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News > Latin America

Honduras Criminalizes the Victims in Berta Caceres Murder Case

  • Thousands bid farewell to Berta Caceres in her hometown La Esperanza.

    Thousands bid farewell to Berta Caceres in her hometown La Esperanza. | Photo: AFP

Published 11 March 2016

Berta Caceres' daughter and other human rights defenders have slammed the government for criminalizing the activists' comrades and the witness to her murder.

Family members’ fears of a botched investigation into the murder of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Caceres’ are coming true as the probe into the case led by Honduran authorities has focused on criminalizing Caceres’ organization and the key witness of the assassination, while the powerful forces that Caceres’ activism challenged remain untouched.

Gustavo Castro, the sole witness to the murder and survivor of the attack, fears for his life in Honduras. But he has been barred from returning to his native Mexico due to a “migratory alert” ordering him to stay in the country for 30 days.

While Castro’s testimony is key to the case, his brother and other human rights defenders have reported that he is being treated more like a suspect than a witness to a murder and victim of an assassination attempt.

As Caceres’ daughter Olivia Marcela Zuñiga told teleSUR on Thursday, Honduran authorities began directing blame at Castro immediately by characterizing the murder as a “crime of passion” before Caceres’ body had even been removed from the crime scene.

WATCH: Berta Caceres Denounces Official Investigation

Zuñiga added that authorities have only focused the investigation on alleged “internal divisions” within COPINH, the Indigenous organization Caceres founded, and on Castro. What the investigation has not brought into the spotlight is the fact that Caceres was a nationally and internationally renowned activist who was targeted for challenging neoliberal policies, impunity, and human rights abuses in Honduras, enabled by U.S. and Canadian support.

Her daughter explained that authorities have not launched a probe into the role of the energy companies with economic interests in the community where Caceres led a resistance movement or of the state security forces known to work in concert with private guards to repress social movements and protect corporate interests.

RELATED: 'Her Body Was Still There,' Says Berta Caceres' Daughter

Zuñiga also argued that the state utterly failed in its responsibility to protect Caceres, who had precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

Castro has also received precautionary measures from IACHR mandating the Honduran government to protect him, but many have reason to believe there are still credible threats against his safety and his life.

Castro has already given his testimony, and yet is being required to stay in Honduras. His brother Oscar Castro told teleSUR on Thursday that Castro has already declared everything he knows based on what he saw happen at the crimes scene and has been willing to collaborate with the investigation when legal terms are fulfilled.

Human rights defenders have labeled Castro’s situation arbitrary detention and report that he has suffered psychological torture while fearing for his life.

After the Honduran government assured on Thursday that authorities will protect Castro, the U.N. called on Honduras to redouble efforts to ensure his safety, speaking to the systematic human rights violations underlying the government’s rhetoric.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, urged the government to guarantee Castro’s life in not put in danger and that he be allowed to return to Mexico as soon as possible. He also called for an independent investigation into Caceres death to be launched immediately.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister has also urged Honduras to protect Castro after calls from human rights defenders to ramp up international pressure.

Meanwhile, activists and groups around the world have raised their voice in solidarity with Honduran movements, calling for a guarantee of Castro’s safety and justice for Caceres.

WATCH: Activists Across the Americas Demand Justice for Berta Caceres

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