Washington, D.C.; March 11, 2021.- The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) welcomes the comments of Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, calling on the Cuban government to end its program of intimidation and detentions against members of the Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration (CIR).
“The recurrent arrests of human rights defenders on the island, the lack of access to legal representation while they are detained and the surveillance exercised by agents of the Department of State Security is contrary to international law and must cease,” said Lawlor, pointing out that CIR has suffered such abuses since 2017. She also noted that the Cuban government has prevented CIR’s members from traveling to international human rights-related events without explanation or justification.
Lawlor reported that Cuban human rights defenders are the victims of attacks and “suffer limitations to their freedom of movement due to what appears to be an intelligence network that begins with the misuse of criminal law and ends with harassment by the authorities.” She added that human rights defenders “must not be subjected to reprisals because of their legitimate work to help create a civil and just society.”
The Special Rapporteur’s comments were endorsed by five members of the UN Expert Working Group on Persons of African Descent, including Working Group president Dominique Day, and by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule.
Afro-Cuban activists under attack
Race and Equality welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s comments, which come at a time when the Cuban government is intensifying its persecution and criminalization of independent civil society figures, including members of CIR. In retaliation for their work on racial justice, CIR’s members have suffered repression at the hands of Cuban authorities and defamation by government-linked figures.
In a recent interview on the television program Cubavision International, the vice president of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and president of the Aponte Commission (UNEAC’s commission on issues of race and racism) Pedro de la Hoz attacked CIR and the independent organization Cofradía de la Negritud (Black Brotherhood/Sisterhood), calling them “disgusting” and “mercenaries” for their efforts to use UN and Inter-American mechanisms to denounce human rights violations and racial discrimination in Cuba.
Race and Equality notes that Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, CIR’s national coordinator, was detained arbitrarily on November 12, 2020 after Department of State Security agents raided his house in Havana and confiscated belongings from him and his sister. Marthadela Tamayo González and Osvaldo Navarro Veloz, both CIR members, were detained on November 22, 2020 during a protest in Havana’s Central Park.
Race and Equality rejects any discourse that stigmatizes the work of human rights defenders and exposes them to retaliation at the hands of authorities or pro-government actors. We demand that the Cuban State respect independent civil society’s rights to freedom of expression and association, reminding the State that Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Marthadela Tamayo González, and Osvaldo Navarro Veloz are all beneficiaries of precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
As International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 21st) approaches, we call on the Cuban authorities to guarantee full protection for the rights of Afro-Cubans, in line with Cuba’s international human rights commitments.
Photo: CIR members Marthadela Tamayo and Juan Antonio Madrazo (center) participate in a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in March 2017 (IACHR/Flickr)