Cuba: IACHR grants precautionary measures to Maria Matienzo Puerto, an independent journalist, and Kirenia Núñez Perez, a human rights defender

Washington, D.C. March 23, 2021.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures in favor of Cuban independent journalist/writer Maria Matienzo Puerto and human rights activist Kirenia Núñez Perez, after considering them to be in a serious and urgent situation, given that their right to life and personal integrity are at risk of irreparable harm.

According to Resolution 21/2021, the IACHR determined that the couple has been at risk due to threats, harassment, intimidation and aggression, along with defamatory messages over the course of approximately seven years. The Commission also noted that it requested information from the State on June 18, 2020 and, to date, it has not received any response.

In analyzing the risk, urgency and irreparability of the situation, the IACHR noted with concern one such defamatory message aimed at Ms. Núñez Perez to “control” her partner, Ms. Matienzo Puerto. According to the Commission, this message exemplifies the existence of a gender prejudice towards the work that women human rights defenders carry out, and it generates a situation of “elevated” risk towards prejudices associated with “the role that they (women) must play in society.”

In analyzing the facts, the IACHR requested that the Cuban state: a) adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of both Matienzo Puerto and Nuñez Perez; b) adopt the necessary measures so that the beneficiaries can carry out their activities as independent journalist and human rights defender, respectively, without being subjected to acts of violence, threats, intimidation and harassment when carrying out their work; c) agree on the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and d) report on the measures taken to investigate the alleged actions that led to the adoption of these precautionary measures, and thus avoiding their repetition.

Intimidation and persecution

Ms. Matienzo Puerto and Ms. Nuñez Perez – who as a couple share the same residence – are victims of continuous intimidation and persecution at the hands of State agents, as well as civilians who identify as siding with the government. This situation also translates into online abuse on social media.

The most recent repressive act against Ms. Matienzo Puerto (not included in the IACHR resolution) took place on March 12, when officials without identification intercepted her as she was leaving her home. She was forced to get into a vehicle and was kept in custody at a police station for several hours, without anyone knowing her whereabouts. At the police station, officials interrogated and threatened her for her work as an independent journalist, and for having contact or being friends with other independent activists.

Race and Equality calls on the Cuban State to adopt the necessary measures to safeguard the life and integrity of Maria Matienzo Puerto and Kirenia Núñez Perez, in accordance with its human rights obligations and as a member of the Inter-American Human Rights System. We also call on the authorities to guarantee and respect the work of independent journalists and human rights defenders on the Island.

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