CERD Concluding Observations Address Discrimination Against Native Americans

The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) included several recommendations focused on discrimination against Native Americans in its concluding observations on the latest periodic report submitted by the United States. It expressed particular concerns about persistent sexual violence against Native American women, the failure of the U.S. to consult with indigenous peoples before taking actions on lands of cultural and religious significance to them, and the lack of follow up on its earlier recommendations on the situation of Western Shoshone indigenous peoples and their lands. Its recommendations included:

26. The Committee recommends that the State party increase its efforts to prevent and punish violence and abuse against women belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities, inter alia by:

(i) setting up and adequately funding prevention and early assistance centres, counselling services and temporary shelters;

(ii) providing specific training for those working within the criminal justice system, including police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges, and medical personnel;

(iii) undertaking information campaigns to raise awareness among women belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities about the mechanisms and procedures provided for in national legislation on racism and discrimination; and

(iv) ensuring that reports of rape and sexual violence against women belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities, and in particular Native American women, are independently, promptly and thoroughly investigated, and that perpetrators are prosecuted and appropriately punished.

The Committee requests the State party to include information on the results of these measures and on the number of victims, perpetrators, convictions, and the types of sanctions imposed, in its next periodic report.

29. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures – in consultation with indigenous peoples concerned and their representatives chosen in accordance with their own procedures – to ensure that activities carried out in areas of spiritual and cultural significance to Native Americans do not have a negative impact on the enjoyment of their rights under the Convention.

The Committee further recommends that the State party recognise the right of Native Americans to participate in decisions affecting them, and consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned before adopting and implementing any activity in areas of spiritual and cultural significance to Native Americans. While noting the position of the State party with regard to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/RES/61/295), the Committee finally recommends that the declaration be used as a guide to interpret the State party’s obligations under the Convention relating to indigenous peoples.