Mexico Has Failed Berta Caceres Murder Witness Gustavo Castro
Thousands of Indigenous activists march to demand justice for Berta Caceres in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 17, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to Berta Caceres’ assassination, has been barred from leaving Honduras and fears he will be charged for the murder.
As Mexican activist Gustavo Castro fears for his life in Honduras after witnessing and surviving the assassination of renowned leader Berta Caceres, Mexican authorities have not done enough to ensure his safe return while Honduran authorities have clamped down on his freedom of movement.
That is the assessment of the situation according to Mexican politician and human rights defender Candelaria Ochoa, Mexico’s La Jornada reported on Saturday.
Ochoa, a federal lawmaker with the Citizen’s Movement, just wrapped up an international human rights mission in Honduras where she visited Castro and took stock of how the investigation into Caceres’ murder has gone in the three weeks since armed gunmen broke into her home and shot her dead on March 3 while Castro was staying with her.
The Mexican politician echoed other human rights defenders in saying that Castro’s life is at risk in Honduras, where local authorities have barred him from leaving the country as a key witness in the case. Ochoa argued that the restrictions have violated Castro’s right to return and freedom of movement while failing to guarantee his safety.
She added that the Mexican Foreign Ministry has also not put enough pressure on Honduras over Castro’s situation, urging for Mexican Congress to take steps to ensure he will be able to leave the Central American country safely.
Ochoa was part of a group of 11 other international observers from Mexico, El Salvador, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, who travelled to Honduras for five days to meet with various social groups and reiterate demands for an independent investigation and an end to corporate projects on Lenca land.
We demand protections that guarantee Gustavo Castro’s safety and return him safely to Mexico.
The international mission presented a damning report of their findings, including Honduras’ failure to guarantee democratic principles and human rights, lack of independence of the legal system, flagrant violation of international law with respect to Indigenous rights, and a lack of political will to tackle impunity.
The delegation also found that there is no legal basis for the ongoing restriction of Castro’s movement and that barring him from returning to his home country puts his life in danger, according to a statement.
Castro, shot twice and taken for dead in the attack that killed Caceres, fears that Honduran investigators are trying to hold him responsible for the murder as the sole witness.
Caceres’ family and supporters have slammed Honduran authorities for criminalizing Castro and members of Caceres’ organization, COPINH, rather than showing the political will to uncover the truth and get to the bottom of the crime.
Human rights defenders have argued that Castro is a victim of psychological torture living in a situation of arbitrary detention in Honduras.