Washington, D.C. July 23, 2020.- The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) is pleased that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has granted our request for precautionary measures for Silverio Portal Contreras. The request was submitted on June 5, 2020 and was granted this Wednesday. Portal Contreras is in a situation of grave risk and the Cuban government should follow the IACHR’s recommendations to take measures necessary to protect his life and personal integrity.
Silverio Portal Contreras is a Cuban political prisoner who was arrested in July 2018 while participating in a public protest. He is an independent activist who has supported various movements in Cuba, including the Ladies in White and the Opposition Movement for a New Republic. While in prison, his health has suffered significantly. He has suffered from thrombosis and consecutive ischemic attacks and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) that have left him partially paralyzed and with reduced eyesight because he did not receive adequate treatment for the conditions. His eyesight is also affected by a cardiac condition and because he was beaten in prison by prison authorities.
In a resolution in October 2019 denying Portal Contreras medical parole, the Provincial Tribunal of Havana recognized that Portal Contreras suffers from health conditions that put his health and life at risk, such as hypertension, ischemic cardiovascular disease, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia, and that he therefore requires “specialized follow-up to maintain his illnesses.” However, the judges decided that his state of health is “compatible with the penitentiary regime.”
Race and Equality filed for precautionary measures on Portal Contreras’ behalf after his wife, Lucinda Gonzalez Gomez, informed us that she had stopped receiving her scheduled telephone calls with Portal Contreras after he reported experiencing another TIA. Gonzalez Gomez also received several calls from other prisoners reporting that Portal Contreras had been severely beaten by prison authorities and placed in an isolation cell. The prisoners also told her that Portal Contreras was losing his eyesight because of the beating and lack of medical attention. At the time the precautionary measure request was submitted at the beginning of June, Gonzalez Gomez had had no communication with her husband for several weeks and feared for his life.
In the resolution granting the precautionary measures, the IACHR recognized the extreme situation of risk Portal Contreras is in, noting the “special severity” of the allegations given that the perpetrators are the same state authorities responsible for his care as a prisoner. The IACHR also noted the damaging and permanent effects the failure of the State to provide Portal Contreras with medical care can have, given his condition. The context faced by human rights defenders in Cuba was also a significant factor, which the IACHR described as being “characterized generally by a climate of hostility, persecution, and harassment, particularly with respect to those who have manifested opposition to the government.”
Although the granting of precautionary measures is an important step in drawing international attention to Portal Contreras’ case, he is still very much at risk. Prison authorities continue to deny Portal Contreras the medical care he needs. On Wednesday, Gonzalez Gomez received a call from her husband informing her that he is not receiving the medication he needs for a heart condition, and as a result is losing sight in both eyes. The prison doctor denies that Portal Contreras has a heart condition.
Race and Equality calls on the Cuban government to implement the recommendations the IACHR made in the resolution granting precautionary measures to Portal Contreras, including conducting an investigation to avoid repetition of similar events. Race and Equality is open for dialogue with the Cuban government to help implement these measures. We also urge the international community to follow Portal Contreras’ case and pressure the Cuban government to provide him with the medical care he needs and to release him from prison.
Read the Resolution (in Spanish) here.