high level of illegal mining activities, namely the Amazon regions of Madre de Dios and Loreto.  Another example of development programmes for indigenous communities was the National School Nutrition Programme, securing nutrition to school-age indigenous boys and girls in the Amazon region.  With respect to the right to education, Mr. Soria Fuerte said that the Government had elaborated a language map with 38 codified languages.

As for the consultation process with indigenous communities, Mr. Soria Fuerte reminded that the authorities had conducted consultation processes in the sector of hydro-energy and mining.  The Government had developed norms regarding self-determination through the Concept of Indigenous Peoples’ Voluntary Isolation.  The Plan for Integral Reparation provided for programmes of reparations concerning the education, economy, health, environment and civil rights of indigenous peoples breached during the period of violence between 1980 and 2000.  Turning to the use of force by the police in the context of indigenous social protests, Mr. Soria Fuerte explained that the Government had updated several guidelines for the policy to deal with social protests in a manner that was consistent with respect for human rights.  Peru had undertaken a complex effort to create a registry of victims of forced sterilization between 1995 and 2001, in order to provide reparation to victims.  In 2016, the Government had set up the Working Group for Strengthening the Political Participation of Indigenous Peoples.  In addition, the Ministry of Culture had created the Working Group on Indigenous Policies, and the Working Group on Afro-Peruvians.  In the upcoming regional and municipal elections, there would be quotas in 20 out of 24 departments, and in 131 of 196 provinces.  In terms of access to justice, the State had developed concrete actions to improve access to justice in general, but particularly for vulnerable populations, such as indigenous and peasant communities (campesinos), and Afro-Peruvians, through the provision of interpreters in several indigenous languages, Mr. Soria Fuerte concluded.

Questions from the Country Rapporteur

PASTOR ELIAS MURILLO MARTINEZ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Peru, noted that the delegation did not include a representative from the Ombudsman’s Office.  Mr. Murillo Martinez reminded of the problem of corruption, and the fact that the past five presidents of Peru had been indicted for crimes of corruption.  He praised the anti-corruption efforts by Peru, thanks to the independence of the judiciary.

Mr. Murillo Martinez reminded of the challenges in the process of inclusion of indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians, namely high poverty rates.  What actions was the State party carrying out to implement a constitutional reform that would better reflect the diversity of the population?  Had it considered adopting a law on equal opportunities?  What special measures had been adopted to level the playing field for indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians in particular?

Would the State party consider reforming the Criminal Code to fully eliminate racial discrimination and fully bring it in line with the Convention?  As for prior consultation with indigenous peoples, Mr. Murillo Martinez reminded of the arbitrary use of force by private police forces.  There was a situation of insecurity for environmental human rights defenders in Peru.  Prior consultation with indigenous communities was often not taken too seriously, and was carried out at the last minute.  What were agreements with indigenous communities based on?  What resources had been devoted to making progress in that area?

Turning to the situation of indigenous and Afro-Peruvian women, Mr. Murillo Martinez underlined that more than 1,000 women had been assassinated, whereas rape and abuse were frequent.  Afro-Peruvian women were particularly susceptible to abuse.  Mr. Murillo Martinez also expressed concern about the judicial circumstances of the case of Ms. Azucena Algendones and the fact that she had to undergo three different trials.

Had the State party considered ratifying the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 on domestic workers, and the Minamata Convention on Mercury?  How many legislative measures would be subjected to prior consultation with indigenous communities with respect to the Minamata Convention?  How would the State party implement the International Decade for People of African Descent?

Mr. Murillo Martinez asked how the State party concretely planned to enhance access to justice for indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians.  He also referred to the negative impact of television programmes that negatively portrayed Afro-Peruvians.  

Questions from the Committee Experts

GUN KUT, Committee Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, informed that Peru had submitted an interim report on four follow-up issues, namely on the rights of indigenous persons with respect to extraction of natural resources, victims of armed conflict and forced sterilizations, use of force against indigenous peoples protesting against extracting projects, and negative stereotypes about indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians.  

An Expert welcomed the introduction of legal interpreters for indigenous languages.  However, he noted that there were no reports of racial discrimination due to fear of harassment and intimidation.

In the cases of forced sterilization, the Government had a responsibility to shed light on them because they could even amount to genocide.

What was inter-cultural education?  Who was targeted by bilingual inter-cultural education?  What was Peru doing in practice to fight racial discrimination at the national level?

What was the percentage of illegal mining in the country and the percentage of mercury poisoning by illegal mining?  What were the procedures for determining indigenous land reserves?

Experts inquired about the standardization of various data collection efforts on different populations in the country.

What measures had been taken to combat school illiteracy, particularly among Afro-Peruvian and indigenous children?  What specific measures had been adopted to promote access for Afro-Peruvian and indigenous women to education, labour, property and ownership of land?

An Expert reminded that the Ministry of Mining and Energy was one of the focal points for the implementation of the National Plan for Human Rights 2018-2021, noting that mining poised several threats to human rights.  What would be done to protect human rights defenders?

There were many challenges in access to healthcare and education for migrants and refugees, particularly migrants from Venezuela, due to the fact that many migrants were undocumented.  How many migrants from Venezuela were there in Peru?  What was the number of foreign students in the country?

The problem of forced labour in Peru was a complex matter that particularly affected people from poorer backgrounds and coming from the isolated communities in the Amazon region.  How did forced labour affect indigenous peoples, Afro-Peruvians and migrants?  In which sectors was forced labour prevalent?

How was the State party’s report drafted?  Was it an inclusive process?  What had been the concrete impact of the way the report was drafted?  Was there a standing national body responsible for developing reports and follow-up to recommendations?

What was the representation of Afro-Peruvians and indigenous peoples in the public administration and law-making?  What was the current status of the draft National Strategy for Eradicating Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, and what budget had been dedicated to it?

Referring to the March 2018 national survey on perceptions and attitudes towards racial and ethnic discrimination and diversity, Experts asked about the measures that the State party was contemplating to promote tolerance and diversity.

How many complaints of racial discrimination had led to convictions?  How long did trials tend to last?  As for police violence, there was an average of nine deaths following police interventions.  How many investigations had led to the conviction of police officers?

An Expert inquired about the definition of discrimination used in rulings of judicial bodies.  Why was there a need for specific municipal guidelines on discrimination?

Replies by the Delegation

MIGUEL ANGEL SORIA FUERTE, Deputy Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, informed the Committee that two days ago a draft law on the constitutional recognition of Afro-Peruvians had been presented.  In addition, in January 2017, the Criminal Code had been amended to sentence the crime of racial discrimination in line with international standards.  The Peruvian Government believed that the criminalization of discrimination was comprehensive and covered any type of discrimination.  There had been four draft laws aimed at modifying the Criminal Code.

Mr. Soria Fuerte explained that the National Plan for the Development of the Afro-Peruvian Population 2016-2020 targeted sub-national authorities in order to better assess the situation of Afro-Peruvians and indigenous communities.  The National Human Rights Plan 2018-2021 was the result of a broadly participative process, containing 44 strategic goals, 150 strategic actions, 281 indicators, and 373 outcomes.  As part of that plan, the Government had also taken on an obligation to implement a mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, which would be elaborated in cooperation with civil society representatives.  Responding to Experts’ questions about dealing with social protests, Mr. Soria Fuerte noted that the State had the duty to restore order during times of conflict, and that it equally had to protect protesters and law enforcement officers.

The Government had proposed the formulation of a national strategy for the elimination of ethnic and racial discrimination, and to make racism visible as a violent social phenomenon.  As for the results of the national survey on perceptions and attitudes towards racial and ethnic discrimination and diversity, they were made part of public policies to fight racism and racial discrimination, Mr. Soria Fuerte explained.  

Turning to prior consultation, he noted that the Council of Ministers monitored agreements with indigenous communities.  Some 75 per cent of the agreements had been implemented.  The Government had concluded 36 consultation processes with indigenous peoples with respect to extractive investment projects.  With respect to the Afro-Peruvian population, Peru would respect their right to prior consultation under the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 when they were covered by the scope of relevant agreements.  

As for the political representation of indigenous peoples and Afro-Peruvians, there was no quota at the level of the Congress.  Nevertheless, there were indigenous and Afro-Peruvian parliamentary representatives.  At the regional and provincial level, there had been an increase in indigenous representation, Mr. Soria Fuerte explained.

With respect to the use of force, Mr. Soria Fuerte clarified that the Government had strengthened the link between human rights and the use of force.  The use of private security forces was governed by degree No. 003-2017-IN, as well as by 80 agreements between the national police and private entities.    

Turning to the issue of the diffusion of racial stereotypes in the mass media, Mr. Soria Fuerte said that Peru had self-regulation mechanisms outlined in the Law on Radio and Television.  The Government had through the Ministry of Culture issued numerous communications to the media with respect to racial and cultural stereotypes.  Even though it had done its utmost to curb racial messages, the State faced certain limitations when interfering with freedom of expression.

CLAUDIO DE LA PUENTE RIBEYRO, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva, explained that the concept of inter-culturality recognized cultural differences as a pillar of a democratic and equitable society. Inter-cultural bilingual education aimed to educate people to allow them to exercise their citizenship as protagonists in the construction of a democratic and pluralistic society.  It was based on the cultural heritage of peoples and on the recognition of their cultural traditions.  Some 11,640 primary-level institutions in the country provided inter-cultural bilingual education to 607,790 students.

In terms of the provision of healthcare, Mr. de La Puente Ribeyro said that through the Inter-Cultural Health Plan 2017-2021, the Ministry of Health had carried out 175,000 interventions through 26 itinerant brigades in 245 indigenous communities in 2017.   The Ministry also worked to treat 3,323 persons affected by heavy metals.

Turning to indigenous land ownership, Mr. de La Puente Ribeyro informed that some 15.77 per cent of the land in Peru belonged to indigenous communities.  The Government had established territorial oversight in reserves of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.  In the context of illegal mining activities, the use of mercury in Peru was linked with small-scale mining taking place in an informal manner.  Accordingly, the future elimination of the use of mercury, as well as the formalization of illegal mining activities, were priorities for the Government.  The authorities had set up nine monitoring studies on the use of mercury in the mining zones, Mr. de La Puente Ribeyro underlined.

The delegation informed that the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations had created two working groups to promote the rights of indigenous and Afro-Peruvian women, in cooperation with civil society, the Ministry of Culture, and the Office of the Ombudsman.  Their objective was to coordinate, promote and implement actions for indigenous and Afro-Peruvian women, and ensure non-discrimination and gender equality.

The delegation clarified that the Peruvian Government currently offered Venezuelan migrants with refuge in case of persecution, and with temporary residence status, which allowed them to work.  Migrants could open a bank account, and access primary education and healthcare on an equal footing with Peruvian citizens.  There was an ongoing dialogue with civil society in order to improve access to healthcare for migrants, including Venezuelan citizens.  There had been an enormous increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants recently – out of some 200,000 persons that had entered Peru, the majority were Venezuelan.

The Government would present the third National Plan for the Fight against Forced Labour in May 2018, and it would work to establish a baseline for the population at risk of forced labour.  The Government would also provide technical assistance for regional authorities to formulate regional plans for the fight against trafficking in persons and forced labour.

The authorities had taken concrete actions to facilitate and promote access to justice for vulnerable populations through training programmes for judges and judicial personnel, also provided in indigenous languages, training with a gender focus, legal counsel centres, and protocols on persons with disabilities.  Currently, there were 82 judicial interpreters, whereas another 35 judicial interpreters would be licensed.  In addition, judicial proceedings involving indigenous peoples could also be pronounced in the aymara and quechua languages.  The judiciary had concluded 31 cases of racial discrimination in the period 2015-2016.

Ms. Azucena Algendones had been found responsible for the crime, the delegation explained.  But because of the ultima ratio nature of the case, she had not been given a sentence.  If she wanted to challenge the outcome of the court decision, there were pathways for that in the judicial system, the delegation stated.

Second Round of Questions by Experts

PASTOR ELIAS MURILLO MARTINEZ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Peru, reminded that about 80 per cent of the productive land in Peru was owned by only two per cent of the population.  There seemed to be limitations to land ownership rights of indigenous peoples.  How would the State guarantee the effective use of land by indigenous peoples?

The most consistent complaint of indigenous peoples with respect to prior consultation was that it was not sufficiently upstreamed, and that women did not sufficiently participate in it, Mr. Murillo Martinez noted.  There was a huge challenge in managing social protests by indigenous peoples.  What strategies did the State have in that respect?

Turning to the issue of media and freedom of expression, the State had the responsibility to address television programmes that denigrated the dignity of Afro-Peruvian people, Mr. Murillo Martinez stressed.

An Expert inquired about the percentage of the budget dedicated to education, and about the educational needs of Afro-Peruvians.  Despite the legal framework of equality of citizens, the Committee remained troubled by the fact that Afro-Peruvians continued to face structural gaps and poverty, and that they remained unrecognized by the Constitution as a separate group.  How could the very low educational outcome for Afro-Peruvians be improved (only some 3.3 per cent completed their education)?  How did the State plan to address the high school dropout rates in rural areas?  In what way was the population of African descent in Peru different from the one in Colombia?

Who were the owners of extractive industries in Peru, especially of foreign mining companies?  Were Peruvian policies in line with the United Nations Guidelines on Business and Human Rights?  Did private security forces have the same limits on the use of force?  Did civil liabilities apply to foreign companies?  What percentage of the productive land in Peru was owned and controlled by indigenous communities?

Was the fact that there were 38 indigenous alphabets an attempt to make them more Spanish/Castilian?  Were there any Roma in Peru?

There was information that 50 per cent of one of the isolated indigenous communities was affected by diseases brought by settlers, who might have been paid by extractive industries, one Expert noted.

Experts also inquired about the establishment of a more independent mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders, improved access to healthcare by migrants, the shortfall in the collection of data on forced labour, and training on forced labour.

One Expert warned that the abuse of freedom of expression should not be allowed to undermine the human dignity of individuals or peoples.    

What was the representation of women in the legislative and executive branches, and at the municipal level?  Did women enjoy freedom of association, and did they have access to justice?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation emphasized that the Government guaranteed access to healthcare to all people on the territory of Peru without any preconditions and regardless of their migration status.  There was a small population of Roma in the country that had first arrived in the nineteenth century.

Women in Peru were not marginalized.  On the contrary, the Government had been doing its utmost to empower women in various spheres of life.  In the executive branch, there were five female ministers out of 18 ministers, while out of 130 members of the Parliament, 36 were women.  In the Supreme Court, four out of 20 judges were women.  Thus, there was an increasing political representation of women, and women participated in non-profit organizations and businesses.

CLAUDIO DE LA PUENTE RIBEYRO, Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stated that the alleged intention of the State to make indigenous languages more Spanish was not true.  The authorities wanted to preserve those languages.  Mr. de La Puente Ribeyro stressed the important contribution of Afro-Peruvians to Peruvian culture and society.  As for mercury pollution, he said that there was no credible link between illegal mining and such pollution.  The top five producers of gold, copper and zinc operated in Peru and carried out their activities in a regular fashion.    

MIGUEL ANGEL SORIA FUERTE, Deputy Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, clarified that Afro-Peruvians had the right to prior consultation.  In line with the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169, that right was applied to communities of people of African descent brought to Peru from Suriname during the colonial period.  The Peruvian Government respected the binding provisions of international law and was committed to uphold those norms in the case of Afro-Peruvians.  Mr. Soria Fuerte reiterated that two days ago a bill had been presented to modify the Constitution and recognize Afro-Peruvians as a separate people.

Television programmes which disseminated negative stereotypes about Afro-Peruvians concerned the Government, Mr. Soria Fuerte noted, adding that the authorities had held many discussions about that problem.

Concluding Remarks

PASTOR ELIAS MURILLO MARTINEZ, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Peru, welcomed the legislative initiatives of Peru, notably those on constitutional recognition of Afro-Peruvians, access to justice, cultural education, and a draft law on inter-cultural coordination of justice.  Mr. Murillo Martinez encouraged the State party to consider including indigenous peoples in the deliberations on climate change, and include Afro-Peruvians in the implementation of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.   It was positive that Peru had ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  There remained a huge problem of violence against women, and of land ownership by indigenous peoples.

MIGUEL ANGEL SORIA FUERTE, Deputy Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Peru, thanked Committee Experts for their questions, which would help the country come up with better public policies.  Since 1974 Peru had been showing before United Nations treaty bodies progressive efforts to guarantee human rights to its people.

NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and encouraged the State party to take all the necessary steps to follow on various recommendations of the Committee.  Mr. Amir reminded that the Committee would ask for immediate follow-up on several recommendations.
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