Human Rights Watch demands that authorities ‘fully investigate’ shooting death of Cynthia Nicole
The Human Rights Watch on Monday, Jan. 12, demanded that Honduran authorities "fully investigate" the murder of leading Honduran transgender rights activist Cynthia Nicole and other attacks on the transgender community.
Nicole, 32, was murdered by unknown assailants in an attach during the early morning hours of July 9, according to a written statement released by Human Rights Watch. Other activists who witnessed the killing said three men driving by in a blue car shot Nicole in Barrio Guaserique in Comayaguela, a town just outside the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. They shot her three times in the chest and once in the head.
Human Rights Watch said Nicole’s murder was just the latest in a series of violent attacks against transgender people in Honduras.
"Cynthia Nicole fought tirelessly to secure basic rights protections for transgender sex workers," said Juliana Cano Nieto, researcher with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities need to find and prosecute the perpetrators of this and previous attacks against the trans community."
Cano said Nicole’s murder comes as violence targeting Honduras’s transgender community appears to be on the rise. From October to December 2008 there were attacks, two of them fatal, against five other transgender people by unknown assailants.
On Oct. 30, an attacker killed Yasmin, a transgender sex worker and colleague of Nicole. The next day, on Oct. 31, an attacker shot Bibi, another transgender sex worker, while she was working in the Obelisco, a park in the center of Comayaguela. On Dec. 17, an attacker stabbed Noelia, a third transgender sex worker, 14 times.
In addition to these attacks, on Dec. 20, members of the police assaulted a transgender activist doing HIV/AIDS outreach work in Tegucigalpa.
In Nicole’s case, police investigators said that they have found the assailant’s abandoned car and bullet casings and are searching for the attackers. However, transgender activists claim that in other cases police and judiciary have not taken effective steps to find those responsible.
"Impunity compounds the violence," said Cano. "If authorities fail to investigate attacks, victims have no reason to report them and are ready targets for reprisals."
As a leader in Colectivo Violeta — an organization working to defend the rights and health of transgender people since 1995 — Nicole had a long record of outreach work on rights with transgender sex workers in Tegucigalpa. She provided information about HIV/AIDS and human rights, and represented her community at various national conferences and before the media, Human Rights Watch said.
"The transgender community is terrified," said Indyra Mendoza, director of the Honduran lesbian and feminist organization Cattrachas. "But these attacks will not silence the community in Honduras, and we will continue to work to ensure that the rights of transgender people are recognized and protected."
Human Rights Watch said serious violence against transgender people in Honduras has been going on for years, and that activists in the country have called this to the attention of domestic authorities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and U.N. special rapporteurs, with no response from the Honduran government.