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Dear Colleague Letter on LBGT Murders in Honduras

Help Address Violent Crimes Committed Against the LGBT Community in Honduras

From: The Honorable Jared Polis
Date: 6/11/2012

Dear Colleague,

Please join us in sending the letter below to the State Department calling on them to urge the government of Honduras to take immediate steps to investigate and resolve cases of violent crime against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in that country.

Since 2009, more than 70 LGBT individuals have been murdered, and many of these cases remain unresolved. The State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices found that the Honduran law enforcement has been complicit in human rights abuses, and that police officers had targeted vulnerable persons, including LGBT people. Given the level of U.S. support and assistance for the Honduran government, it is vital that we ensure they protect the human rights of all their citizens, especially vulnerable populations like the LGBT community.

The deadline for signing onto the letter is close of business Wednesday, June 20th.  To sign onto the letter, please contact Rafael Reyneri at Rafael.Reyneri@mail.house.gov or 225-2161 in the office of Rep. Polis

Sincerely,

Jared Polis                                                       Barney Frank
Member of Congress                                     Member of Congress

Tammy Baldwin                                               David Cicilline
Member of Congress                                     Member of Congress

Howard Berman                                              Jan Schakowsky
Member of Congress                                     Member of Congress

June 20, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madame Secretary,

We write to express our concern regarding the recent increase in violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Honduras. We have long supported your efforts to respond to human rights violations and abuses of LGBT persons around the world. As you have said, “this effort is one of the most urgent and important human rights struggles of all times.” It appears, however, that our efforts in Honduras are failing.

Honduras is currently experiencing institutional breakdown, widespread drug trafficking, and judicial impunity, which have led to unprecedented levels of criminal violence. Of particular concern are recent reports which have indicated that members of the LGBT community have increasingly been victims of violent hate crimes. Therefore, we would like to know what steps you are taking to ensure that this violence will end, and what steps you are taking to ensure that the government of Honduras successfully resolves the cases of murdered LGBT individuals.

As the State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reported, the Honduran law enforcement has been complicit in human rights abuses. The report states that “the Honduran police force had deep-seated and unaddressed corruption problems, and police officers targeted vulnerable persons, including LGBT people.” These problems persist. According to human rights organizations in Honduras, 70 LGBT Hondurans have been murdered since the June 2009 coup. Many of these cases have not been effectively investigated and remain unsolved. For example the report cites the case of Walter Trochez, which has been unresolved since 2009. The fact that these crimes continue to occur with impunity leads us to question whether the government of Honduras has the will or the ability to bring these perpetrators to justice.

Therefore, we call on you to urge the government of Honduras to take immediate steps to investigate and resolve these crimes. Given the level of U.S. support and assistance for the Honduran government, it is vital that we ensure they protect the human rights of all their citizens, especially vulnerable populations like the LGBT community.

In addition, we would like detailed information about the steps being taken to resolve cases like Walter Trochez’s. While we understand that the State Department has offered to aid the Special Victims Task Force—which was intended to bring to justice the perpetrators of these cases of egregious violence against the LGBT community in Honduras—targeted violence continues unabated. Just last month another national LGBT leader, Erick Martínez Ávila was beaten and strangled to death.  Mr. Martínez Ávila was a radio journalist and the first ever openly gay candidate to run for Congress in Honduras.

Finally, we request information about the ten LGBT murder cases that U.S. investigative and prosecutorial advisors helped the Special Victims Unit close. It is essential to know the names of the victims whose cases have been closed, and the outcome in each case, in order to ensure accountability for the resources the U.S. has allocated for the Special Victims Unit and for the Honduran LGBT community to know that these cases are being effectively prosecuted with U.S. assistance.

Given the pervasive threat facing LGBT persons in Honduras we urge you to respond with haste, so that together we can measure of the effectiveness of the government of Honduras in bringing accountability for the murders of LGBT Hondurans. This will help to guarantee that President Obama’s directive to ensure all U.S. government agencies engaged overseas “respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons” is rigorously implemented.

Sincerely,

Current Signers as of June 18, 2012 – 5:00 pm

Reps. Polis (D-CO)
Cicilline (D-RI)
Frank (D-MA)
Baldwin (D-WI)
Berman (D-CA)
Schakowsky (D-IL)
Conyers (D-MI)
Norton (D-DC)
Woolsey (D-CA)
Grijalva (D-AZ)
Velazquez (D-NY)
Hinchey (NY-OR)
Schiff (D-CA)
Lee (D-CA)
Blumenauer (D-OR
Honda (D-CA)
Towns (D-NY)
Nadler (D-NY)
Jackson (D-IL)
Quigley (D-IL)
Gutierrez (D-IL)
Farr (D-CA)
Maloney (D-NY)
Waxman (D-CA)
Stark (D-CA)
Johnson, Hank (D-GA)
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Yarmuth (D-KY)
Speier (D-CA)
Moore (D-WI)
Miller (D-CA)
McDermott (D-WA)
Carnahan (D-MO)



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