Press Release

IACHR Brings Honduras Case before IA Court

May 9, 2019

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Washington, DC—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IA Court) over case 13.051, Vicky Hernández and her family, involving Honduras.

The case concerns the extrajudicial execution of Vicky Hernández, a trans woman and human rights defender, between the night of June 28 and the early hours of June 29, 2009, while a curfew was in force. The IACHR established that Vicky Hernández’s death took place against the backdrop of two key factors. First, the context of violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Honduras, in which many such acts are committed by the country’s law enforcement agencies and, second, the context of the 2009 coup d’état. The IACHR deemed that given these circumstances, the fact that the country’s streets are controlled entirely by law enforcement agencies, and the lack of a judicial clarification of events, there are sufficient reasons to conclude that the state is directly responsible for the death of Vicky Hernández. Likewise, given the characteristics of the case, the IACHR determined that what happened to Vicky Hernández was an act of violence prompted by prejudice based on her gender identity and gender expression. Furthermore, the IACHR established that the Honduran state did not investigate into the facts of the case appropriately, with due diligence, and within a reasonable period of time, and the case thus remains in impunity.

In the Merits Report, the IACHR concluded that the state is responsible for the violation of the right to life, personal integrity, judicial guarantees, honor and dignity, freedom of expression, equality and nondiscrimination, and judicial protection. These rights are guaranteed in the American Convention on Human Rights.

The IACHR recommended that the Honduran state make comprehensive reparations for both the tangible and intangible aspects of the human rights violations described out in the report by adopting measures of economic compensation and redress. It also recommended that the state provide the physical and mental healthcare measures needed to help Vicky Hernández’s family with the recovery process, should they so wish, and that any such measures should be agreed upon with them. The IACHR also recommended that the criminal investigation into events should be continued diligently, effectively, and within a reasonable period of time in order to completely clarify events, identify all those who may be responsible for them, and impose the corresponding sanctions for the human rights violations set out in the Merits Report. As it goes about complying with these recommendations, the state should take the multiple shortcomings established in the IACHR’s Merits Report into consideration, including the design of logical lines of investigation referred to therein.

With regard to mechanisms of nonrepetition, the IACHR recommended that Honduras adopt legislative, administrative, or other types of measures to enable the self-perceived gender identity of trans persons to be officially recognized, taking inter-American standards on this matter into account; that it adopt legislative, administrative, or other types of measures to enable it to adequately diagnose the context of violence faced by LGBT persons in Honduras; that it provide a comprehensive policy for the prevention and effective eradication of such violence by addressing its structural causes; that it design education, awareness-raising, and training programs for law enforcement agencies around prejudicial violence against LGBT people; that it establish adequate accountability mechanisms for law enforcement agencies on prejudicial violence against LGBT people; and that it take all measures needed to ensure access to justice in cases of violence against LGBT people based on inter-American standards in this area.

The IACHR filed the application with the court on April 30, 2019, as it deemed that the state of Honduras had not complied with the recommendations set out in the Merits Report.

This case gives the IA Court the opportunity to develop jurisprudence on violence against LGBT people, particularly trans women. This is the first case involving the death of a trans woman at the hands of state law enforcement officers in the broader context of violence against trans people in Honduras. The IA Court will also be able to hear about another of the serious implications of the coup d’état in Honduras, namely the abuses against life and personal integrity on the part of state law enforcement agencies.

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 and to defend 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.

No. 112/19