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El Salvador: Killing of transgender human rights defender Francela Méndez

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In the early hours of 31 May 2015, transgender human rights defender Ms Francela Méndez was murdered in the Las Palmeras area of the city of Sonsonate, El Salvador.

Francela Méndez was an active defender of the rights of the transgender community in El Salvador. She had been a member of the board of directors of the Colectivo Alejandría (Alejandría Collective) since its foundation in 2010. The Collective works to promote the rights of the LGBTI community in El Salvador through awareness raising and education, and seeks to provide support to members of the community through training and advocacy in the face of their everyday subjection to discrimination. Before her murder, the human rights defender had been involved in the implementation of a Global Fund sponsored programme combating HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. She was also a member of the Red Salvadoreña de defensoras de derechos humanos (El Salvadorian Network of Human Rights Defenders.

Francela Méndez's murder was carried out by unknown assailants at the home of her friend Ms Consuelo Flores, who was also killed in the attack.

In spite of her prominent role as a defender of the rights of the transgender community in El Salvador, it has been reported in national media outlets that the El Salvadorian Police are attempting to link the murders to drug trafficking, rather than investigating the links to her work with the Colectivo Alejandria and the Red Salvadoreña de defensoras de derechos humanos. Both the Regional Office for Central America of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights denouncing the killing as the most recent act of aggression against the transgender community. Francela Méndez is the tenth female member of the transgender community to have been killed in 2015. The day of her murder marked two years since the killing of her fellow human rights defender and member of the transgender community, Ms Tanya Vásquez, in May 2013.

Front Line Defenders believes that the killing of Francela Méndez may be related to her legitimate human rights activities, in particular her involvement in the defence of the rights of the transgender community. Given the occurrence of several killings of female members of the transgender community in El Salvador this year, and the high levels of impunity surrounding such attacks, Front Line Defenders expresses its concern that Francela Méndez's murder forms part of an ongoing trend of serious discrimination against the country's transgender community.

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