Press Release

IACHR Condemns Killing of LGBT Human Rights Defender in Honduras

June 15, 2016

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of René Martínez, a defender of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) persons in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The Commission urges Honduras to take specific steps to address, effectively and with due diligence, the pattern of violence against LGBT human rights defenders, as well as the general context of violence against LGBT persons.

According to information received by the Commission, the body of René Martínez was identified on June 3, 2016, at the morgue in San Pedro Sula, showing signs of strangulation and asphyxiation. Members of his family were said to have reported him missing on June 1. According to the information available, René Martínez was a prominent defender of the human rights of LGBT persons in Honduras and coordinated a violence prevention center in San Pedro Sula.

The pattern of violence against defenders of the rights of LGBT persons in Honduras prompted the IACHR to issue a press release earlier this year. In that communiqué, the Commission urged the authorities to implement effective prevention, investigation, and punishment measures in connection with this pattern of violence. In addition, in a public hearing before the IACHR on the human rights situation of LGBT persons in Honduras, the participating organizations denounced the serious situation of impunity in cases involving killings and other violence against LGBTI persons in that country.

On June 3, 2016, Commissioner José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez met with rights defenders and civil society organizations from Honduras, including LGBT human rights defenders. In that meeting, the participants spoke to him about the obstacles LGBT persons face in gaining access to justice for different reasons, including discrimination on the part of the authorities based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the stigmatization and criminalization of those who defend the human rights of LGBT persons.

LGBT human rights defenders are more vulnerable to acts of violence due to a combination of factors related to the perception of their sexual orientation and gender identity; their role as rights defenders; and the issues they support and advocate for, as these challenge traditional social structures around sexuality and gender which are deeply rooted in the dominant cultures of the countries across the region. As the IACHR established in its report Violence against LGBTI Persons in the Americas, States have the obligation to guarantee the security of human rights defenders who are especially vulnerable, by implementing specific measures for their protection.

The IACHR has been following the situation of violence against LGBT human rights defenders for a number of years. In its report Situation of Human Rights in Honduras, published this year, the IACHR called attention to anti-LGBT attacks and harassment “by groups seeking to bring about structural discrimination against them through violence,” and also reported that LGBT people are “repeatedly subjected to arbitrary arrests by the national police.”

The Inter-American Commission reminds the State that it has an obligation to conduct an investigation of its own accord and with due diligence to shed light on the motives and circumstances surrounding the death of René Martínez, and to identify and punish those responsible. The IACHR also urges the State once again to immediately adopt urgent measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and security to LGBT human rights defenders and, where necessary, their family members. The IACHR also urges the Honduran State to adopt legislative and public policy measures to effectively protect those who defend the rights of LGBT persons.

A principal, autonomous body of the 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.

No. 078/16