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Colombia Supreme Court landmark ruling in favour of Afro-Colombians

17 October 2008

A landmark racial discrimination case has been won by a group of Afro-Colombians who were barred entry into Bogotá nightclubs on the basis of their colour.

In April 2008 the Afro-Colombian students, who were taking part in an experiment organized by the University of the Andes, were refused entry at three Bogotá nightclubs by staff claiming they needed a private party invitation or a membership card. However, when fellow students who were not Afro-descendants attempted entry to the very same clubs, they were given free access by the door staff.

Armed with recorded evidence from the experiment, the Racial Discrimination Observatory, based at the University, took the case to the Colombian Supreme Court in the hope of exposing the latent racism present at many levels in Colombian society.

The Court ruled that the nightclubs had violated the right to equality, honour and human dignity of the seven Afro-Colombians and furthermore owed the defendants a public apology for the humiliation they had suffered. Significantly it also ordered both the Colombian government and Congress to adopt measures to prevent racial discrimination towards its citizens.

César Rodríguez Garavito, from the Racial Disrimination Observatory, says, "The judgment is a landmark victory for Afro-Colombians asserting their right to live a life free from discrimination. It is a first for the city of Bogotá and is key in combating discriminatory practices common in bars, supermarkets and other public places in Colombia."

On 23 October the Racial Discrimination Observatory will present its findings on racism and human rights in Colombia to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights.

Read more in Spanish