Three police officers in El Salvador have been found guilty of the 2019 murder of Camila Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman who sought asylum in the U.S. but was deported back to the Central American country a year before her death.
A judge in El Salvador convicted the officers ― Jaime Geovany Mendoza Rivas, Luis Alfredo Avelar Sandoval and Carlos Valentín Rosales Carpio ― of aggravated homicide on July 28. They were each sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The officers arrested Díaz Córdova on Jan. 31, 2019, while responding to a public disturbance complaint. Prosecutors said the officers put the 29-year-old in their vehicle, brutally attacked her and then abandoned her in a vacant lot.
Díaz Córdova was found later that day and transported to a hospital. She died of her injuries three days later, reported Salvadoran newspaper El Diaro De Hoy.
Díaz Córdova tried to flee El Salvador several times to escape the anti-LGBTQ violence, her friend Virginia Gómez told The Washington Blade this past January. Díaz Córdova and another trans Salvadoran woman decided to cross into the U.S. from Mexico in August 2017, Gómez said.
Díaz Córdova requested asylum, but U.S. Customs and Border Protection took her into custody, according to Gómez. She was later held in an immigration detention center in California before being deported back to El Salvador in November. She would be killed in her native country just over a year later.
Neither CBP nor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Though El Salvador reported a sharp decline in homicides last year, the gang-plagued country has seen some of the highest murder rates in the world over the last few decades. Members of the LGBTQ community, especially trans people, are particularly vulnerable to violence there.
In 2017, the United Nations called for an investigation into this matter after at least 25 trans women were killed in El Salvador the year before, according to local advocacy organizations.
Between October 2019 and April 2020 alone, at least seven trans women and two gay men were murdered in El Salvador, reported Human Rights Watch. The killers in these cases were reportedly motivated by anti-LGBTQ sentiments.
The judge’s ruling last week ― the first time a Salvadoran court has convicted someone of killing a trans person ― was a major moment for trans activists who worried justice would not be served in Díaz Córdova’s case.
Trans people in El Salvador have said the country’s police and attorney general’s office have harassed them when they report incidents of violence against LGBTQ people, according to a 2019 U.S. State Department human rights report.
“Transgender people in that country are victims of severe violence both in the hands of public agents and private individuals,” Cristian González Cabrera, a researcher at Human Rights Watch focusing on LGBTIQ rights in Latin America, told HuffPost. “This ruling sends a strong signal that anti-LGBTQ violence won’t be tolerated in the country.”
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