Five years after the UPR, Cuban activists demand the release of people deprived of liberty for political reasons

Five years after the UPR, Cuban activists demand the release of people deprived of liberty for political reasons

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.

In the Framework of the UPR Pre-Session in Geneva, Activists will Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba

Geneva, August 28, 2023.- This Wednesday, August 30, representatives of Cuba’s independent civil society in Cuba and international organizations working for the defense of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, to denounce human rights violations on the island. 

The event entitled ‘Cuba: Five Years After the Universal Periodic Review (UPR),’ will commence at 1:30 p.m. (Geneva time) at Rue de Varembé 1 (5th floor). This meeting is being held within the framework of the UPR pre-session, taking place from August 29 to September 1 in Geneva, where representatives of civil society organizations from 14 countries, including Cuba, will address the human rights situation in each of these territories.

The panel discussion will feature the lawyer and consultant to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Livia Lemus; the Director of Cubalex, Laritza Diversent; the Director of Strategy at the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, Yaxys Cires; the officer of the Central America and the Caribbean Program of Article 19, Claudia Ordoñez; independent journalist Mario Luis Reyes, and Cuban artist Nonardo Perea.

The panelists will discuss labor and trade union rights, individuals deprived of liberty for political reasons, independent journalism, and freedom of expression on the island. The aim is to raise awareness before international and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as representatives of the states, about the human rights reality experienced in this country prior to the IV UPR cycle, where Cuba will be evaluated in November of this year. 

In 2018, the Cuban state was last reviewed during the III UPR cycle. At that time, Cuba received 339 recommendations, of which it accepted 226, took note of 83, and rejected 30. To monitor the implementation of these recommendations, several independent civil society organizations submitted alternative reports to be considered in the new UPR cycle.

The panel discussion on Wednesday, August 30, will allow attendees to gain more information about what has transpired on the island five years after its last UPR evaluation. 

From Race and Equality, we emphasized the importance of creating such spaces to denounce human rights violations taking place in Cuba. We call upon international and regional human rights mechanisms, as well as state representatives, to listen to the  appeals of independent civil society organizations in Cuba and condemn the repression, harassment, and various forms of violence documented daily in this country.

“We are searching for another Cuba”, art exhibition in commemoration of the 11J protests

Miami, June 29, 2023 – This Thursday, July 6, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) commemorates in Miami (United States) two years since the peaceful protests of July 2021 (11J) in Cuba, the most massive that have been recorded on the island in recent years. It will do so through ‘We are searching for another Cuba’, the name of the art exhibition held in conjunction with Civil Rights Defenders and Cuban producer Anyelo Troya, which reflects the struggles of those who have been victims of repression and violence exercised by the State.

The exhibition, which begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Hodler Gallery (257 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127), is an X-ray of daily life in Cuba, the demonstrations, the cases of harassment, the stories of people deprived of their freedom for political reasons and their families, and the stories of Cubans who dream of a different country, the same people who seek a free island. Those who wish to participate may do so by registering at this link.

“‘We are searching for another Cuba’ comes from the name of a poem written by a person imprisoned for marching in the protests of 11J. In it, the word ‘Freedom’ is the slogan of those who remain in prison for demanding their rights in Cuba,” says Carlos Quesada, executive director of Race and Equality..

The art exhibit will open with a panel discussion, which will feature the president of the San Isidro Movement in the United States, Cuban actress and activist Iris Ruiz; academic and activist Joanna Columbié; and the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, Jorge Duany, who will reflect on the historic demonstrations, what has happened after two years have passed, and the future of the island.

The protests of July 11 and 12, 2021 spread throughout Cuba, thanks to social networks that allowed the news to spread that a group of people in San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in the province of Artemisa, had taken to the streets to demonstrate against the State, in response to the serious economic, social and political crisis, which still affects the Cuban citizenry.

The demonstrations, which were then brutally repressed by the authorities of this country, left a balance of 1555 people arbitrarily detained, of which 681 remain imprisoned, according to a report published in early June 2023 by the organization Justicia 11J[1].

Race and Equality invites people living in or visiting Miami to attend the art exhibition ‘We are searching for another Cuba’, with which we commemorate the two years of the 11J protests, and we will demand the Cuban State to release those deprived of their freedom for political reasons. We will also call for an end to repression and all forms of violence against dissident voices. We will remember those who exercised their legitimate right to demonstrate in 2021, those who dream of a country in freedom.

***

[1] Political detentions – Justice 11J. Published on June 7, 2023. Available: https://us17.campaign-archive.com/?u=4bd0b7d67e3a80c4ad07b3deb&id=59f5d969cf

Transcendent Voices: Art and Culture as Forms of Resistance and Pride

Washington D.C., June 28, 2023 – On International LGBTI+ Pride Day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to dedicate this article to recognize, celebrate, and highlight the presence of LGBTI+ persons in the region in the field of art and culture, which have always been forms of resistance, survival, and pride for LGBTI+ persons. Their disruptive forms of artistic expression have revolutionized this sector, not only enriching it but also challenging and transforming the dominant narratives of cisheteronormativity.

From a human rights perspective, the A/HRC/14/36 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights states that cultural rights are essential for the recognition and respect of human dignity in many aspects. Through these rights, the development and expression of diverse worldviews – both individual and collective – are protected, encompassing important freedoms related to issues of identity.[1]

In this sense, the representation and dignified visibility of historically marginalized groups, such as the LGBTI+ population, are crucial to reclaim their bodies and identities and promote their human rights. “Combat stigma and discrimination. Positive representation in culture contributes to challenging the negative stereotypes and prejudices surrounding sexual and gender diversity,” mentions Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua, who points out that this also applies to oneself when characters and narratives reflect personal experiences that contribute to developing greater confidence and accepting one’s gender identity or sexual orientation without shame or guilt.

“Diverse artistic expression makes things visible, exposes, portrays, and enriches. Being able to enjoy art created by sexual and gender diverse individuals provides a different perspective to the audience, humanizing and making their expressions their own,” says Fhran Medina, lawyer and LGBTI+ rights activist from Fraternidad Trans Masculina Perú.

From the perspective of the meaning of art and culture, Guillermo Valdizán states in his book Creación Heroica that “forms of cultural production are intimately linked to processes of social transformation.”[2] In other words, cultural production does not exist outside of a specific social, political, and economic context and has been present throughout the history of societies; therefore, it is part of the social process and not just a tool. As Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia, says, there is an appropriation of the more visible cultural sphere by LGBTI+ persons, which produces new representations and reflections on sexuality and gender, fostering cultural transformations.

Next, Race and Equality’s counterparts recommend some notable examples of cultural productions that have contributed to the visibility of LGBTI+ people:

Yunior Pino, Cuban photographer and activist: “We are courageous individuals endowed with talents and gifts; we educate to eradicate the taboos that have caused a lot of harm and discrimination for generations. I recommend the Cuban film titled Fátima because it portrays the harsh reality experienced by the majority of the LGBTI+ community in Cuba, facing a macho and discriminatory society and a system that forces family separation and prostitution.”

Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia: “I would like the work of Kia sonorica, a Paraguayan trans artist, to be more widely known. She is also an anti-colonial historian and has a deep understanding of art history; and now she is one of the pioneering Latin American artists using artificial intelligence to create artistic works.”

Fhran Medina, Peruvian lawyer and activist: “Antay is my favorite Peruvian singer-songwriter, not only because he is a great singer, but also because of the work and immense heart he puts into each song and performance. His lyrics are filled with tenderness and artistry. As a trans singer-songwriter, he carries many stories and experiences of the trans population. The music video for the song “Júrame” is something that everyone should watch, and you can find more of his productions on Spotify and YouTube.”

Articulación Brasileña de Lésbicas – Rede ABL: “We recommend the work of Bia Ferreira in music because she is a black woman and ‘sapatão’* who brings true ‘gospels’ of liberation in her songs. It is important for other people to know her work because she explains the cause and solutions to various social issues in a didactic way.”

Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua: “I recommend the artist Ru Paul, an iconic Drag Queen and host of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ru Paul has been an important figure in LGBTI+ culture and has promoted acceptance and celebration of diversity.”

In conclusion, the visibility of LGBTI+ persons in the field of art and culture is a powerful indicator of progress in human rights. Through cinema, music, dance, theater, visual art, and more, a space has been conquered where these transcendent voices can be heard, and their experiences can be authentically represented. Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to promoting the visibility and representation of LGBTI+ individuals in all areas of life and wishes them a Pride Month filled with music, art, and culture. All people deserve to live in a society free of violence, more just, and without discrimination. Human rights always!

*’Sapatão’ is a word of pride that refers to lesbian women in Brazil. It is similar to how the trans movement has embraced the word ‘travesti’.

 

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[1] Report of the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed, submitted pursuant to resolution 10/23 of the Human Rights Council. Available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/124/40/PDF/G1012440.pdf?OpenElement

[2] Valdizán, Guillermo (2021). Creación Heroica: Neoliberalismo, políticas culturales y estrategia comunitaria en el Perú del siglo XXI. Lima: RGC Ediciones

“In Cuba there is no social tolerance for censorship”: IACHR

Washington D.C., June 22, 2023 – On Tuesday, June 20, 17 art pieces by Cuban graphic artists were exhibited, as part of ‘At Pen Point’, an exhibition that captures and denounces the human rights violations registered on the Island. The exhibition was accompanied by a discussion entitled ‘Graphic Humor, Art and Satire in the Face of Social Protests and the Human Rights Crisis in Cuba’, which took place at the National Press Club, in Washington D.C. The event was co-organized with the multimedia platform El Toque, and took place within the framework of the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS).

When discussing how art has served to reject repression on the Island, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Pedro Vaca, assured that in this country “there is no social tolerance for censorship.” 

“Art usually walks on the edge of collective self-censorship. Verbalizing, writing, capturing… What many want to say can imply tremendous levels of fear of retaliation. That is why art fills us with hope when it is capable of reflecting something that  people collectively want to say: a stifled cry that reflects a citizen’s feeling,” said the rapporteur, acknowledging that artists in Cuba continue to denounce the human rights violations registered in this territory, despite repression, harassment, arbitrary detentions and short-term disappearances. 

Vaca also recalled singer Maykel Castillo Pérez, better known as ‘El Osorbo’, and artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who remain in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression. And he stated that, since 2021, at least 22 members of the San Isidro Movement have been beneficiaries of precautionary measures in an attempt by the IACHR to protect their rights. 

For his part, the director of El Toque, José Nieves, said during his intervention in the conversation that “humor can be an extremely useful tool for public debate. The symbolic irreverence of humor, which takes politicians out of their pedestal and comfort zone, is a new form of struggle.” 

Cuban visual artist and columnist Camila Lobon, who was also part of the panel, recalled that, in Cuba, with the entry of the Internet, its inhabitants found a tool to know what is happening in their territory, and thus build a narrative from art. “Cuban artists have been able to show and launch to the world a new type of activism that has made the country’s reality visible,” she added.

The lack of guarantees for Cuban citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression not only affects Cuban artists, but also those who work as journalists in Cuba. Independent journalist Orelvys Cabrera affirmed during his contribution in the conversation that freedom of the press has not existed on the island for many years. 

“Cuban independent journalists are persecuted, threatened, and harassed so that we hide the reality of journalism. At all times we work under persecution making us feel like war correspondents”, he pointed out. 

From the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we echo the words and testimonies of the people who participated in the discussion on how Cuban art has served to denounce human rights violations in this country. Also, we reiterate our request to the State of Cuba to guarantee the human rights of its inhabitants, including freedom of expression. We demand an end to repression and harassment against artists and journalists on the Island, who through their work question the decisions of Cuban authorities, and reflect the reality of the Cuban people.

Rewatch the event here:

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination celebrated the 10th anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI within the framework of the OAS General Assembly

Washington D.C., June 20, 2023 – The Inter-American Forum against Discrimination, an annual event organized by the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality), took place during the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). It brought together representatives from the governments of the United States and Brazil, as well as experts and Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI+ leaders from the region, for an effective dialogue on racial discrimination in the Americas.

This year, the Forum’s theme was the “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI),” which was held at the iconic National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C.

Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality, highlighted in his welcome speech that the CIRDI is a Convention that broadly addresses racial discrimination, serving not only Afro-descendant peoples but also indigenous peoples and Romani communities.

The first panel, “The Historical Debt: State Responsibility towards the CIRDI and the CIDI,” featured the participation of Joy-Dee Davis Lake, Counselor Minister of the OAS Embassy and Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda. In her remarks, the Minister emphasized the importance of building a better world for diversity, free from discrimination, where every individual can fulfill their full potential. This panel also included Luz Elena Baños Rivas, Ambassador of the OAS Permanent Mission in Mexico, who could not attend in person but sent her message calling for commitment and strengthening of the CIRDI to OAS Member States.

Moderated by Carlos Quesada, the second panel, “International Efforts to Combat Racial and Ethnic Discrimination,” featured the contributions of Margarette May Macaulay, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH); Desirée Cormier-Smith, Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice (SRREJ) of the U.S. Department of State, and Symmy Larrat, National Secretary for LGBTQIA+ Rights of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship of Brazil.

“It is necessary to pay attention to racial representation in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) and in the United Nations Secretariat. Additionally, I call on government ministers and political parties to reflect on their resistance and inaction regarding the approval of the CIRDI by OAS Member States,” stated Margarette May Macaulay.

“We must commit to keeping the window of racial and social justice open. It is our responsibility to prevent this window from closing,” emphasized Desirée Cormier-Smith, urging all Afro-descendant individuals to empower themselves and influence their governments to build an antiracist democracy.

In her speech, Symmy Larrat celebrated the reestablishment of the LGBTI Popular Participation Council and announced the creation of a Working Group on ‘Memory and Truth,’ which will include experts and members of civil society to implement public policies addressing the historical reparation of the LGBTI population. “It is a challenge to strengthen LGBTI social movements with such a conservative congress. We won the elections, but we didn’t win the fascist wave,” she said.

Afro-descendant and indigenous leaders from civil society in Latin America shared their experiences in the panel titled Regional Experiences: Inclusion as a Tool to Strengthen Diverse Voices.” Moderated by Cecilia Ramírez, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of Afro-Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP), the dialogue included participants such as Maurício Yek’uana, Director of Hutukara Yanomami Association, who drew attention to the advance of drug trafficking in the countries bordering Yanomami indigenous lands in Brazil. “In addition to the miners we have been denouncing for years, criminal factions are arriving, and the government’s action is still insufficient to contain the invaders in the region,” stated Maurício Yek’uana. Adailton Moreira, Babalorixá Ilê Axé Omiojuarô, denounced religious racism and the State’s consent due to the lack of public policies that could curb violence against African-origin religions.

Representing the LGBTI agenda, the panel included Sandra Milena Arizabaleta, Legal Representative of the Afro-descendant Foundation for Social and Sexual Diversity (SOMOS IDENTIDAD) from Colombia, and Yader de los Ángeles Parajón Gutiérrez, an LGBT activist and member of the Mothers of April Association and the Unamos Party from Nicaragua.

Education and political will for anti-fascism are necessary for real inclusion. Authorities must bridge the gap between activism and the government,” expressed Sandra Milena Arizabaleta.

Yader de los Ángeles Parajón concluded, “Nicaragua owes a debt to gender identity. The violence generated by the dictatorship permeates all levels and remains silent. Many activists are persecuted. In this system, they no longer live, but they survive.” The panel also featured Wendy Geraldina López Rosales, an indigenous Guatemalan member and lawyer of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala (UDEFEGUA), and Cuban activist Jorge Luis García Pérez, who called for an effective alliance for the rights of their peoples.

The Guatemalan state issues arrest warrants against indigenous peoples, criminalizing them and subjecting them to inhumane treatment. They treat us as invaders, but no one can be an invader of land that historically belongs to them,” warned Wendy López.

I am a former political prisoner of Castro’s regime. My family is also a victim of fierce persecution because we are Black, because we are opponents. The dictatorship does not tolerate any form of faith either,” said Jorge Luis García Pérez, pointing out that religious persecution based on racial discrimination also exists in Cuba.

The last panel, “Coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly,” moderated by Elvia Duque, Senior Officer of the Race and Equality Program on Race and Ethnicity, provided the audience with a deeper understanding of the 53rd OAS General Assembly. It featured Paulina Corominas, Director of the Office of Civil Society of the Department of International Relations of the OAS, and Rosa Castro from the Association of Women of the Oaxaca Coast and Coordinator of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas at the 53rd OAS General Assembly.

Paulina Corominas explained that there are 34 thematic coalitions formed within the 53rd OAS General Assembly, and on June 21, a dialogue would take place between OAS representatives and civil society. Rosa Castro highlighted some of the demands of the Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas, which include a high-level meeting for the 10th anniversary of the CIRDI and an agenda that considers a fund for Afro-descendants.

Based on the diverse voices that resonated with the different realities and contexts of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI peoples in Latin America, Race and Equality issued a call for unity in the Americas in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. With the CIRDI as the motto for an effective plan for its implementation by all OAS Member States by 2024, the alliance continues to support and empower civil society organizations to occupy these strategic spaces such as the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination.

Missed the event? Relive it through this link: fb.watch/lhnPl8jt7F/

Learn about our CIRDI 2024 campaign! https://cirdi2024.org/en/

At OAS Assembly: Race and Equality to Commemorate 10th Anniversary of CIRDI and Denounce Human Rights Violations in Cuba and Religious Persecution in Nicaragua

Washington D.C., June 14, 2023 – On the occasion of the 53rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) will hold three parallel events. In the first event, the organization will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI) and promote its signature, ratification and implementation. The second event will denounce human rights violations in Cuba; and the third will demand that the Nicaraguan regime cease the persecution of religious leaders and release all persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons.

The OAS General Assembly will be held June 21-23, 2023 at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., under the theme “strengthening a culture of democratic accountability with promotion, protection and equality of human rights in the Americas.” In this sense, the Race and Equality events aim to encourage OAS Member States to take action to combat impunity, promote inclusive and sustainable peace and a democratic transition in the region.

Inter-American Forum Against Discrimination: Tenth Anniversary of CIRDI and CIDI

Race and Equality, as part of its ongoing advocacy work on behalf of the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, will bring together renowned representatives of the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the governments of the United States and Brazil, and civil society leaders from Latin America at the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination: “Tenth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (CIDI)” on June 20, 2023.

The Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI) was approved by the OAS General Assembly on June 5, 2013, after thirteen years of advocacy by Race and Equality and other ethnic civil society organizations. This is an instrument that consolidates the commitment of States to the total eradication of these scourges; however, of the 35 member States of the OAS, only 6 States are party to CIRDI, only 7 have signed it, and 29 have not signed, ratified, or implemented it.

In this sense, the Forum will be divided into thematic panels on the historical debt and the responsibility of the States before the CIRDI and CIDI treaties, international efforts to combat racial and ethnic discrimination, and towards LGBTI+ people; as well as the participation of civil society leaders, regional experiences, and inclusion as a tool to strengthen diverse voices. Finally, there will be a dialogue on the coalition of Afro-descendants of the Americas and the 53rd regular session of the OAS General Assembly.

Cuba: At Pen Point

In order to continue denouncing the serious human rights violations in Cuba, particularly the cases of harassment against activists and human rights defenders, Race and Equality invites you on June 20 to the art exhibition “At Pen Point,” an exhibition co-organized with the platform El Toque, which brings together a selection of 20 cartoons and vignettes by Cuban artists who traverse with humor, nonchalance, and wit several transcendental socio-political events of recent years on the island.

In Cuba, as of May 31, there were 1,880 people deprived of liberty for political reasons, according to the 11J Justice working group, which has also documented that 773 people continue to be imprisoned for having participated in the peaceful protests of July 2021, the most massive in the last decade. Parallel to these human rights violations, there are already 38 cases of femicides on the island, a figure that exceeds the annual record for the year 2022. 

In this regard, the opening of “At Pen Point” will be accompanied by a discussion entitled ‘Graphic humor, art, and satire in the face of social protests and the human rights crisis in Cuba’, with the participation of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Pedro Vaca; the editor of El Toque, José Nieves; the Cuban visual artist and columnist, Camila Lobón; and the Cuban independent journalist, Orelvys Cabrera.

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Finally, to reflect on Nicaragua’s deepening socio-political and human rights crisis and how this country is setting a standard for democratic setbacks in the region, Race and Equality – in coordination with the Legal Defense Unit (UDJ) – will hold the event “Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region” on June 22.

Five years after the start of the peaceful protests of April 2018, 355 murders of protesters continue in impunity, more than 47 people remain deprived of liberty for political reasons in Nicaraguan prisons, at least 2,090 people have been arbitrarily detained, more than 320 people have been stripped of their nationality, and the repression is at a stage characterized by the persecution and criminalization of the Catholic Church and restrictions on religious freedom.

Given this context, in the first part of the event, legal experts will discuss the repressive patterns against people considered opponents and against the Church; and in the second part, victims of the regime and representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will discuss arbitrary imprisonment for political reasons and other reprisals against those who exercise their fundamental freedoms.

*** More information about the events ***

Inter-American Forum against Discrimination

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 9:00 am

Venue: National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Washington D.C.

Live: via Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here

Simultaneous translation in Spanish, Portuguese and English. 

Cuba: At Pen Point

Date: Tuesday, June 20, at 6:30 pm

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English. 

Nicaragua’s Crisis: A Threat to Democracy Throughout the Region

Date: Thursday, June 22, at 5:30 pm.

Venue: National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Live Broadcast: Zoom and Facebook Live 

On-site registration here (R.S.V.P.)

Simultaneous translation in Spanish and English.



The EU must respond to the magnitude of Cuba’s human rights crisis at the joint council

Washington D.C., May 23, 2023 – Dear High Representative Borrell, ahead of the forthcoming European Union (EU)-Cuba Joint Council on 26 May, our organizations are writing to urge you to ensure that human rights remain at the very centre of the EU’s relations with Cuba, at a crucial moment for the country’s human rights defenders.

Our organizations continue to document1 the Cuban authorities’ ongoing crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association in the country, stifling dissenting voices and targeting human rights defenders. Cuban human rights defenders face harassment and repression by the Cuban authorities and remain excluded from spaces where international actors and the Cuban government take decisions that affect their work and the wider human rights situation in the country.

The Cuban government’s approach has long been marked by restrictive laws, censorship and intimidation tactics, with ever increasing machinery to control the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, while individuals defending human rights face unfair trials and arbitrary detention. This trend has only increased with the targeting of protesters since the demonstrations of 11-12 July 2021, when thousands of people took to the streets across the island to demand a change in living conditions in Cuba in a way that has not been witnessed in decades.

The Cuban authorities have refused to allow EU and member state diplomats, international media or human rights organizations to monitor the trials of those detained during the July 11 protests. Family members and detainees report various due process violations, while artists, intellectuals and others with alternative ideas are subjected to alarming levels of surveillance and restrictions on their freedom of movement. Peaceful protests as recently as in September and October 2022 are reported to have been met with police and military deployment to suppress them. Cuba has expanded internet access but as part of a government policy to continuously silence dissent, the authorities control and interrupt web access at politically sensitive times, regularly blocking messaging apps in contravention of international human rights law.

Three prominent activists, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara2, Maykel ‘’Osorbo’’ Castillo Pérez and Jose Daniel Ferrer García 3, remain in jail in Cuba as of May 2023 solely as a result of their convictions and the peaceful exercise of their human rights. Justicia 11J, a group formed in response to the repression of protesters in July 2021, records 1,812 individuals arrested since the start of the protests, with 768 remaining in prison as of 11 May 2023.

Ahead of the Joint Council, Cuban civil society has likewise raised many of these concerns, including the situation of independent civil society, prisoners of conscience and others detained for political reasons, the respect of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and movement – as well as both political participation in Cuba and the participation of independent civil society in EU-Cuba relations.

In March 2022, the EU responded to the “disproportionate sentences” of the July 2021 protesters, calling on the authorities to guarantee and protect the rights to express dissent and protest. The EU declaration on the first anniversary of the protests also expressed concern about due process and disproportionate sentences in response to the protests, urging the Cuban authorities to release all those detained solely on the grounds of exercising their rights and to dialogue with the Cuban people about their legitimate concerns both about deteriorating living conditions and about their human rights.

At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in November 2022, the EU reiterated these calls, urging Cuba to grant its citizens all their rights, ratify the UN Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), extend a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures and open spaces for a constructive and inclusive dialogue, without preconditions, with the whole spectrum of civil society actors on the island.

According to the 2016 Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the EU and Cuba, the Joint Council works to “oversee the fulfilment of the objectives of this Agreement and supervise its implementation”, including “respect for and the promotion of democratic principles, respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the core international human-rights instruments and their optional protocols which are applicable to the Parties, and respect for the rule of law constitute an essential element of this Agreement.” The crackdown on human rights in Cuba, and in particular the targeting of protesters and human rights defenders since July 2021, stand in clear contradiction to these stated commitments.

The magnitude of Cuba’s human rights crisis must be matched by a proportional response from the EU and its member states to address the scope and severity of the situation and to establish concrete human rights benchmarks in their relations with Cuba.

At the Joint Council, we urge you to lead the EU and its member states in robustly engaging the Cuban authorities to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for exercising their human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The EU and its member states should raise the cases of José Daniel Ferrer García, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel ‘’Osorbo’’ Castillo Pérez, Aymara Nieto, Sissi Abascal Zamora, Donaida Pérez Paseiro and dissident artists Richard Zamora Brito “El Radikal”, Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez and Randy Arteaga-Rivera.
  • End the ongoing surveillance and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders, activists and journalists, including the use of house arrest against dissenting voces.
  • Cease the excessive use of force and arbitrary detentions during protests and refrain from internet interruptions that hinder the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and access to The authorities must pro-actively facilitate peaceful assemblies, protect peaceful protests, end all use of unlawful force against peaceful protesters and guarantee protesters’ safety.
  • Establish a national legislative framework to safeguard the right to protest; in parallel, repeal and amend repressive and/or vaguely worded offences in the new penal code, as well as laws that have been misused against human rights defenders, activists, protesters and members of independent civil society.
  • Prevent and combat discrimination of any kind and promote the respect, protection and guarantee of the human rights of all, including women, Afro-descendants and the LGBTIQ+ community.
  • Promptly establish a comprehensive law on gender-based violence defining protocols to prevent and address the growing problem of feminicides and violence against women and girls in Cuba, including an efficient, public and transparent institutional protection and security mechanism for survivors.
  • Ensure access to independent human rights organizations to monitor and report on the human rights situation, and likewise extend standing invitations to UN Special Rapporteurs, in particular those focusing on freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and human rights defenders, facilitating their visits as soon as possible.
  • Address the population’s need for greater access to food and medicine and act to fulfil the population’s economic, social, and cultural rights – human rights concerns that were at the core of the recent and ongoing protests. The EU and its member states should call on the Cuban authorities to increase their efforts to ensure these rights and support genuine efforts to do so.
  • Ratify the ICCPR, ICESCR and the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible, using the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country’s human rights record as an opportunity to re-affirm Cuba’s commitments to all rigths.
  • Use the opportunity of the forthcoming EU-CELAC summit in July to step-up engagement on human rights with Cuba and across Latin America and the Caribbean in line with calls from civil society in the region and in the EU. 
  • Make sure that independent Cuban and European human rights and civil society organizations are fully consulted, and their participation proactively facilitated in all decision-making that affects them – including the civil society events connected to the EU-Cuba human rights dialogue, bilateral cooperation and the implementation of the PDCA.
  • Fully use the mechanisms defined in the PDCA to ensure that the Cuban government complies with its commitments to respect human rights.

We thank you in advance for your action to ensure the respect and fulfillment of all human rights for all in Cuba at this crucial time.

Amnesty International

Civil Rights Defenders

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Front Line Defenders Human Rights Watch People in Need

Race and Equality

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

***
1 Amnesty International, Cuba: Open Letter to President Miguel Díaz Canel on Human Rights of Prisoners of Conscience, 18 May 2023; Amnesty International, Cuba: Escalated repression: Amnesty International: Submission to the 44th session of the UPR working group, 5 November 2023, 30 March 2023; Human Rights Watch, World Report 2023: Cuba, 12 January 2023; Human Rights Watch, Report, Prison or Exile: Cuba’s Systematic Repression of July 2021 Demonstrators, 11 July 2022; Human Rights Watch, Report, Cuba: Peaceful Protesters Systematically Detained, Abused, 19 October 2021; Race and Equality, Cuba: How to Understand July 11 and November 15, 2021 in Light of International Human Rights Standards – An Intersectional Focus, March 2022.

2 See Cuba: Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP Plenary, 8 June 2021.

3 See Cuba: Statement by the Spokesperson on the case of José Daniel Ferrer, 27 February 2020; European Parliament on Cuba, the case of José Daniel Ferrer, 28 November 2019.

Díaz-Canel and Ortega: Enemies of Press Freedom in Latin America

Washington, D.C. May 2, 2023. – Until May 2023, Cuba and Nicaragua will hold at least three journalists in prison solely for their work of informing the population about the constant human rights violations committed by the authorities. This May 3, World Press Freedom Day, these people will not be able to exercise their freedom. They have been silenced.

The figure is a small sample of the enormous amount of aggressions that these two States have committed against journalists since two historic moments experienced by their populations: April 2018 in Nicaragua, when citizens came out en masse to protest to demand the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo from power; and July 11, 2021 in Cuba, when its citizens demonstrated against shortages and the difficult political, social, economic, and rights situation on the island. 

In Nicaragua, journalist Victor Ticay was arrested on the morning of April 6 of this year when he went out to film a religious procession as part of the commemoration of Holy Week. Since then, the police in the service of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have not released any information about him to his family or to the public. 

About 1,243 kilometers away, in Cuba, journalist Lázaro Valle Roca was sentenced to five years in prison under the false crime of “contempt”, after publishing the report “Se calentó la Habana, lanzan octavillas conmemorando el natalicio de Antonio Maceo”, which told how some messages launched from a building in Havana, demanded that people deprived of their freedom for political reasons, be released immediately. He was arrested in June 2021.  

Also in prison in Cuba is Jorge Bello Domínguez, who was sentenced to 15 years for having participated in the historic protests of July 2021. 

Ticay, Valle, and Bello are not the only journalists who have been deprived of their freedom. In February 2023, the Ortega-Murillo regime released a group of 222 people who were in prison for political reasons, and banished them to the United States. 

Among this group were three staff members of the press freedom organization “Fundación Violeta B. de Chamorro” journalists Miguel Mora, Miguel Mendoza; the directors of the newspaper La Prensa, Cristiana Chamorro and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, arbitrarily detained in 2021 and at least two staff members of the newspaper and the general manager of the newspaper, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, arbitrarily deprived of their freedom in 2022.

In addition to them, at least 185 Nicaraguan journalists are currently in exile, in countries such as the United States, Costa Rica or Spain, some fled to avoid arbitrary imprisonment after the approval of the Cybercrimes Law at the end of 2020 and others were prevented from returning by the regime when they had left to do work in other countries. 

Journalist Angel Gahona was killed in April 2018 with a gunshot to the head while covering protests in the city of Bluefields. The Nicaraguan regime attempted to frame innocent citizens and, to this day, there has been no serious investigation to bring the culprits to justice.

The Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (Iclep) partially recorded that 40 independent journalists or those who worked or worked in the state media, emigrated during 2022 to different countries such as Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Germany, Peru and the vast majority to the United States.

According to the 2022 Annual Report presented in April 2023 by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Nicaragua had an intensification of the repressive escalation against journalists and media, while in Cuba the repression against journalists, artists and human rights defenders, constitutes an “incessant pattern”.

Cuba and Nicaragua have used laws to censor, repress, besiege, assault and confiscate media outlets, as a State policy to silence independent journalism and thus prevent complaints of human rights violations from reaching international bodies. 

That is why the numbers of aggressions against media and journalists are so high in these countries: between 2021 and the first 10 months of 2022, the organization Article 19 in its report ‘Silence and banishment: The forced exile of independent journalists in Cuba’, documented that journalists suffered a total of 246 aggressions; while ICLEP recorded that on the island there were 1637 violations of press freedom during the same period of time, and 208 arbitrary detentions last year alone. On the other hand, in Nicaragua there were at least 3344 press freedom violations in the last five years, according to data from Voces del Sur.

Both Díaz-Canel and the Ortega-Murillo family know the power of independent media to denounce, and their eagerness to silence different opinions has the media as its main target. In spite of this, from exile, journalists have continued to work, gathering information on human rights violations, for example in the case of Nicaragua, their work contributed to the UN Group of Experts on Human Rights to issue a strong report in which they qualified the events in that country as crimes against humanity. 

The work of journalists in denouncing, documenting and disseminating the violations of rights occurring in Cuba and Nicaragua is essential for the search for justice and reparation for the victims and the eventual justice processes to which both the leaders of those governments and those who executed their orders against a citizenry that has done nothing more than civically resist the repression of both regimes must submit. 

Therefore, from the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we condemn the imprisonment, exile, banishment and stripping of nationality to which journalists are subjected in these countries and we celebrate that, despite the difficulties, microphones and cameras continue to collect the testimonies of the victims who demand truth, reparation and justice, and contribute to the creation of historical memory of both countries. 

Time has shown that censorship cannot win over the dissemination of truth and that the repressive policies of both States only strengthen the credibility of independent media. 

No more censorship! Stop the repression against independent journalism!

 

Two Homelands Documentary: A Film on Human Rights Violations in Cuba

Washington D.C., April 4, 2023 – “I have two homelands: Cuba and the night, or are they one and the same?” With this excerpt from one of Cuban politician José Martí’s best-known poems, begins the documentary: Dos Patrias, a production of the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and La Tiorba Productions, which reflects on human rights violations in Cuba.

The 70-minute film was presented publicly in mid-March at Florida International University (FIU), in the city of Miami (USA), and reveals images and testimonies of people who have suffered repression by Cuban authorities.

“The documentary ‘Two Homelands’ deals with the experiences of three activists: Eduardo Cardet, Xiomara Cruz and Aymara Nieto, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for her critical stance against the Cuban government. Their struggles reflect the struggles of many people on the island who have been and are being harassed and their rights violated for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and peaceful protest,” says Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

The film, which will be presented at the end of April in Brussels, Belgium, details how these three people have lost their freedom for demanding that Cuba be free, which for the director and producer of Dos Patrias, Hilda Hidalgo Xirinachs, “is an irresolvable paradox”.

“During the research for this production I discovered that Xiomara was in prison 1215 days, Eduardo 1095, and Aymara has been in jail for more than 1600 days. This, and in general the whole process of making this documentary was stark for me,” says Hidalgo, a Costa Rican who also studied film on the island.

With the documentary Dos Patrias, Race and Equality denounces that Cuban authorities ignore the fundamental rights of people living on the island, and shows that activists, human rights defenders, artists, and independent journalists are victims of state repression. We demand that the government of this country cease all forms of violence against critical and dissident voices, and that those deprived of their liberty for political reasons be released immediately.

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