IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – On the first anniversary of mass protests in Cuba, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns persistent State repression of individuals who took part in social demonstrations or who supported participants. The IACHR urges the State to end all forms of repression and protect the human rights of the people who have been arrested and charged in connection with the protests.
On July 11, 2021, thousands of people poured out onto the streets in at least 40 towns and cities in the country to peacefully demand civil liberties and changes in the country's political structure, as well as to complain about the lack of access to economic, social, and cultural rights. These protests unleashed an immediate State reaction in which a total of 1,484 people were arrested, 700 of whom reportedly remain deprived of liberty. A total of 624 individuals have reportedly been tried for their involvement in the protests, 586 of whom have been convicted while 34 are awaiting a court decision and four have been found not guilty. The data are based on civil society reports updated in July 2022.
In this context, the IACHR has identified six waves of State repression: 1) use of force and intimidation and stigmatization campaigns; 2) arbitrary arrests, violations of due process, and ill-treatment; 3) criminalization of demonstrators; 4) shutdowns of democratic platforms; 5) continued deprivation of liberty, trials without due process, and harsh sentences; 6) bills aimed at monitoring and punishing dissident views and government criticism, as well as at criminalizing the actions of independent civil society organizations.
Concerning the first wave of repression, the Commission noted the complaints of scores of people injured due to a disproportionate use of force by the police. Similarly, demonstrators reported threats, harassment, and stigmatizing official comments targeting protestors and their supporters. Over the weeks that followed the protests, a second wave of repression involved hundreds of arbitrary arrests and other violations of due process, ill-treatment, and deplorable conditions of detention, as well as the implementation of a heightened surveillance strategy on the streets and specific surveillance of activists' homes throughout the country.
A third wave of repression involved the criminalization of individuals who had taken part in protests, who were formally charged with various crimes and against whom public prosecutors requested harsh sentences. Months later, the Commission was told of a fourth wave of repression aimed at preventing a civic protest that had been planned for November 15 and at discouraging further social demonstrations. The forms of repression used included the following: alleged house arrests with police surveillance, arbitrary arrests, public denunciations and harassment, summons for interrogation in police facilities, threats of criminal charges, and deliberate Internet cutoffs.
In February 2022, the Commission identified a fifth wave of repression marked by continued deprivation of liberty for more than 700 individuals, including several adolescents, and subsequent trials without due process. To silence these individuals, judicial proceedings against them are allegedly based on open crime categories and on ill-founded and disproportionate criminal charges. Finally, the IACHR detected a sixth wave of repression linked to the design of bills aimed at restricting, monitoring, and punishing dissident views and government criticism. In this context, new regulations were adopted concerning telecommunications and cybersecurity in Cuba, and a new Penal Code was approved on May 15, 2022. These new regulations establish crime categories that could be used to criminalize the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
The Commission stresses that human rights violation patterns observed in Cuba over various waves of repression of dissident voices and citizen complaints emerge as part of a structural problem rooted in the very absence of democratic institutions in the country. The IACHR therefore urges Cuba to immediately end punitive action against individuals who took part in protests and their supporters. The State of Cuba must end all acts of harassment and surveillance, arbitrary arrests, violations of due process, unfair trials, and disproportionate sentences.
The IACHR stresses that the State must take all measures necessary to prevent investigations from leading to unfair or baseless trials against individuals who legitimately stand up for their own rights through social protest. The Commission urges the State to ensure that crime categories held in its legislation are not used inappropriately to restrict other rights and that due process is enforced for the benefit of detainees and individuals who are formally charged with crimes.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.