Mexico: Activist murdered in apparent homophobic hate crime, others at risk

Amnesty International supporters are writing urgent appeals to the Mexican authorities calling for protection for his partner and other activists, and for a full investigation into the murder.

Health worker Octavio Acuña campaigned on various human rights issues, and also worked for the Asociación Queretana de Educacion para la Sexualidad, or Aquesex (Quereteran Association for Sexual Education).

On 21 June he was found bleeding to death from multiple stab wounds in the condom shop (condonería) he ran in Querétaro. The shop was also a centre for young people to get information on sexual rights and HIV/AIDS issues.

Nothing was reportedly stolen from the shop, indicating that the motive was not robbery.

Earlier this year the shop's window was reportedly sprayed with graffiti and its neon sign smashed. On another occasion the premises were burgled.

In 2004 Octavio Acuña and his partner had filed a complaint with the local state-run Human Rights Commission, the Comision Estatal de Derechos Humanos (CEDH) alleging that municipal police officers had discriminated against them by stopping them in a public park and telling them that "their sort" should not be there.

The CEDH reportedly took no action on the case. A few weeks before he was killed Octavio Acuña had spoken at a public meeting, condemning this inaction and the discrimination he had experienced at the hands of the CEDH and the local authorities.

Local human rights organizations have also reported that another gay rights activist was drugged and beaten on the weekend following Octavio Acuña's murder in what may also have been a homophobic attack.

In the past the authorities have reportedly treated attacks on gay people as "crimes of passion", seeking to blame them on the victims' partners or other members of the gay community, without carrying out serious impartial investigations to establish whether the offences were hate crimes.

Background information

For many years, campaigners for the rights of sexual minorities in Mexico have reported high levels of homophobic violence, particularly against gay men, in many parts of the country.

The discrimination which many people suffer when reporting such incidents often reflects official unwillingness to take allegations of homophobic violenceseriously.

Federal anti-discrimination legislation has begun to improve the legal framework for protecting the rights of sexual minorities, but the police are still not taking homophobic hate crimes seriously enough.

Many state governments, includingthat of Querétaro, have failed to enact anti-discrimination legislation, leaving members of sexual minorities without the resources to challenge discrimination by state officials.

Amnesty International members are:

  • expressing concern that the murder of Octavio Acuña on 21 June may have been a homophobic hate crime, and calling for an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation
  • calling on the authorities to guarantee the safety his partner, members the Asociación Queretana de Educacion para la Sexualidad and others campaigning for the rights of sexual minorities in the city, and to give them the protection they have requested
  • insisting that all lines of investigation into the murder of Octavio Acuña and other apparent hate crimes are followed impartially and effectively, so that partners or other members of the gay community are not unfairly blamed or harassed
  • reminding the authorities that the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without any restrictions or fear of reprisals

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