Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern about Attacks against LGBTI Persons and other Forms of Violence and Restrictions against LGBTI Organizations in the Americas

February 27, 2014

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is deeply concerned by the troubling information received during the last four months (October, November and December 2013 and January 2014) on disturbing levels of violence and brutal attacks perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons (LGBTI) and against organizations and/or individuals who defend their human rights in the Americas. The Commission urges OAS Member States to adopt urgent and effective measures to prevent and tackle this violence, especially when it affects LGBTI human rights defenders.

In the last four months, the Commission has received an increasing number of reports of attacks against LGBTI organizations working in the field. Reports of such attacks have reached the Commission from different sources in various OAS Member States. For example, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an LGBTI NGO reported that their office was viciously ransacked and its members physically attacked, threatened and harassed. Attackers allegedly hurled homophobic slurs while stealing computers and materials used by LGBTI activists. In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, human rights defenders of LGBTI persons and persons living with HIV were forced to close down their office after being continually threatened and attacked. During the previous months, several members of the organization had reportedly been physically assaulted, followed in the street, attacked by police agents, and, in July of 2013, a child of one of their leaders had been kidnapped. Further reports indicate that in January 2014, a gang broke into the offices of a Nicaraguan trans organization in Managua, allegedly attacking members of the organization, stealing materials and damaging property.

In November 2013, a trans woman and human rights defender was brutally attacked at the door of her home by a group of men and women in Antofagasta, Chile. In the same month, a trans man was assaulted and attacked by a group of men when he was on his way to a fund-raising event organized by an LGBTI NGO in Lima, Peru.

The Commission is also concerned about other obstacles to the activities of those who promote and defend the rights of LGBTI persons. In Monterrey, Mexico, an LGBTI student organization was denied permission by a private university to operate on campus and promote awareness against homophobia. In Lima, Peru, a member of the Metropolitan Council verbally attacked another member of the Council who insisted on including a reference to LGBTI persons in a non-discrimination bill. In California, United States, a female teacher was allegedly dismissed for openly defending LGBTI students who were being bullied.

In cases involving serious and urgent situations, the IACHR may request that a State adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons under the jurisdiction of the State concerned, independently of any pending petition or case. During the past several years, the Commission has granted 11 precautionary measures to protect LGBTI human rights defenders and members of LGBTI organizations in States such as Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, México and Guatemala. In this connection, the Commission wishes to highlight that members of organizations that promote and defend the rights of LGBTI persons play a fundamental role in the region, both in terms of public oversight to ensure compliance with the States’ obligations and, in general, in the process of furthering equality for LGBTI persons.

Additionally, the IACHR recalls that all OAS Member States have agreed to ensure adequate protection for human rights defenders who work on issues of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations committed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity in OAS General Assembly Resolutions AG/RES. 2504 (XXXIX-O/09), AG/RES. 2600 (XL-O/10), AG/RES. 2653 (XLI-O/11), AG/RES. 2721 (XLII-O/12) and AG/RES. 2807 (XLIII-O/13).[1]

The Commission was also informed that, during the months of October, November and December 2013 and January 2014, at least 58 trans women were killed in Argentina (2), Belize (1), Brazil (39), Chile (1), Colombia (2), Honduras (1), Jamaica (1), Mexico (3), Peru (2), United States (2), Uruguay (1) and Venezuela (3). Furthermore, reports indicate that at least 58 gay men were killed during the same period of time in Brazil (50), Chile (3), Cuba (1), Honduras (1), Mexico (2) and Peru (1). Two lesbian women and a bisexual man were also killed in Brazil. Moreover, violent physical attacks against trans women were reported in different provinces of Argentina (5), Brazil (1), Colombia (1) and the United States (2). The Commission received information about brutal attacks against gay men in Brazil (1), Chile (1), Mexico (1), United States (1), and Uruguay (1).

The Inter-American Commission recalls that it is the States' obligation to investigate killings and other acts of violence against LGBTI persons and sanction those responsible. The IACHR urges the States to open lines of investigation that take into account whether these murders and acts of violence were committed because of the gender identity, gender expression and/or sexual orientation of the victims. In general terms, the Commission notes that there are problems in the investigation of these crimes. In this vein, the Inter-American Commission reiterates that the ineffectiveness of the state’s response fosters high rates of impunity, which in turn lead to the chronic repetition of such crimes, leaving the victims and their families defenseless.

In its Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, the Commission emphasized that attacks against leaders or members of LGBTI organizations have a serious chilling effect on such defenders and LGBTI persons.[2] This fear is exacerbated by the impunity in which suck attacks usually remain; an impunity which only serves to perpetuate such human rights violations.

The IACHR calls upon Member States to conduct exhaustive analysis of every possible theory of a crime committed against LGBTI human rights defenders and thus establish whether the motive for it was the victim’s promotion and defense of human rights, and to keep records of violence committed against LGBTI persons.

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.

[1] These resolutions are available at: www.oas.org/en/iachr/lgtbi/links
[2] IACHR, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc.66, 31 december 2011. Available at: www.oas.org/en/iachr/defenders/docs/pdf/defenders2011.pdf

No. 23/14