Argentina: Urgent Fears For Jailed Transvestite Activist's Safety

On Wednesday, March 1, transvestite activist and street sex worker Marlene Guayas was arrested by two policemen as she was resting in her house. The officers belonged to the division of Public Security and the alleged cause for the arrest was a 1998 complaint about "resistance to authority". (Judge Horacio Azzolin has jurisdiction over this pending case. Marlene is being represented by Public Defense Office No. 5, headed by Dr. Silvia Mussi.)
As female and transgender street workers have repeatedly testified over the years, "resistance to authority" is usually invoked by police officers when their orders are not immediately obeyed or when they are called to account for their own abusive treatment. As an activist who has been organizing her peers in Buenos Aires "red zone," Marlene has confronted police officers innumerable times, in the course of defending transgender people's rights to freedom of movement, work and respectful treatment from public officers.

On Friday, March 3, Marlene was transferred to a jail facility located in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires province. Activists have tried to provide her with food and warm clothes, but they have not been allowed to do so. They were able to talk to Marlene on the phone, and she mentioned that "a good cop" is giving her a slice of bread and a cup of "mate cocido" (a local hot beverage) twice a day -and that is all she is allowed to eat. Bailing her out will cost U$S 200, a sum that her activists and friends have not yet been able to raise.

IGLHRC is gravely concerned for Marlene Guayas' safety in prison, as well as with the conditions in which she is held. While in jail she is entitled to dignified treatment--including adequate food and clothing, and the right to receive visits from her friends and other activists. Such basic rights should not depend on the grace of individual officers: they should be general and guaranteed. As a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights, the Argentinean government is responsible for the well-being of inmates in prisons and jails. Article 5 of that Convention affirms that "All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Argentina is also signatory, holds in Article 10.1 that " All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." The International Convention Against Torture also mandates in Article 16 that "Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1 when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

We urge you to write immediate letters to the following authorities demanding that the Argentinean government fulfills its elemental duty, providing Marlene Guayas with adequate food and clothing, and visitation rights for the length of her imprisonment. It is also important to let the authorities know that the international community is watching to see that her right to a fair trial is respected.

Please write NOW to:

Dr. Ricardo Gil Lavedra
Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Sarmiento 3295, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fax 54 11 43 28 60 39
Ms. Patricia Bullrich
Secretary for Criminal Policy and Penitentiary Issues
Sarmiento 3294, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fax 54 11 43 38 73 21 ext. 2413
Dr. Diana Conti
Secretary for Human Rights
Leandro N. Alem 150 PB, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fax 54 11 4343 23 26

You can also send these officials email messages by entering the Ministry of Justice's web page (

Please send a copy of your faxes or emails to: