Washington DC, July 28, 2022 – Commissioner Edgar Stuardo Ralón, Rapporteur for Cuba and on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty and for the Prevention and Combat of Torture of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and First Vice President of this organization, assured that six waves of repression have been registered on the Island in the last 12 months. The statements were made at the event ‘Cuba: A year after 11J’, which was held on July 18, 2022 in Washington DC, and was co-sponsored by the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the IACHR, with the support of the organizations Artists at Risk Connection, PEN America; PEN International; PEN Cuban Writers in Exile; and Civil Rights Defenders.
“The first wave dealt with the use of force and campaigns of intimidation and stigmatization. The second, arbitrary arrests, mistreatment, and deplorable conditions of detention. The third consisted of the criminalization of demonstrators, judicial persecution, and violations of due process. The fourth, closure of democratic spaces through repressive and intimidating strategies aimed at discouraging new social demonstrations. The fifth wave was evidenced by the continuity of the deprivation of liberty, and the trials without guarantees of due process. And the sixth is the legislative proposals aimed at limiting, monitoring, and punishing dissident expressions and critics of the government, as well as criminalizing the actions of independent civil society organizations,” said the Commissioner during the event that commemorated one year of the peaceful protests on July 11 and 12, 2021, also known as 11J.
Each of these moments, according to the Rapporteur for Cuba, have been recorded after the “most massive demonstrations in the recent history of the Island” took place, which left 1,484 people detained, including 57 boys, girls and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. Although a year has passed since the marches, there are still more than 600 people who remain deprived of liberty for having exercised their right to free expression, according to the director of Cubalex, Laritza Diversent, who also participated in the commemorative event and has compiled, together with the 11J Justice Movement, statistics on the human rights violations that have been evidenced since then.
Commissioner Ralón also stressed that the IACHR has condemned the state repression against people who participated in or supported the peaceful protests in Cuba and assured that the organization has shown its concern about the arrests, the trials with sentences ranging from 5 to 30 years in prison, the cases of repression denounced by activists, artists and independent journalists; and legislative proposals aimed at limiting, monitoring and punishing expressions critical of the government.
“The Commission observes that the first results of the sixth wave, for example, began with the new regulations on telecommunications and cybersecurity (Decree Law 35 on telecommunications and Resolution 105 on response to cybersecurity incidents, of August 17, 2021), and culminated in the approval of a new Penal Code (May 15, 2022), which establishes broad and imprecise categories that would give room for arbitrary and discretionary application by the State,” said the Rapporteur for Cuba.
Voices that reveal human rights violations
The waves that have arisen after the 11J protests have been registered in the midst of the shortage of medicines and food, the serious economic crisis, and the recurrent blackouts that affect thousands of families on the Island. “We still see that the causes that motivated the protests persist. The balance is not encouraging and there are no structural solutions […]. From the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (RESCER), we observe a general increase in poverty”, said Soledad García Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (DESCA), who also was part of the panel at this event.
Cuban independent journalist Orelvys Cabrera, one of the panelists at the meeting that took place on July 18, is one of the more than a thousand people who have experienced the waves of repression highlighted by Commissioner Ralón. He was arrested during the peaceful demonstrations in July 2021. “I was imprisoned in a hole underground. Mold covered the walls and we only had three hours of water a day in a space that was two meters long and four meters wide. 12 men lived there, and our only crime was having gone out to demand a change in the system,” he revealed.
Orelvys, along with the Cuban activist Saily González and the artist Iris Ruiz, a member of the San Isidro Movement, who were also part of the panel, are other voices of the repression and harassment by the Cuban State Security. Osvaldo Navarro, a member of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, also participated in the event virtually, highlighting that the 11J protests have affected women and people of African descent differently.
To the six waves of repression that have been registered in Cuba in the last year, the director of Strategy of the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, Yaxis Cires adds one more. “A seventh wave could be the emptying of the opposition that is taking place on the Island. It is a way of closing the doors to a democratic change where different political actors participate,” he stated during his speech at the event, and assured that an example of this is the case of the Cuban activist Anamely Ramos, who was prohibited by the authorities of this country from returning to Cuba. She, who also participated in the discussion, remains in the United States waiting to be able to return to the Island.
After a year of the peaceful protests of 11J in Cuba, we reiterate the request to the Cuban authorities to cease the violence against the people who demonstrate and organize peacefully to demand their rights. We request that the human rights of each of the people who reside on the Island be respected, guaranteed, and protected, who despite everything they have experienced in the last 12 months, await a free Cuba.