STRATEGIC LITIGATION

Trans Woman Extrajudicially Executed

HondurasGender-Based Violence

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Court Holds Honduras Accountable for the Murder of Trans Activist Vicky Hernández—Setting a Precedent for LGBTQ+ Rights in Latin America

In the midst of the 2009 Honduran coup d’état, with the streets closed to all but military and police forces, trans woman Vicky Hernández’s body was found with a gunshot wound to the head.

Evidence indicates that Vicky was extrajudicially executed—killed by the Honduran state without any legal process—because of a highly discriminatory culture against trans people in Honduras. She was a trans woman and an HIV-positive sex worker, and she worked with Unidad Color Rosa, Colectivo TTT, a group defending the human rights of trans people in Honduras.

The investigation of Vicky’s death has been riddled with deficiencies and inaction, demonstrating that state-sponsored violence and discrimination against trans women continues even after their deaths.

Why is this a key case?

Vicky’s story—and the impunity the state has granted her killers—is all too familiar in Honduras. In the decade since Vicky’s extrajudicial execution, more than 300 LGBTQ+ people have been targeted and killed for their gender identity; of those, only 67 cases have been prosecuted, resulting in fewer than 20 convictions.

“A favorable decision will send a clear message to Honduras and other states of the region on their duty to address violence against LGBTQ+ people,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of RFK Human Rights. “We believe that the fight against impunity is fundamental to break the cycle of violence that poisons our society and denies every person equality and dignity.”

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Vicky’s Case?

On April 30, 2019, the IACHR presented the case, litigated by Red Lésbica Cattrachas and RFK Human Rights, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, alleging that the Honduran state failed to investigate Vicky’s death and to prosecute those responsible, and violated other rights, including Vicky’s right to freely and safely express her gender identity.

What is the Status of the Case?

The case went before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in November 2020 and was the first before the court involving the death of a trans person. On June 28, 2021, exactly 12 years after Vicky’s murder, the Court made a landmark ruling holding Honduras accountable for her death and issued a series of reparations, including financial support for Vicky’s family, that set a legal precedent for LGBTQ+ rights throughout the region.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras


Month/Year of filing

December 2012 (RFKHR joined as a co-counsel in 2015)


Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

Inter-American Court of Human Rights


Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)

Articles 1.1 (obligation to respect rights), 2 (domestic legal effects), 3 (right to juridical personality), 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 7 (right to personal liberty), 8 (right to a fair trial), 11 (right to privacy), 13 (freedom of thought and expression), 18 (right to a name), 24 (right to equal protection), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights


Article 7 (to live free of violence) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará”


Procedural stage

Pending judgment


Counsel

RFKHR and Red Lésbica Cattrachas