Honduras: A police licence to kill?
Despite having been threatened with death by another police officer unless she withdrew her statement, the witness, known as 'China', had her witness protection withdrawn at the end of August, apparently at the request of the local police.
The local transgender community are extremely concerned for China's safety since the police officer charged with murder has been released from custody, and a local LGBT support organisation has received anonymous calls threatening to bomb their office because of the case.
More than 200 gay and transsexual sex workers are estimated to have been killed in Honduras since 1991. Few of these cases have been officially registered, and fewer still investigated or the perpetrators brought to justice.
The ending of police protection for China not only puts her at great personal risk, but also threatens any chance of bringing to justice those responsible for the murder of Ericka in July.
Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, said:
'Ignoring these crimes sends a signal to the wider community that these deaths are not important and that hatred and violence towards the LGBT community is acceptable.
'The Honduran authorities must act to show that these crimes of hate will not be tolerated, and that perpetrators, whoever they may be, will be investigated and prosecuted.'
Ericka, a transgender sex worker and member of Comunidad Gay Sampedrana (San Pedro Sula's Gay Community), was shot dead on 15 July 2003 in San Pedro Sula. The 19-year-old was attacked by two policemen who were 'apparently looking for the services of a prostitute', and got into an argument with Ericka. Several days later the two policemen were arrested and charged, one with murder, the other as an accomplice.
China had vital information about the murder. Her initial testimony lead to the arrest of the two policemen. The harassment and threats against her and Comunidad Gau Sampedrana began after that.
There is considerable concern about violations of the basic rights of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people in Honduras. LGBT groups have been refused legal status because they 'breach morality, public order, proper behaviour'.
In June 2002 the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions expressed grave concern at allegations of murders of sexual minorities and the lack of investigations into these killings.
Amnesty International is asking people to take action by writing to the following authorities calling for the murder of Ericka (Erick David Yanez) to be fully investigated, urging them to take steps to protect China's (Elkyn Suarez Mejia) safety for as long as is necessary, and expressing concern for the safety of other members of Comunidad Gay Sampedrana. Appeals should be sent to:
Dr Roy Edmundo Medina,
Fiscal General de la Republica
Colonia Loma del Guijaro,
Fax: +504 221 5666