Vicky Hernández Case Will Be Heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
[Tegucigalpa/Washington, D.C. - May 6, 2019] On April 30, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented the case of the transfemicide of Vicky Hernández, litigated by La Red Lésbica Cattrachas and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case has been submitted to the Court given the lack of compliance by the State of Honduras to the IACHR’s recommendations, particularly the lack of investigation into the circumstances of Vicky’s death, and the State’s failure to identify or prosecute those responsible for the crime.
Vicky Hernández was a trans woman, sex worker, and activist with Unidad Color Rosa, Colectivo TTT, a group that works to defend the human rights of trans people in Honduras. Vicky was a victim of an extrajudicial killing in San Pedro Sula, the night of June 28, 2009, in the context of the coup in Honduras, during curfew where the country was under the control of public security officers. The death of Vicky Hernández marks the onset of a relentless rise of violent homicides of lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, and intersex people (LGTTBI), which continues even today. A decade later, the authorities’ investigative efforts to clarify the circumstances of Vicky Hernández’s death have been negligent and inadequate.
Vicky Hernández’s case represents the different facets of discrimination and social exclusion that thousands of LGTTBI people face, in Honduras and throughout the region. The intersection of Vicky Hernández’s gender expression, identity as a woman, her poverty and lack of opportunities, the violence she suffered as a sex worker, and the vulnerability of being HIV positive intertwined not only during her life but also in her extrajudicial execution and the absolute impunity that has followed her death.
The absence of justice in the case of Vicky Hernández is evidence that Honduran society continues to exclude people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations based on prejudice, norms, and social practices. In the decade since Vicky’s extrajudicial execution, 312 deaths of LGTTBI people for hate crimes recognized, of which only 67 cases have been judicialized, resulting in fewer than 20 condemnatory sentences. Added to this, LGTTBI people are victims of structural violence from the State through legal frameworks that exclude them from human rights —such as equal marriage, the ability to change their name or gender identity, and the absence of social protection policies to enable equal access to education, health services, security, and work.
For Red Lésbica Cattrachas, the long and turbulent road that we have traveled in the fight for justice in the case of Vicky Hernández marks a milestone in the defense of the rights of LGTTBI people at both a national and international level. Although it has not been easy, this case has become an opportunity to demand the recognition of the human dignity of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. For the first time in a decade, we have the possibility to obtain justice through a sentence that recognizes and sanctions the violations that occurred in the transfemicide of Vicky Hernández. In doing so, we can lay the foundation for the comprehensive development of Honduran society, and the construction of an inclusive State that, without any restrictions, complies with the principle of equality before the law.
The case of Vicky Hernández will further enable the Inter-American Court to develop new jurisprudence, particularly around gender expression, sexual orientation, and the freedom to develop and represent one’s gender identity as a dimension of the fundamental right of freedom of expression, recognized in Article 13 of the American Convention. The restriction on the freedom of expression, both of gender identity and of sexual orientation, affects not just trans people but more generally all LGTTBI people, including children and teenagers.
This case also creates a possibility that the Inter-American Court will strengthen the obligations for the required due diligence in relation to the investigation of extrajudicial killings and acts of violence against people at a high risk of harm.
“A favorable decision from the Inter-American Court in this case will send a clear message to Honduras and other States of the region on their duty to address violence against LGBTTI people,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy 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,” she added.
The Red Lésbica Cattrachas and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights will continue fighting for truth, justice, and reparations before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in memory of Vicky Herández and in representation of her family, as well as on behalf of thousands of victims of transphobic violence in Honduras and throughout the Americas.
For more information:
Indyra Mendoza Aguilar