A photograph of Magistrate Ociel Baena during a vigil called by activists from the LGBT community to demand justice for the murder, in Mexico City, Mexico, 13 November 2023. EFE/EPA/ISAAC ESQUIVEL

Mexican prosecutor draws criticism for calling non-binary judge’s murder ‘personal’

Mexico City, Nov 14 (EFE).- Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday accused public prosecutor of “inadequate handling” of the investigation into the deaths of Ociel Baena, the country’s first non-binary gender magistrate, and his partner, Dorian Nieves.

Baena and Nieves were found dead Tuesday morning in Baena’s home in the central state of Aguascalientes, and within hours the state attorney general’s office issued a statement saying that “preliminary findings indicate that this could be a personal matter,” meaning a murder-suicide related to domestic violence.

On Monday evening, LGBT organizations held an unprecedented national mobilization composed of vigils and protests in more than 30 cities, with the main slogan “Crime of passion, national lie”, accusing the Aguascalientes prosecutor’s office of trying to “shelve” the case.

On Tuesday morning, the Human Rights Commission demanded an investigation into the deaths that “does not ignore” the possibility of a hate crime related to the victims’ gender identity and that takes into account the “threats previously received” by Baena, who has had a bodyguard since July, following the murder of another LGBT activist, Ulyses Nava, during a congress on sexual diversity.

The panel demanded a “standard of due diligence” and said it would launch an investigation into the “inadequate treatment given so far” to the investigation.

The attorney general of the state of Aguascalientes, Jesus Figueroa, reiterated in statements to the media on Tuesday that Baena was murdered by Nieves, who then committed suicide.

“It may seem like a hypothesis that many people do not find very credible, but we are being careful, especially to maintain a record and preserve all the evidence,” Figueroa defended in a radio interview.

Supporters of the LGBT community attend a vigil as they demand justice for the murder of Magistrate Ociel Baena in Mexico City, Mexico, on 13 November 2023. EFE/EPA/ISAAC ESQUIVEL

Baena was the first person of non-binary gender to hold the position of judge in a court and to obtain a Mexican passport and academic degrees with a non-binary identity, and was known as “le magistrade,” a neologism to specify gender neutrality.

His career was marked by pushing for the participation of LGBT people in politics in Mexico, the second country in Latin America with the most hate crimes, where 305 violent incidents, including murders and disappearances, occurred between 2019 and 2022, according to the National Observatory of Hate Crimes against LGBTI+ People in Mexico. EFE