An investigating judge in San Salvador ruled today that a criminal case against three police officers charged with aggravated homicide of Camila Díaz Córdova, a transgender woman murdered in January 2019, can proceed to trial. Much to the chagrin of trans activists, the charges of unlawful deprivation of liberty, as well as the classification of the murder as a hate crime based on gender identity under a hate crimes law that went into effect in 2015, will not go forward.
Prosecutors allege that the police officers detained Camila and brutally assaulted her in a pickup truck before throwing her out of the moving vehicle. Camila’s case has become a clarion call for justice and accountability for anti-trans violence in El Salvador, where at least seven transgender women have been murdered in the last five months: Anahy Miranda Rivas, Jade Camila Díaz, Victoria Pineda, D. Rosa Granados, Cristi Conde Vásquez, Briyit Michelle Alas, and Tita. Human Rights Watch has interviewed other Salvadoran trans women who have described horrific physical and sexual violence at the hands of gang members, neighbors, and the police.
Camila’s case also underscores the hazards of hostile United States asylum policies. Camila tried repeatedly to flee the anti-trans violence she faced in El Salvador (and later in Guatemala and Mexico). When she finally reached the US in August 2017, immigration authorities detained her and subsequently deported her in November. Just over a year later, she was killed – one of many Salvadorans deported from the US who have since been murdered.
A successful and effective prosecution for Camila’s murder may help deter further violence against transgender women in El Salvador. In addition, Salvadorans who wish to claim asylum in the US should be given a fair chance to do so and present the case about the persecution they face. This could be a step to ensuring that Camila’s murder is the beginning of the end to violence against other trans women in El Salvador.