UN expert urges Honduran Government to protect witness to Berta Cáceres killing

A drainage system under construction in a housing development in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: UNDP Honduras

10 March 2016 – In the wake of the assassination of human rights activist Berta Cáceres in Honduras, an independent United Nations human rights expert is calling on the Government in that country to ensure the safety and protection of a second activist who witnessed the killing and was injured during the attack.

Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican national, is the founder of the organization Otros Mundos and defender of land and environmental rights. He has been blocked from leaving Honduras for 30 days due to a “migratory alert,” despite assistance from the Mexican Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

“I urge the authorities of Honduras to guarantee that the life of Mr. Castro Soto is not put to risk and to allow his return to Mexico as soon as possible,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

He also called for “an immediate, independent and impartial investigation” into the death of Ms. Cáceres, who was shot on 3 March in her home in the city of La Esperanza, western Honduras.

According to a press release by UN Women, Ms. Cáceres was a staunch defender of the rights of indigenous peoples, and had been receiving threats for her stance against hydroelectric construction projects on land sacred to the Lenca people in western Honduras.

In today’s statement, Mr. Forst called the assassination “a tragic wake-up call” for the Government to prevent such murders, protect human rights defenders, and hold perpetrators to account.

“It is high time that the Government of Honduras addressed the flagrant impunity of the increased number of executions of human rights defenders in the country, especially targeting those who defend environmental and land rights,” Mr. Forst stressed.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


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