As Hondurans sort through the wreckage of human rights and civil liberties violations that occurred following the June 28th coup, one pressing issue the country will have to address is the wave of violence directed against members of the LGBT community.
According to Human Rights Watch, since June 28th the National Criminal Investigation Department in Tegucigalpa has documented at least seven killings of transgender and gay people in Honduras. Local LGBT advocates report at least nine additional killings during that six-month period. In contrast, HRW documented the killing of 17 transgender women in Honduras between 2005 and 2008, a figure that already demonstrated a shocking pattern of abuse.
"The mounting violence against people who look or love differently in Honduras reflects a crisis of intolerance," says Juliana Cano Nieto, HRW researcher on LGBT issues.
The causes of these all of these killings are not yet determined. One theory is in a context following the coup in which the rule of law was abandoned, existing extreme prejudices, whether by members of the general public or members of the police or army, were unleashed, and law enforcement failed to prevent or sanction these abuses. Three of the killings occurred directly after the coup. In several cases, authorities refused to conduct autopsies claiming fear of HIV, despite existing regulations requiring autopsies to take place.
In one prominent case, on December 13, Walter Trochez was shot in the chest by a drive-by gunman, then taken to a hospital where he later died, according to Amnesty International and Honduran human rights groups. Trochez had been beaten and threatened December 2 by four armed men who interrogated him and told him they had orders to kill him. Trochez was involved in documenting abuses against members of the LGBT community and abuses committed during protests against the coup. Trochez was “the HIV-positive gay activist who got the call every time a transgender sex worker was murdered on the streets of Honduras. His phone rang often… Now he is among the victims,” as Frances Robles tell his story in the Miami Herald.
The incoming Lobo administration must: promptly and effectively investigate these killings and establish a working group including members of the LGBT and human rights community to investigate why this pattern occurred and propose measures to address it, which must be effectively implemented. Human rights training for the police and judiciary regarding sexual orientation and gender identity is one necessary step.