Washington DC, July 11, 2022 – One year after the peaceful protests that took place en masse on July 11 in more than 50 locations in Cuba, Cuban society continues to suffer from a context of deep economic crisis, characterized by serious limitations in the access to food, medicines and basic necessities. These factors, which a year ago unleashed the need for Cuban men and women to raise their voices and make their claims heard, continue to impact their lives today, even with greater intensity. The violations of human rights after the demonstrations known as 11J, persist on the Island, and are getting worse.
The repression continues
The situation of repression and the silencing of voices of dissent has not ended after 11J. Activists, human rights defenders, artists and independent journalists face constant harassment on a daily basis by the authorities and State Security forces. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) itself expressed its concern about the intensification of the repression and other violations of rights since the protests of July 2021, especially against those who participated in the demonstrations that took place on the 11th of that month .
In November 2021, various groups of activists once again tried to call for a peaceful protest and were faced, once again, with hundreds of arbitrary arrests, selective Internet service outages, interrogations and individualized surveillance of their homes. During 15N, as these demonstrations were called, the Civic March for Change was planned; however, the people who made public their desire to participate in this event were prevented from exercising their right to peaceful protest.
After this initiative, the use of judicial repression was aggravated with an exemplary character, there was an acceleration in the judicial processes followed against the 11J protesters and prosecutor petitions were presented requesting sanctions of up to 30 years of deprivation of liberty. Likewise, the relatives of the detained and/or prosecuted activists suffered -and continue to suffer- harassment and persecution by State Police, every time they try to exercise their right to peaceful protest in the face of the cruel situation in which their loved ones find themselves in.
The context of the crisis that dominates Cuba has caused a growing number of Cuban men and women to decide to leave the island and settle in other countries. There is great concern about the high number of people who try to cross borders exposing themselves to extremely risky situations.
As a consequence of the difficulties that Cubans face in obtaining transit visas in numerous countries, the majority of people opt for irregular migration through routes that expose them to being victims of criminal networks, risks to their health, and even the danger of losing their life. Many people arrive at the border posts and remain for months in the custody of the immigration authorities without certainty about their situation.
At the same time, the Cuban government has intensified restrictions on the exercise of the right to free movement, both inside and outside the country . The authorities of the Island have used the tactics of forced exile and the prohibition of entry to the territory of Cuban nationals with current residence, to silence those critical voices that acquire greater visibility. It is of special concern that, in addition to the socio-economic conditions that expel thousands of Cuban men and women from the country, there is systematic and permanent harassment against activists, artists, and journalists, who are pressured to leave the country in subhuman conditions. This situation is preventing many people from enjoying their nationality effectively and, likewise, it prevents them from enjoying other fundamental rights such as the right to a family and the free choice of residence.
On May 14, 2022, the National Assembly of People’s Power approved the new Penal Code. Although the final official text has not yet been published, the draft raises concern since it maintains a broad and ambiguous language to classify those crimes that have been used arbitrarily to persecute the activities of human rights defenders, jurists, activists, and independent journalists. Of particular concern is the increase in penalties related to “Crimes against the Internal Security of the State”, among which are crimes against the constitutional order, sedition and propaganda against the constitutional order, which have frequently been used to repress and criminalize the legitimate exercise of the human rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The repression and historical criminalization in Cuba persists protected by internal legislation that limits the exercise of human rights such as freedom of expression and association. An example of this is the use of criminal offenses such as sedition and public disorder to criminalize those who decided to exercise their right to peaceful protest on 11J and 15N. Other practices that the State has adopted to respond to the 2021 marches also draw attention, among which, the failure to observe the principle of the best interests of the child and the special care they require stand out; the psychological coercion to force people to leave the Island and the siege of the national and international press. Although these practices are not new, they reveal a state policy based on sowing fear in the population and the interest in getting rid of any type of popular expression critical of state policy.
One year after 11J, from the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, we call on the Cuban State to put an end to repressive practices against those who demonstrate and organize peacefully and claim their human rights. The Institute will continue to monitor the situation, documenting the abuses perpetrated by the government and denouncing human rights violations to the international community.
IACHR, Press Release 295/21, The IACHR expresses concern over the worsening of repression and other human rights violations since the July protests in Cuba , November 5, 2021.