Geneva, September 1, 2022 – “I urge the Cuban authorities to release all persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons, freedom for Luis Manuel Otero, freedom for Maykel Osorbo, freedom for Brenda Diaz, the only trans woman detained for participating in the protests of July 2021!”. With these words, Cuban visual artist and activist Nonardo Perea, ended his speech at the ‘Cuba: five years after the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)’ conference on August 30, which brought together representatives of the island’s independent civil society and international organizations to denounce human rights violations in the country.
The event, which took place in Geneva (Switzerland), was held in the framework of the UPR pre-session, a space where representatives of civil society organizations provide information on the countries that will be evaluated in the Universal Periodic Review. This year, Cuba will be reviewed in November, five years after its last evaluation in 2018.
The discussion addressed issues such as violence against women. The director of the NGO Cubalex, Laritza Diversent, recommended the Cuban State to immediately enact a Comprehensive Law against Gender Violence, to address the more than 50 cases of femicide documented this year in Cuba.
The dialogue ‘Cuba: five years after the UPR’ served as a prelude to denounce human rights violations in this country, such as the lack of freedom of expression. According to Claudia Ordoñez, the officer of the Central America and Caribbean Program of the organization Article 19, “Cuban authorities have deployed efforts to impose censorship, and to silence voices critical of the government”.
“Unfortunately, in a totalitarian system such as the one on the island, with a closed civic space, that is, where there are no conditions or guarantees to exercise and enjoy human rights, any act of protest is condemned to be repressed without being heard,” added Ordoñez.
These words were echoed by Cuban journalist Mario Luis Reyes, who recalled that independent journalism in this country is in a very delicate position, thanks to the new Penal Code and the Law of Social Communication. Both laws punish freedom of the press in Cuba.
Labor and union rights were other issues addressed in the discussion. The director of Strategy of the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, Yaxys Cires, said that having a position critical of the government is one of the main reasons for not entering the labor field. “There are no fair salaries or decent jobs. More than 80% of the Cuban population lives in conditions of poverty,” she said.
Finally, the lawyer and consultant of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Livia Lemus, affirmed that this organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), has identified several repressive practices by the Cuban State, which constitute serious human rights violations on the Island. The IACHR representative said that since 1985 Cuba has been uninterruptedly included in Chapter 4B of its annual report, a section that reflects the complex situation of this country, where there are restrictions to political rights, absence of judicial independence, arbitrary detentions, Internet cuts, and other restrictive measures.
During the discussion, activists demanded that Cuban authorities eliminate all repressive practices that have forced human rights defenders, independent journalists, jurists, artists, and voices critical of the Cuban state into exile.
The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) stresses the importance of providing these spaces to denounce human rights violations in Cuba, and we call on international and regional human rights mechanisms and State representatives to listen to the requests of independent civil society organizations in Cuba and to condemn the repression, harassment, and different forms of violence that are documented daily in this country.