Washington D.C., December 3, 2021. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted precautionary measures to independent journalist Héctor Valdés Cocho and his partner Raúl Soublett López, LGBTI+ rights and human rights defender, in response to a request from the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality). Based on the documentation presented by Race and Equality, the Commission determined that both are in a situation of serious and urgent risk of irreparable harm to their rights in Cuba.
The IACHR requests that the Cuban government abide by Resolution 100/2021 and adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the beneficiaries and allow them to carry out their activities without threats of violence, intimidation, and harassment. Furthermore, it requests that the Government agree upon the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives, and report – within 15 days – on the steps taken to investigate the alleged facts which led to the adoption of these precautionary measures in order to avoid their repetition.
The information presented by Race and Equality to the IACHR recounts the constant rights violations experienced by the beneficiaries in past few years, which include police barricade of their home, interrogations, threats and detentions in the framework of their activities as journalist and human rights defender, respectively. In both cases, the rights violations come just as frequently from authority figures as they do from anonymous individuals through social media.
As of this past October, Valdés Cocho has been arrested eight times. During one of those arrests, which occurred while he was returning home on October 30th, he was intercepted by State Security agents who then took him to Villa Marista and forced him to undress on the grounds of conducting a search. He stayed there that night and was interrogated two times. Later, on November 12th, he was a target of repudiation, and on November 15th – a day which civil society marked as the Civil March for Change – State Security agents were assigned to watch his house and prevent him and his partner from leaving.
In Soublett López’s case, the information indicates that he has been the victim of harassment by State Security since 2018, when agents began confronting and threatening him regarding his activism by saying that his activity could affect his work and his studies and that he could be jailed. At the start of his relationship with Valdés Cocho in October 2020, the threats intensified and he has since been interrogated on various occasions. One of the interrogations occurred on the 18th of June at the Municipal Directorate of Education, where he was intimidated and threatened with prosecution for his activism against racism, and on LBGTI+ issues and gender-based violence.
“It is really important for us that the IACHR, following the request from Race and Equality, has granted precautionary measures, since it is a protection against harassment, all the violence which the State has exercised against us for our activism to promote and defend human rights and professions”, said the beneficiaries.
Discrimination and Censure
In its analysis of elements which constitute serious, urgent, and irreparable harm to rights, the IACHR notes the hostile and censorious environment in which independent journalists work on the Island. Journalists encounter various forms of repression, such as the requirement of official membership to practice journalism; threats, citations, and interrogations with the intent to intimidate; arbitrary detentions; raids and seizure of journalistic equipment or other property; dismissals and loss of authorizations to practice their profession or other economic activities; threats and pressure to family members, social circles, and defamation; and impeding travel and other arbitrary restrictions regarding the right to free movement.
The Commission also highlights the particular form of violence, discrimination and restrictions regarding the rights to gather, association, and freedom of expression which members of the LGBTI+ community and human rights defenders whose work relates to sexual orientation and gender identification suffer. “The Commission, in particular, observes that the intersection between discrimination for reasons of ethnic-racial origin, diverse sexual orientation, and gender identity would disproportionately affect the Afro-Cuban LGBTI community,” it said.
Race and Equality urges the Cuban State to adopt the precautionary measures granted by the IACHR in favor of Héctor Valdés Cocho and Raúl Soublett López, and to allow them and all independent journalists and human rights defenders to pursue their work without the threat of discrimination, violence, and detentions, in accordance with their international obligations concerning human rights.