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31 de marzo | | | | | |

IACHR, social organizations, relatives and legal experts demand return of Gustavo Castro, witness of the assassination of Berta Cáceres

The permanence of environmental activist Gustavo Castro in Honduras due to the migration alert placed on him by the Honduran government is giving in to the expressions of solidarity and appeals from different spheres towards Juan Orlando Hernández´ administration.

Gustavo Castro, member of Otros Mundos - Friends of the Earth Chiapas, as well as the Meso-American Movement against the Extractive Model (M4), the Latin American Network against Dams and in Defense of Rivers and Water (REDLAR), among other networks and groups, was with Berta Cáceres on the early morning of March 3rd in Honduras and was wounded by the same men that murdered the activist member of COPINH.

He is the sole witness of said crime, and therefore his life is in danger as long as he stays in Honduran territory. Different collective networks, human rights institutions, international environmental networks and groups in defense of Honduran and Meso-American territories are demanding the authorities to let him return to his family in Chiapas State.

On Wednesday there was a press conference in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras, to report about the different negative responses by the local authorities to the requests for Gustavo´s return and his protection as a victim and witness of the murder of Berta Cáceres.

IACHR

Moreover, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested the Honduran State to allow for the departure of the Mexican environmental activist so that he can participate in the IACHR sessions scheduled to begin on April 2nd in Washington, US, said lawyer Miguel Ángel de los Santos Cruz. "As Castro Soto is the beneficiary of precautionary measures, the IACHR wants him to participate in the sessions and talk about the attack and his time in Honduras", he added in statements to La Jornada newspaper, of Mexico.

He reminded that Gustavo is at the Mexican Embassy in Honduras as a protected witness due to a 30-day-long migration alert that is in force until April 8.

The IACHR has granted precautionary measures to Cáceres family, to the members of COPINH and Gustavo Castro "and in the same request they demanded the Honduran Government to let him be present at the next period of sessions that begins on April 2nd, to provide more information about the case".
Now with the period of sessions close, the IACHR sent a message to Honduras demanding to exhaust all measures necessary to ensure Gustavo Castro´s participation in the meetings.

They added that "this message, which was also sent to Castro Soto, was submitted to the General Prosecutor´s Office and the Honduran Constitutional Court, which still have to decide on two legal appeals for the Mexican activist to return to Mexico, aiming to request that they take into account the IACHR´s petition when deciding over the appeals so that the beneficiaries of the precautionary measures can attend the sessions".

De los Santos Cruz stated that "we asked the same from the Judge of the case, Victorina Flores, but she didn´t accept it arguing that Gustavo´s participation in the meeting was not necessary. We don´t want to argue with her because she is the one that has shown more reluctance to respect Castro Soto´s human rights, she is the one who has imposed the most obstacles, but we trust that the Prosecutor´s Office and the Court will comply with their obligation to ensure human rights; they do have to conduct a thorough study.

If the IACHR´s petition is heard and if the appeals are dealt with with the urgency needed, Castro Soto would have to leave before the 30 days which end on April 8", he stated.

Chiapas

Also, several activists and tens of social organizations from Chiapas, Mexico, addressed the authorities of both countries -Mexico and Honduras- along these lines.

"In this scenario we would like to express our opinion since we are extremely concerned about the safety of our colleague Gustavo Castro, who has been blocked from leaving Honduras arguing that he is an important witness in the murder of Berta Cáceres, but as he points out, he has committed no crime, he has already testified and he can comply with all other necessary proceedings from Mexico".

They also demand "the Honduran government to clear up the death of Berta Cáceres and grant the necessary measures to safeguard the safety and integrity of Gustavo Castro Soto", and "to the Mexican government (...) to do something about this to speed up the return" of the environmental activist to Mexico.

Meanwhile, Otros Mundos-Friends of the Earth Chiapas addressed the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the lack of commitment with the physical, legal and psychological fate of Gustavo Castro.

"More than three weeks after Judge Victorina Flores, of Honduras, ordered to block Gustavo Castro from leaving the country for thirty days (...) the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico is not upholding the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters signed by both countries, which establishes as a first protection measure the immediate exit of the witness from the country and the subsequent collaboration in the investigation", stated Otros Mundos in a press release issued Tuesday, March 29.

"The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs is fully aware of Gustavo Castro´s situation: they know about the irregularities in the investigation carried out by the Prosecutor´s Office, they know about the excessive measures taken by the Honduran Judge (who even suspended Lawyer Ivania Galeano, leaving the witness unprotected), they know about the requests by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to Honduras to protect Gustavo Castro and the extension of measures also requested to protect the legal team and his brother Oscar Castro, who is by his side", they add.

The Intibucá Prosecutor´s Office and the Appeals Court of Acomayagua should respond to the appeals filed by Gustavo Castro´s legal team: an appeal to the Prosecutor´s Office to repeal the migration alert; a legal protection measure denouncing the violation of the rights of the protected witness, an Habeas Corpus petition to protect Gustavo Castro as a victim and witness. "It is necessary to obtain a favorable response to all of this", they add.

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