El Salvador: The Law Laughs; Salvadorian Police Refuse to Protect Threatened Activists

Following an intense local and international campaign, the Chief of the PNC (National Civil Police) in San Salvador, El Salvador, finally agreed to meet with William Hernandez and other activists from Entre Amigos, the country's gay and lesbian organization. Hernandez and members of his family have been subjected to death threats in recent months, in the context of a wave of killings of gays, bisexuals, and transgender people in El Salvador. The meetings was held to discuss the terms of the protection to be granted to them according to the PPI system currently in force in El Salvador. PPI (Protection for Important People) is a system for the protection of civil society leaders and other public figures facing death threats.

The Salvadorean police considers that William Hernandez and Entre Amigos qualify for protection under the PPI system due to the repeated attacks and threats they have been subjected to during the last months. Nevertheless, the Chief of the PNC refused to appoint any officers to such task on the argument that, since the officers "do not share the sexual tastes" of those they should protect, they would feel uncomfortable doing their work.

Two alternatives were offered to the activists. The first one--close to a joke--was that Entre Amigos hire private security personnel at its own expense, whom the police would train. The second was virtually an insult to the activists' intelligence: they were asked to supply a list of gay policemen and lesbian policewomen who would be assigned to watch over the Entre Amigos premises.

Given the PNC's own history of violence and intolerance, there could be little question about the fate of persons on such a list. At best, they would fill a roster of the unemployed; at worst, it would become a death sentence.

IGLHRC is appalled at the casual insensitivity and callous indifference of the Salvadorean police. As enforcers of the law and preservers of the peace, the police have a duty to protect all persons in the county. Their prejudices and personal "comfort" cannot detract from their responsibility in the slightest. They are not entitled or empowered to distinguish between those who deserve protection, and those who do not. The answer given by the PNC to William Hernandez and Entre Amigos activists in itself constitutes a gross violation of Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights (San Jose de Costa Rica Pact), ratified by El Salvador on June 23, 1978, under which signatory States commit themselves to guarantee the right of all persons to equal protection of the law, "without discrimination". Article 1 of the Convention further specifies that the State parties "undertake to respect the rights and freedoms recognized herein and to ensure to all persons subject to their jurisdiction the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms, without any discrimination for reasons of race, color, sex,language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth or any other social condition" (emphasis added).

The same non-discriminatory language guaranteeing equal protection under the law to all persons can be found in Articles 2 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also ratified by the state of El Salvador.

IGLHRC requests that faxes be sent immediately to the concerned authorities in El Salvador, condemning the discriminatory arguments and flimsy excuses employed by the PNC in declining to fulfil their duty, and calling on the Salvadorean government to honor their international commintments with no further delay, granting William Hernandez and the Entre Amigos activists the protection to which they are entitled.

Please write:

Lic. Mauricio Sandoval
Director General de la PNC
Fax 503 271 44 22
Lic. Eduardo Penate Polanco
Procuraduria para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos
Fax 503 271 28 86

Please send a copy to Entre Amigos
Fax 503 225 42 13