IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression are concerned about the persistent repressive and intimidating strategies used by the State of Cuba to prevent the civic rally that had been scheduled for November 15 and did not happen.
According to publicly available reports, members of the Archipiélago platform and other civil society groups requested permission from the authorities to be able to hold a peaceful march against violence and in favor of respect for human rights, as well as to demand the release of political prisoners in the country. According to rally organizers, Cuban authorities denied them permission, arguing that the request was illegal and that the arguments made in favor of the march were not legitimate.
The Commission noted that the Office of the Cuban Attorney General allegedly warned organizers that, if they insisted on holding the protest, they would be charged with several crimes, including disobedience, illegal demonstrations, and inciting crime. The IACHR has also been informed of various instances of repression and intimidation perpetrated over the period November 12–15, as well as of alleged house arrests with police surveillance, arbitrary arrests, public denunciations and harassment of organizers and rally supporters, summons for interrogation in police facilities, threats of criminal charges, and deliberate Internet cutoffs. These acts of repression led to a widespread sense of fear and self-censorship and discouraged citizens' exercise of their right to protest.
Further, journalists who work for various independent media outlets, including 14yMedio, ADN Cuba, and La Hora de Cuba, were allegedly summoned by police for interrogation in the run-up to the planned rally. The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression notes the persistent hounding by State law enforcement officers against reporters who actively address matters of public interest and question the Cuban government. In particular, Cuba's International Media Center revoked accreditation for five correspondents for the news agency EFE in Havana, although accreditation was restored within a few hours for two of them. EFE said this was an unprecedented measure for international media in the country.
The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression noted that Yunior García, one of the leaders of the Archipiélago platform and one of the civic rally's main promoters, went into exile on November 17, allegedly due to the threats, house arrests, and harassment that he and his family had been subjected to in Cuba.
The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression stress that States need to act based on the legality of all protests and to assume they are not a threat to law and order. As the IACHR said in its report , police actions in demonstration contexts need to focus on facilitating and protecting the rights of participants, rather than on confronting them and restricting their rights. Social protest and freedom of expression help to explore mechanisms for dialogue and exchange between a country's authorities and its citizens.
The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression call on the State to ensure that the human rights violations that have happened in Cuba since July 11 do not happen again. Both institutions remind the State of its duty to respect, protect, and guarantee the exercise of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly.
The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the IACHR to promote the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Americas, considering the fundamental role that right plays in the consolidation and development of any democratic system.
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.