A criminal court in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, sentenced three police officers to 20 years imprisonment each for the murder of a transsexual woman. In Portland at least a 26th trans*person in the US lost her life this year.

According to a report by the Attorney General’s Office, the 29-year-old sex worker Camila Díaz is said to have been drunk and was seen loitering on January 31, 2019 – the police were called in. Arriving on the scene, three police officers handcuffed Díaz and put her in the patrol car, allegedly to take her home. However, she never arrived there. According to the public prosecutor’s office, Díaz was thrown out of the car on an expressway after being physically abused. A private individual found Díaz lying on the side of the road and brought her to a hospital, where she died three days later as a result of her injuries.

 

According to COMCAVIS Trans, a human rights organization that campaigns for the rights of LGBTIQ*s in El Salvador since 1993, about 600 people from the queer community of El Salvador have been victims of hate crimes. Out of 109 murders committed against LGBTIQ*s between December 2014 and March 2017, only 12 have been brought to court, and in no case have the perpetrators been convicted.

The verdict against the three police officers in the Díaz case is therefore a “milestone for the rights of transgender Salvadorans,” Cristian Gonzalez, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. This condemnation of this transfeminicide is a strong signal “that anti-transgender and generally anti-LGBT violence is not tolerated in the country”.

 

 

Human rights organisations were nevertheless disappointed because the case was not treated as a hate crime in court.

Since the reform of the penal code in 2015, hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity have been a separate criminal offence in El Salvador. Had the police officers been charged with them, they would have had to face harsher prison sentences of between 50 and 60 years. Roberto Zapata, General Secretary of the LGBTIQ* advocacy group AMATE El Salvador, said

“It leaves a bitter aftertaste that the prosecution has not classified the case as a hate crime.”

Bloody deed in Portland

 

On July 28th, the transgender woman Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears died a violent death in Portland, USA. The 32-year-old had attended a vigil only hours before her death, where a murdered black man was remembered. An incident is said to have occurred later in which other visitors to the vigil were also involved. Two people were injured, including Rhone-Spears – she died shortly afterwards. The police are now investigating the case as a murder.

This makes Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears at least the 26th transgender or non-binary person killed in the US this year. Many of the victims were black trans women. The organisation Human Rights Campaign, which has been collecting data on murders of trans people since 2013, sounded the alarm: in no other year has such a high number been reached as early as August. In addition, the number of unreported cases is said to be much higher, as it is every year.

Tori Cooper, HRC director for the Transgender Initiative, was appalled by the current levels of violence. In a statement, she explained that it cannot go on like this – the community urgently needs allies and comrades-in-arms.

“This violence cannot continue, and we must all ask ourselves why our nation is allowing this epidemic of violence to continue and how we can come together to ensure that transsexuals, especially black transgender women, can live their lives without fear of joining this long list of stolen lives.”

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