Colombia: Demand Investigation Into Murders Of Trans Women

SUMMARY

On March 23, 2006, 19-year-old Darlyn Acevedo Ramirez was murdered in the city of Santiago de Cali, Colombia. This is one of 13 unsolved murders of trans women that have taken place in the past two years. Besides these terrible crimes, the physical, psychological and ethical mistreatment suffered by trans women in Santiago de Cali is a serious and continuous problem, and a daily violation of the human and constitutional rights of this community.

Among the rights violated in this case are:

The right to life;
The right to and security of the person;
The rights to be free from discrimination;
The right to equal protection before the law; and
The right to simple and prompt recourse to a competent court for protection

ACTION

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Santamaria Foundation GLTB of Colombia ask your support in seeking the urgent resolution of these crimes as well as in instituting measures to prevent them from happening in the future. We request that letters be sent immediately to the Colombian authorities, demanding immediate action to investigate and prevent these terrible human rights violations.

Feel free to cut and paste our letter (enclosed) as a sample and contact the individuals listed below. Please send your letters to:

Presidency Program Against Corruption:
anticorrupcion@presidencia.gov.co
Observatory of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic:
obserdh@presidencia.gov.co
Mailbox Information from the Presidency:
buzon1@presidencia.gov.co
cefranco@presidencia.gov.co
Vice-President of Colombian Republic
Mr. Francisco Santos:
fsantos@presidencia.gov.co
HR Program of the Vice-Presidency
Mr. Diego Arias:
pazando@hotmail.com
HR Director of the Ministry of Interior and Justice:
dhdirector@mij.gov.co
Ombudsman
Dr. Volmar Perez Ortiz Doctor:
bogota@defensoria.org.co
Regional Ombudsman
Dr. Andres Santamaria Garrido:
valle@defensoria.org.co
Procuraduria General:
jvalero@procuraduria.gov.co
quejas@procuraduria.gov.co
cap@procuraduria.gov.co
reygon@procuraduria.gov.co
webmaster@procuraduria.gov.co
criano@procuraduria.gov.co
reportegedis@procuraduria.gov.co
General Attorney Office
Dr. Hernan Mario Iguarán Arana:
contacto@fiscalia.gov.co; denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co
Minister of the Interior and Justice. Human Rights Department
Dr. Carlos Holguin Sardi:
dhdirector@mij.gov.co
Colombian National Police
direccion@policia.gov.co
Human Rights Office of the National Police Department in the Department of Valle.
Rehum.mecal @ policia.gov.co
Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations in Geneva
Madam Ambassador Clemencia Forero Ucros
Mission.colombia @ ties.itu.int

Please also send a copy of your letter to:

Fernando D’Elio - IGLHRC
fdelio@iglhrc.org
Pedro Julio Pardo – Santamaría Fundacion GLTB
petergltb@yahoo.com

SAMPLE LETTER

Vice-President of the Colombian Republic, Mr. Francisco Santos,

I write on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to express our deep concern over reports of the murders of 13 transgender women in Santiago de Cali, Colombia during the last two years. Staff in IGLHRC’s office for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, have reported that the most recent victim of this series of crimes was Darlyn Acevedo Ramirez, a 19 year old transgender woman who was killed on March 23, 2008. Several men attacked her at the roundabout in the Alfonso Lopez neighborhood—the same place where attackers also killed Maria Luisa Perea (December 4, 2006) and Estrella (December 19, 2006).

Tragically, the murder case of Darlyn Acevedo Ramirez, as well as the reported murders of more than 30 other transgender people in Santiago de Cali, are apparently uninvestigated and remain unresolved.

As a signatory to international declarations and treaties which assure the right to life, the right to equality before the law, and the right to non-discrimination, it is Colombia’s obligation to ensure that human rights violations are fully investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice. This is required in all cases, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Moreover, the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity specify that, “Everyone is entitled to enjoy all human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” and that states should, “adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to prohibit and eliminate discrimination in the public and private spheres on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” (Principle 2).

We ask that you publicly condemn the murders of transgender women in Santiago de Cali, ensure that local authorities make a full investigation into these crimes, and find and convict the guilty. We also ask that you closely monitor the situation in the Alfonso Lopez neighborhood, increase the police presence there, and do everything possible to ensure that similar crimes against the transgender community are not repeated in the future. The authorities in Santiago de Cali should respect and protect the human rights of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We trust that you will give this issue the attention it deserves.

Sincerely,

Paula Ettelbrick
Paula Ettelbrick
Executive Director
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

CC: Mr. Diego Arias, Dr. Volmar Perez Ortiz Doctor, Dr. Andres Santamaria Garrido, Dr. Hernan Mario Iguarán Arana, Dr. Carlos Holguin Sardi, Madam Ambassador Clemencia Forero Ucros

BACKGROUND

The trans community in Cali, Colombia, exceeds 3,000 women. In addition to confronting discrimination and abuse, these individuals have limited opportunities for employment, and are often forced to do sex work in order to earn their living. Now they must also live with the fear of being killed at any time on the streets.

In the past two years, this community has experienced 13 homicides and more than 30 attempted murders. All of these cases remain unsolved, leaving the transgender community to fear the existence of a gang that is trying to exterminate them.

The most recently victim of this series of crimes was Darlyn Acevedo Ramirez, who was 19 years old when she was killed. The victim had resorted to sex work to sustain her family’s livelihood, and had already survived several murder attempts. On Sunday, March 23, several men attacked her at the roundabout in the Alfonso Lopez neighborhood—the same place where attackers also killed Maria Luisa Perea (December 4, 2006) and Estrella (December 19, 2006). She was stabbed twice, causing her death.

Many hate crimes have been committed against the trans community in Santiago de Cali in a space of less than two years. While it has been suggested that some of these murders involve the settling of scores, drug sales and extortion, the fact is that none of these crimes have been solved, all remain unpunished, and all affected a community that remains socially marginalized.

INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL LAW

The right to life (and to liberty and security of the person) is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article 3, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in Articles 6 and 9, and the American Convention on Human Rights in Articles 4 and 7.

The right to equality before the law and the right to non-discrimination are protected by the Declaration in Articles 2 and 7, the Covenant in Articles 2 and 26, and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, in Articles 1 and 24.

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

Colombia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1969, and the Inter-American Convention in 1973. The Universal Declaration is considered part of international common law, and commits all member states of the United Nations, including Colombia.

The Colombian Constitution says:

Article 11. The right to life is inviolable.

Article 13. All people are born free and equal before the law, and are entitled to equal protection and treatment by the authorities and to enjoy the same rights, freedoms and opportunities without discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national or family origin, language, religion, political opinion or philosophy.

Article 16. Everyone is entitled to free personal development with no other limitations than those imposed by the rights of others and the legal system.

Article 23. Everyone has the right to present petitions to the authorities for the general or private interest and to secure their prompt resolution. The legislature may regulate the presentation of petitions to private organizations to guarantee fundamental rights.

Article 24. Any Colombian citizen, within the limitations prescribed by law, has the right to move freely throughout the national territory, to enter and leave the country, and to remain and reside in Colombia.