Press Release 181/16
IACHR Repudiates Murder of Defender of Trans Rights in Guatemala
December 2, 2016
Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) repudiates the murder of Evelyn Zulma, a trans leader and activist who belonged to the organization OTRANS Reinas de la Noche (“Queens of the Night”) in Guatemala. She was a beneficiary of precautionary measures granted by the IACHR on February 3, 2006. The Commission urges the Guatemalan State to investigate these acts of violence and prosecute and punish those responsible.
According to information received by the IACHR, the body of Evelyn Zulma Alegría Robles was found in her home on November 18, with bruises on her arms and around her jaw, her teeth missing, and her hair pulled out. The Guatemalan National Institute of Forensic Sciences (INACIF) informed the family that Evelyn Zulma Alegría Robles’ throat had been cut and that the toxicology report showed traces of high toxicity apparently consistent with the administration of poison.
“The State of Guatemala should investigate this brutal murder with due diligence and ensure that justice is pursued, both for the murder of Evelyn Zulma Alegría Robles and for all acts of violence reported against trans women in Guatemala,” said Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren Praeli, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Persons (LGBTI). “The State should ensure that there is no impunity for this crime, or for any crime against trans women. To that end, it should clear up what happened and unmask possible motives of prejudice, as this is a critical component of the right to access justice and obtain reparation,” he added.
The Commission is dismayed by the information it has received regarding an exponential increase in recent killings of trans women in Guatemala. Last week, there were three such deaths, characterized by disturbing levels of brutality and extreme cruelty. Moreover, the IACHR continues to receive troubling information concerning the situation of human rights defenders who advocate for the rights of LGBT persons in Guatemala. Various LGBT rights organizations in that country have said publicly that they are targets of violence, threats, attacks on their premises, and harassment because of their work as activists.
The Inter-American Commission reiterates that States have the obligation to investigate acts of this nature on their own initiative and to punish the perpetrators and masterminds. The IACHR takes note of the investigations underway in the killing of Evelyn Zulma Alegría Robles, and calls on the State of Guatemala to continue investigating with due diligence. The State should ensure that the investigations are conducted with a differentiated focus, pursuing lines of investigation that consider the hypothesis that such killings could have been motivated by prejudice based on gender identity or expression and/or the victim’s actual or perceived gender expression, or by the person’s work as a human rights defender.
The Inter-American Commission also calls on the State of Guatemala to develop investigation guidelines or protocols that include indications or elements that would assist police officers, prosecutors, and other investigators in determining whether a crime was committed based on prejudice against the victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or expression.
Finally, the IACHR urges the State to adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and safety of those who defend the human rights of trans persons in Guatemala. In its country report Situation of Human Rights in Guatemala: Diversity, Inequality and Exclusion, the IACHR expressed its concern regarding the situation of constant harassment and threats suffered by human rights defenders and the large number of acts of violence, noting that 55% of those attacked were women.
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.