Thursday 6.7.2017 in Latest Developments in El Salvador Country Page
LGBTI activists continue to face harassment and intimidation in El Salvador. A more recent case involves Karla Avelar, LGBTI activist and founder of COMCAVIS Trans, who is one of the finalists for the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders having "shown deep commitment and courage in the face of personal risk”.
According to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, two days after her nomination, unknown men came to Avelar's home and threatened her, demanding half of the award money, even though she had not even been selected as winner. As a consequence, the activist was forced to leave her home. Due to her activism, Avelar has been the victim of physical attacks, arbitrary detention, sexual assault and torture over the past few years.
LGBTI activist Alexander Peña, who is also a member of the National Police, is facing trial on charges of “aggravated threats” for allegedly threatening a person in his home. Peña claims that at that time the reported incident occurred, he was actually meeting with a journalist. The circumstances around the case has caused some suspicions due to the level and number of attacks against LGBTI activists in the country. In 2015 during the LGBTI Pride events, Peña was detained and brutally beaten by police officers. As featured on the Monitor in May 2017, a court initiated the prosecution of two of the police officers involved in the attack on Peña in 2015.
In a separate incident, the president of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (Supreme Electoral Court) threatened civil society in El Salvador, stating that those who interfere with the democratic process will face legal repercussions. The Court's president also requested that the Prosecutor's Office start investigating sources of funding for civil society organisations. This statement came after a local organisation, Aliados por la Democracia, began a campaign to raise public awareness ahead of 2018 elections.
On 27th June, Rafael Dominguez, host of the radio opinion programme Asi Estamos, reported that his programme had been shut down, reportedly due to political pressures. In response, Asociación de Radio Difusores (Radio Broadcasters Association) demanded that the government respect freedom of expression and allow journalists to work and contribute to the free flow of information.
Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (Journalists Association of El Salvador) condemned the repeated dismissal of journalists in El Salvador over the last several months. According to the Association, in May 2017 at least 18 journalists and other media professionals were fired due to financial problems facing their employers. The Association further demanded that labour rights be respected, even when financial troubles arise.