Chile: Unanimous Acquittal of the Murderer of Transperson Amanda Jofré

SUMMARY

On Monday, April 7 2003, the Santiago Court of Appeals unanimously agreed to acquit Mr. Winston Michelson del Canto (known as "El Wilo") for the murder of transperson Amanda Jofré (23), who was found dead in Michelson del Canto's apartment in November 24, 2002. Michelson del Canto is well known as a drug dealer/coke manufacturer who likes to keep underage trans sex-workers locked in his apartment for days.

TravesChile, the national trans organization, and their allies staged a protest outside the jail. After his release, Michelson del Canto was escorted home by armed policemen in order to avoid the demonstrators. With Amanda Jofre's the number of trans murders that remain impune in Chile has risen to 24, according to TravesChile's records.

ACTION

IGLHRC supports TravesChile in asking for protest letters to be sent to the following authorities:

Señor José Antonio Gómez
Ministro de Justicia (Justice Minister)
E-mail: srios@minjusticia.cl

Please also send copies to the following e-mail addresses:

traveschileunete@hotmail.com
trianguloabierto@manquehue.net
mums@manquehue.net

Note: In case you have trouble accessing the Justice Minister's address, please try entering the web page http://www.gobiernodechile.cl or send your letter to TravesChile and they will make certain that it reaches the autorities.

You will find below a model the letter in Spanish as well as its English translation. We suggest that you send the letter in Spanish.

MODEL LETTER

Distinguido Señor:

Nos dirigimos a Usted con la preocupación que nos deja el fallo de la Sala de Turno de la Corte de Apelaciones de Santiago emitido el día 7 de abril de 2003, por el que unánimemente se decidiera dejar en libertad a Winston Michelson del Canto, acusado por el asesinato de Amanda (Rodolfo) Jofré Cerda, persona transngénero quien fue encontrada muerta el 24 de noviembre del año pasado en el departamento del citado.

Nos preocupa ese fallo, pues ya se tenía el antecedentes en Septiembre de 2002 del secuestro y corrupción de otro menor de 16 años presentada contra Michelson por la madre del menor, caso en el cual la jueza no ordenó ninguna diligencia teniendo a su vista todos los antecedentes que involucraban directamente a Michelson.

Apelamos a su conciencia para solicitar una cuidadosa revisión del caso y de las diligencias investigativas en torno al mismo. La sospecha de impunidad para quienes asesinan o maltratan a personas transgénero en Chile contraría las disposiciones vigentes en la propia Constitución del país, así como en los tratados internacionales que Chile ha ratificado (como el Pacto Internacional sobre Derechos Civiles y Políticos, y la Convención Interamericana de los Derechos Humanos), que garantizan la igualdad ante la ley y el derecho a la protección de la vida y al remedio efectivo en caso de violaciones a sus derechos humanos fundamentales para todas las personas, sin discriminación alguna.

Quedamos a la espera de sus noticias,

Saludamos a usted atentamente,

(Name, organization, address)


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Dear Sir,

We write to you to express our deep concern about the unanimous verdict issued by the Santiago Court of Appeals on April 7, 2003, acquitting Mr. Winston Michelson del Canto in the case of Amanda (Rodolfo) Jofré's murder. Ms. Jofré was a 23 years-
old transperson who was found dead in Mr. Michelson del Canto's apartment on November 23, 2002.

We are concerned because there are precedents pointing to the involvement of Mr. Michelson del Canto in criminal activities. In September 2002, a mother denounced him for kidnapping and corrupting her 16-year-old transgender daughter. The judge acting in that case did not order any proceedings, even when presented with all the antecedents pointing directly to Mr. Michelson del Canto.

We appeal to your conscience to request a careful and exhaustive review of the case and the investigations related to it. Suspicion of impunity for those who murder or mistreat transpeople in Chile contravenes the provisions of the country's own Constitution, as well as those of international treaties ratified by Chile (like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Interamerican Human Rights Convention), that guarantee equality before the law, the right to life and to effective remedy when fundamental rights are violated, to all persons without discrimination whatsoever.

We look forward to hear from you.

Yours sincerely,

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

(From our previous Action Alert "Chile: Police and Justice Fail to Investigate Trans Murders in Chile. Act Now to Demand and End to Impunity!", December 12, 2002)

Amanda Jofré Cerda was a member of TravesChile, an organization that has been working for the last two years for trans rights in Chile, focused particularly on preventing HIV/AIDS, fighting police abuse and raising human rights awareness among the trans population. She was 23. In June 2002, she was raped by police officers in Police Station 19, Providencia, Santiago de Chile. She filed suit, and the case is still pending resolution.

Amanda Jofré Cerda died in the early hours of Sunday, November 24, of an overdose. At the time of her death, she was in the apartment of Winston Michelson del Canto (59), a chemist who was known as a regular client of trans sex workers in the Providencia area, in Santiago de Chile. Trans people in the area knew Michelson del Canto as a drug dealer who would induce girls to take cocaine and organize orgies involving minors. More than once, he faced charges of drug trafficking and illegal possession of weapons but according to local activists, he has always bought his way out of jail.

TravesChile filed charges against Michelson del Canto for kidnapping and participating in Amanda Jofré Cerda's murder. The case was heard by Santiago Criminal Court # 17 and then by Santiago Court of Appeals.

On November 29, 2002 the Assembly of NGOs and Organizations Working on HIV/AIDS issued a press statement in solidarity with TravesChile, condemning judicial inactivity around the Jofré Cerda case and denouncing the fact that more than 20 transvestites (*) had been murdered in Chile in the last two years. Not a single one of those homicides has been properly investigated and solved, according to the statement.

Movimiento Unificado de Minorias Sexuales (MUMS) fears there is a chain of homophobic murders taking place in Chile. The latest case was that of Edgardo Vega, a member of Vida Optima--an organization created by People Living with HIV/AIDS. He was found beheaded in his apartment in the early hours of December 6. In November, Mauricio Ortega Julio, a well-known gay man, was found murdered in the city of Cajón del Maipo, and Carlos Muñoz (also a member of Vida Optima) was found dead by the Mapocho River. As with the Jofré Cerda's case, activists claim that the police and judicial system are not investigating those cases as they should; impunity thus prevails.

In August 2002, a transvestite known as "La Wanda" (Hugo Andrés Godoy) was beaten to death in the city of Los Andes. In May 2002, in the same city, "La Pilar" (Wladimir Ibáñez Carrasco), a 42-year-old transvestite, was found dead in a nearby river.

Also on November 29, a trans activist and member of TravesChile, Michel Clementi, was arrested. Police officers asked to see her ID and then realized that Ms. Clementi was wanted under charges of "contempt of public authority". In 2001, Ms. Clementi had been arrested and subjected to physical abuse by the Police Investigations Department in the city of Viña del Mar. After being released, she submitted a complaint for human rights violations before the 8th Criminal Court of Viña del Mar. Activists from TravesChile and Movimiento Unificado de Minorias Sexuales regard the arrest of Michel Clementi as a statement of intimidation, in the context of their intense public campaign around the murder of Amanda Jofré Cerda.

Due to their work against police harassment, the experience of being a target of intimidation is nothing new for TravesChile. On July 2002, the organization denounced death threats they had received from a Police sergeant and a corporal from Santiago Police Station # 4. Activists managed to record the corporal's plate number (947521 R) but in spite of the fact that they took their claims to the media and to authorities like the Carabineros (the name of police forces in Chile) Order and Security Department Chief, General Nelson Godoy, the case received no further investigation or resolution. Since June 28, 2002 (Pride Day) TravesChile faced an intense campaign of hate mail and death threats via their electronic mail address, but police refused to investigate. Ms. Silvia Parada, president of TravesChile, filed a petition for investigation with the 9th Santiago Criminal Court, but to no avail.

INTERNATIONAL LAW

Right to life (and to liberty and security of person) is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its Article 3, by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in its Articles 6 and 9 and by the Interamerican Convention on Human Rights (ICHR) in its Articles 4 and 7.

Right to equality before the law and to be free from discrimination are protected by the UDHR in its Articles 2 and 7, by the ICCPR in its Articles 2 and 26, and by the IACHR in its Articles 1 and 24.

Right to equality before the courts and tribunals is protected by ICCPR in its Article 14.

Right to effective remedy is protected by the UDHR in its Article 8.

Right to judicial protection is protected by the ICHR in its Article 25.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights has made a similar observation, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health- to be applied to all economic, social and cultural rights.

Chile has ratified the ICCPR in 1972 and the IAHRC in 1990. The UDHR is considered customary law for all Member States of the United Nations, including Chile.

The Chilean Constitution protects the right to life (Article 19.1), to equality before the law (Article 19.2) and to equal protection of the law (Article 19.3).