Honduras must investigate murder of Gay activist, US State Department says

Click on title for original article in Seattle Gay News:
Honduras must investigate murder of Gay activist, US State Department says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US State Department has called on the Honduran government to investigate the murder of Gay activist Walter Trochez, US Embassy officials in Tegucigalpa told SGN on January 13.

Speaking with SGN by phone on condition of anonymity, an embassy official said, "The United States believes a thorough investigation into the killing of Walter Trochez and an investigation by the de facto regime of all allegations of human rights violations are important steps to achieving the goal of a return to democratic order in Honduras."

The US government has refused to recognize the government installed after a military coup overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009, and US officials will only refer to it as "the de facto regime."

As reported in SGN (December 18), Gay activist Walter Trochez was shot dead in the streets of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on December 13, 2009. At the time of his death, he was documenting attacks on the Honduran LGBT community by forces associated with the June 28 coup.

In an article published on November 16, 2009, Trochez named nine people murdered since the June 28 coup, most of them Transgender people. Other Honduran activists subsequently identified six more victims, again mostly Transgender.

Trochez was also an active member of the National Resistance Front opposing the coup, and it is widely believed in Honduras that he was assassinated by the regime.

International organizations - including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights - have documented many cases of human rights violations by the Honduran regime, including murder of opponents.

US embassy officials also revealed to the SGN that the US ambassador in Honduras has had frequent contacts with the Honduran LGBT community, both before and after the Trochez murder.

"Ambassador [Hugo] Llorens met on December 17 with members of the Gay community to express his concern about the killing of Mr. Trochez and the U.S. Embassy has expressed concern about the Trochez murder and other human rights violations to the special prosecutor for Human Rights and to the Honduran police," an embassy official said.

"Over the past several years, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa has maintained a strong and supportive dialogue with the Honduran LGBT community and on a number of occasions has discussed the community's concerns with the Honduran authorities," the official added.

Embassy officials clarified that they do not maintain contact with what they call "the de facto regime" because the US Government recognizes Pres. Zelaya as the legitimate head of state of Honduras. The embassy does, however, speak with the special prosecutor for Human Rights, since that office is independent of the Honduran executive branch.

A new Honduran president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, was elected on November 29, 2009, and is due to take office on January 27. Zelaya and his supporters have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the election, but the US has indicated it will recognize the Lobo government.

After initial skepticism of the Honduran election, the US State Department indicated that it would support the new Lobo government because the November election was held under the terms of the so-called San Jose Accord - an agreement reached by representatives of Pres. Zelaya and the regime that replaced him.

Lobo is a conservative Catholic businessman who lost to Zelaya in the 2005 presidential election. It remains to be seen whether he will pursue investigation of human rights abuses under the June 28 regime.

On January 7, the Honduran Attorney General issued arrest warrants for several high-ranking military officers for their role in the coup that ousted Zelaya. They are charged with "abuse of authority."

Zelaya dismissed the action as a ruse to allow the coup leaders to escape with only minor charges.

No one has yet been charged in the murder of Trochez, or the 15 other LGBT Hondurans killed since June 28, or with any human rights violations associated with the coup.