Washington, D.C., May 10, 2011 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder in Mexico of Quetzalcóatl Leija Herrera, who was president of the Center for Studies and Projects for Integral Human Development (CEPRODEHI) and worked to defend and promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex persons (LGBTI) in the city of Chilpancingo, Guerrero.
According to the information the IACHR has received, Quetzalcóatl Leija had participated in promoting the "Law of Societies of Coexistence" before the Legislature of the Local Congress; advocated for the "Bill to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination in Guerrero"; reported to the authorities 16 cases allegedly involving homophobia-related crimes; and organized six gay-pride marches in the state of Guerrero, among other activities to defend the rights of LGBTI persons. The information received indicates that the body of the human rights activist was found in the early morning hours of May 4, 2011, next to the Old Palace of Justice of Chilpancingo, with a blow to his head that had disfigured part of his face.
The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State's obligation to investigate acts of this nature of its own accord, and to punish those responsible. Moreover, the Commission urges the State of Mexico to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the life, integrity, and safety of those who defend the rights of LGBTI persons in Guerrero.
As the IACHR has indicated before, the right of all persons to live free of discrimination is guaranteed by international human rights law, and specifically by the American Convention on Human Rights. In this regard, the IACHR urges the State of Mexico to take urgent steps to prevent and respond to human rights abuses, including adopting public policy measures and campaigns against discrimination based on sexual orientation, to keep crimes such as this one from happening again.
The Commission recalls that the work of human rights defenders is critical for building a solid and lasting democratic society. Human rights defenders play a leading role in the process of fully attaining the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy. Acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to all human beings; they also undermine the essential role human rights defenders play in society and contribute to the vulnerability of all those whose rights they champion.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.