Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of Human Rights Defender of Trans Persons in El Salvador

June 8, 2015

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing in El Salvador of Francela Méndez, a trans woman and defender of human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons. According to the information received, so far this year at least seven trans persons have been killed in El Salvador, in circumstances yet undetermined. The information available reveals the existence of a high level of impunity with respect to the crimes against trans persons in the country.

According to publicly available information, Francela Méndez was an active defender of the human rights of the transgender community in El Salvador. She joined the board of “Colectivo Alejandría” since its foundation in 2010, an organization dedicated to promote the rights of LGBTI persons. She was also involved in the implementation of a program against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and she was part of the Salvadoran Human Rights Defenders Network. The information received indicates that she was killed by unknown persons on May 30, 2015, when she was at a friend’s house, who was also killed.  

The IACHR urges the State to initiate an exhaustive investigation to be conducted with due diligence, and to prosecute and punish those responsible. In particular, the IACHR encourages the State of El Salvador to follow lines of investigation that take into account whether the killing of Francela Méndez is related to her work in defense of the human rights of LGBTI persons, or whether it was committed because of her gender identity. The Commission welcomes the message by the Attorney General for the Defense of Human Rights of El Salvador, David Morales, who according to media reports, had requested the District Attorney’s Office to investigate this killing without discrimination, and reportedly stated that the impunity of the killings of trans persons encourages their repetition.

The IACHR notes the efforts of the State to protect and promote the rights of LGBTI persons in recent years, such as the signing of Executive Order No. 56/2010 to prevent discrimination within the Public Administration, the creation of the Sexual Diversity Unit within the Ministry of Social Inclusion and the establishment of the Permanent Roundtable for the Human Rights of LGBTI persons within the Office of the Attorney General for the Defense of Human Rights. Notwithstanding, the information available to the IACHR indicates that violence against LGBTI persons in El Salvador has exacerbated in recent years.

In the context of countries with high levels of insecurity and organized crime, it is particularly important for States to adopt a differentiated approach to guarantee the rights to life and integrity of LGBTI persons and defenders of human rights of LGBTI persons, who, as informed, are particularly vulnerable to violence by armed groups.

The Commission urges the State of El Salvador to take additional measures to combat discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons. It is necessary to adopt a gender identity law and other measures to eradicate existing social prejudices about gender identity and sexual orientation.  It is also essential to advance in the implementation and adoption of legislative measures and public policies, among others, which afford effective protection to defenders of LGBTI rights. The IACHR recommends the State to produce official data on violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

Attacks on leaders of LGBTI organizations have the effect of intimidating them and LGBTI persons in general. This fear is exacerbated by the impunity in which these attacks usually remain, resulting in their repetition. The work of human rights defenders is critical for building a solid and lasting democratic society, and defenders play a leading role in the process to fully implement the rule of law and to strengthen democracy. In addition, the IACHR urges the State to adopt all  necessary measures to ensure the right to life, physical integrity, and security of human rights defenders, including those who work on issues related to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

* This is a corrected version of the press release originally issued. The correction was made on the same date that it was issued.

No. 063/15