WITNESS condemns assassination of Berta Cáceres, calls for protection of Gustavo Castro

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WITNESS joins the international condemnation of the murder of Honduran human rights defender Berta Cáceres on March 3, 2016 and demands an expeditious and thorough investigation so that these acts do not go unpunished. We also call for the protection of Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican human rights defender who was injured during the events, as well as all human rights defenders in Honduras and across Mesoamerica.

Berta dedicated her life to defending the land, territory and natural resources of indigenous peoples and served as the founder and coordinator of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). In 2015, she won the Goldman Prize for her tireless work as an environmental advocate. In recent weeks, harassment against Berta, COPINH and supporting communities had escalated. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) had granted precautionary measures for Berta following threats she received after supporting indigenous Lenca communities in Rio Blanco who are defending their land against the construction of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project. On February 25, another Lenca community supported by COPINH was violently evicted and destroyed.

Gustavo Castro Soto is a Mexican activist and member of the organization Otros Mundos Chiapas/Friends of the Earth Mexico, the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Extractive Mining Model (M4). Gustavo has also dedicated his life to supporting communities in Central America and organizing peaceful resistance to the imposition of neoliberal projects. WITNESS has had the opportunity to see his committed work on forced evictions and environmental rights. Gustavo was staying at Berta’s home and was wounded during the early morning attack on March 3rd, becoming a key figure for the investigation. Therefore, urgent action is needed to push Honduras and Mexico to protect his life and physical integrity.

This unfortunate crime adds to the escalating violence against human rights defenders in Mesoamerica and will have a profound impact on organizations and communities in Honduras and the region. WITNESS stands with the families, organizations, and communities close to Berta and Gustavo. We reiterate our strong condemnation and call for Honduras to immediately conduct a thorough investigation into the case and protect Gustavo and the human rights of COPINH members and affected communities.

We urge you to take action and add your voice to the call for the safety and protection of Gustavo Castro.


Update – March 8th press release from Otros Mundos.

By Laura Salas, Translated by Jackie Zammuto
Image: 2015 Goldman Environmental Award


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