El Salvador - WILLIAM HERNANDEZ, Asociación Entre Amigos

The Asociación Entre Amigos (Between Friends Association) is an organisation working for respect for, and the defence of, the human rights of gays, bisexuals, lesbians, transsexuals and inter-sex in El Salvador. Its main focus is on HIV/AIDS education and prevention in communities socially excluded due to their orientation (LGBTI) and health conditions (those living with HIV or AIDS). It also supports facilities and friends of those affected. Entre Amigos documents and reports cases of human rights abuses.

William was one of the four founders of the Asociación Entre Amigos.

With the help of the international community William Hernández’s work has focused on a number of issues involving stigmatisation and discrimination which has led to threats, persecution and even death, not only of some of his friends and volunteers, but also of many gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transsexuals because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or decision to find employment in sex work.

Although El Salvador has no legislation outlawing adult same sex relations, it is equally true that gays, bisexuals, lesbians,transsexuals and inter-sex people do not enjoy an environment of peace and tranquillity.

The worst outrages perpetrated against the organisation and William Hernández himself in El Salvador include:

  • 6 December 1998: the door to the ‘Entre Amigos’ office is forced by unknown persons who accessed the group’s confidential files;
  • 7 March 1999:William Hernández, the group’s Executive Director, receives a death threat on the day of the El Salvador Presidential elections;
  • 6 June 1999: A person who identified himself as a member of the special Presidential Battalion (Batallón Presidencial) used his firearm to threaten a transgendered person taking part in the Gay and Lesbian Pride Day celebrations;
  • 29 June 1999: unknown persons shoot and wound a gay man as he leaves the ‘Entre Amigos’ office with William Hernández.
  • 9 December 1999: an unknown person calls the ‘Entre Amigos’ offices on three occasions and threatens to kill the Director, William Hernández, and adds that William should be careful, and that they know where his daughters and other family members live.
  • 3 April 2000: Juan Carlos Cortés Peña, a sex worker who is a member of ‘Entre Amigos’, is attacked by policemen while he is working.
  • 3 December 2000: the door to the ‘Entre Amigos’ premises is forced early in the morning, and the intruders cut the leads of the alarm system. The offices are ransacked, and pictures, clothing, membership lists and a box containing bills and petty cash are stolen;
  • The Entre Amigos Association premises were looted again on 30 May 2006;
  • 27 October 2007: as an ‘Entre Amigos’ Administrative Director is leaving a bank, she is stopped by two men on motor-cycles who ‘steal’ her papers and money to be used to pay staff salaries;
  • 29 October 2007: the organisation’s door is forced early in the morning, and a fax machine is stolen;
  • 19 November 2007: Walter Sánchez, a transvestite who was also an ‘Entre Amigos’ member, is murdered by unidentified men who fire on him from a passing car;

This pattern of attacks has been repeated in the lead-up to the reform of the Salvadorian Constitution currently being debated in the Legislative Assembly with a view to denying the right of same sex couples to marry and banning homosexuals from adopting children.

We suspect that this was not the work of ordinary criminals, and that the intruder(s) broke into the office to obtain information on activities planned for Sexual Diversity Pride Month, Following this incident, on 1 June, William Hernández received a death threat as he left the office. “[a man] approached me from behind with a gun and said “Don’t turn round.” He then pressured me to call off the activities planned for the Assembly that month adding “Drop these stupid activities of yours in the street... before you get married, I’m going to KILL you.”

William Hernández is currently receiving protection from the Victims’ and Witnesses’ Section of the Important Persons’ Protection Division of El Salvador’s National Civil Police.