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Spain: End racial profiling and invisibility of people of African descent, UN experts urge

Spain: African descent visit

26 February 2018


GENEVA/MADRID (26 February 2018) – A state of invisibility coupled with everyday racial discrimination faced by people of African descent exacerbates their suffering and hinders their legitimate quest for equality, a group of UN human rights experts said after visiting Spain.

The statement follows a visit from 19 to 26 February by a delegation of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which travelled to Madrid, Barcelona, Almeria and Ceuta to gain first-hand knowledge of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance affecting people of African descent in Spain.

“There is an urgent need for political will and commitment from the highest level of leadership in Spain,” said Sabelo Gumedze, who chairs the Working Group.

The Working Group found that a lack of disaggregated data was hindering the identification of groups suffering discrimination and, therefore, their effective protection.

“We noted, among other measures, the effort by the Government to collect information on hate crimes and combating hate speech, and that racial motivation is an aggravating circumstance in Spanish legislation,” Mr. Gumedze said.

The delegation, which included human rights experts Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry and Ricardo Sunga, welcomed the work of the Spanish Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia and the National Ombudsperson’s Office.

However, the Working Group found that racial profiling was a daily reality for people of African descent. Time and again, the experts heard how people of African descent were being disproportionally stopped for identity checks in the streets, at ports and on public transport, in comparison to people of other ethnicities.

The Working Group was also concerned at the effects of the Law on Citizens’ Security on the rights of people of African descent.  “The deterrent provisions of the Law on Citizens’ Security have eventually pushed people into self-censorship, fomenting under-reporting of discriminatory acts and resulting in a failure to investigate and prosecute perpetrators and to provide redress to victims,” said Mr. Gumedze.

During the eight-day mission, the Working Group also examined deficiencies in the protection of migrants and asylum seekers of African descent coming to Spain.

They also promoted the International Decade for people of African descent, which runs from 2015 to 2024 and aims both to highlight the contribution of people of African descent to societies and strengthen national, regional and international cooperation to ensure the human rights of people of African descent are respected, promoted and fulfilled.

The Working Group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018.


The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descentwas established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts:  Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa), current Chair-Rapporteur; Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland); Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica), Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines), and Ms. Marie Evelyne Petrus-Barry (France).

The Working Group 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 that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights country page – Spain

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This year is the 70th anniversaryof the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human