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IACHR Condemns Killings and Other Acts of Violence against Human Rights Defenders of LGBT Persons in Honduras

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR or Commission) condemns the killings of human rights defenders of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans persons (LGBT) which have taken place in recent months in Honduras. The Commission urges Honduras to adopt specific measures to effectively address the patterns of violence that exist against human rights defenders of LGBT persons. The IACHR is also concerned about the alleged acts of police violence against LGBT human rights defenders in Honduras.

On January 25, 2016, Paola Barraza was killed; she was a trans woman and human rights defender, member of the executive board of Asociación LGBT Arcoíris (Association LGBT Rainbow) in Comayagüela. According to the information received, unidentified people knocked on her door, asked her to come out and then shot her. Reportedly, on August 15, 2015, Paola Barraza survived an attempt on her life after being shot several times and receiving a bullet to her face nearby the offices of Asociación Arcoíris. The previous day, on the same place, another trans woman and human rights defender was allegedly assaulted, kicked and beaten with a tube and bare hands by military officials who had warned they would kill "all the gays of the organization." Another trans defender from the same organization, Angy Ferreira, was killed within a few blocks from the organization's headquarters while working distributing condoms to trans women in June 2015. On August 20th of 2015, human rights defender Marco Aurelio López was allegedly intercepted by a military vehicle when leaving Asociación Arcoíris' offices; he was allegedly beaten and raped by agents of the military police.

The Commission has become aware of at least five killings of defenders of LGBT persons' human rights in the months of July, August, and September of 2015: Juan Carlos Cruz Andara, Angy Ferreira, Violeta Rivas, Jorge Alberto Castillo y Gloria Carolina Hernández Vásquez. These killings occurred within context of high levels of violence due to prejudice against LGBT persons in Honduras. According to data compiled by civil society, 37 LGBT persons were allegedly killed in 2015 in Honduras.

The work of human rights defenders is essential for constructing and strengthening a solid and long-lasting democratic society. They have a major role in fully attaining the Rule of Law. Defenders of LGBT persons' rights are more vulnerable to suffering acts of violence due to a combination of factors related to their sexual orientation and gender identity, their role as defenders and the topics they support and work on; which challenge current traditional social structures around sexuality and gender that are rooted in the dominant cultures of the countries across the region. In its Report on Violence against LGBTI Persons in America, the Commission highlighted the States' duty to guaranteeing security to human rights defenders who are especially vulnerable by implementing specific measures for their protection based on the activities they carry out and the risks that they constantly face.

In its Report on the Human Rights Situation in Honduras, the IACHR highlighted that it had received "many complaints about violations in which defenders of the rights of LGBT people were constantly subjected to attacks and harassment by groups seeking to bring about structural discrimination against them through violence, and moreover -according to the complaints- were repeatedly subjected to arbitrary arrests by the national police." In the report, the IACHR urged the Honduran State to adopt legislative measures and public policies to effectively protect defenders the rights of LGBT human rights defenders. The Inter American Commission urges the Honduran State to adopt the necessary measures to guaranteeing the right to life, integrity and security to LGBT human rights defenders; and to adopt immediate measures to investigate, prosecute and punish the killings of LGBT human rights defenders with due diligence.

Further, the IACHR expresses its concern about the aggressions allegedly committed by state agents, according to LGBT human rights defenders. The Inter American Commission encourages the State to carry investigations with due diligence in order to identify the groups more prone to suffer police violence and implement effective measures to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation. The Commission reiterates that although disciplinary justice is important, particularly because of the message it sends, the disciplinary process cannot substitute the role of criminal justice in serious cases of human rights violations. Similarly, the IACHR encourages the Honduran State to include, within the mandatory programs of study required to be a police officer, information about LGBT persons as rights' bearers; the rights of LGBT persons and the duty to respect and protect their rights.

[Source: Inter American Commission on Human Rights, Washington, 07Mar16]

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