Press Release

IACHR Rejects Arbitrary Operation Against the San Isidro Movement in Cuba and Reiterates State’s International Human Rights Obligations

November 28, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) spoke out against the violence directed at the San Isidro Movement in Havana, Cuba, and the arbitrary detention of its members. It urged the state to provide information on and determine the whereabouts of Luis Manuel Otero and Anamely Ramos. The IACHR reminded the Cuban State of its obligations regarding freedom of expression, personal freedom and security, the rights to personal integrity, the recognition of juridical personality, the inviolability of the home, peaceful assembly, association, and protection against arbitrary detention, as enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

According to publicly available information, on the night of November 26, 2020, a squad of State security agents broke down the door and entered the premises of the San Isidro Movement by force, allegedly for violations of health regulations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the movement reported that the security agents wore white medical gowns as a justification for entering the premises. They also reported that around 15 activists who were taking part in the protest were detained using physical force including mistreatment, pushing, and violence against those who were taken into custody. The agents involved also reportedly confiscated cameras, memory cards, and computer equipment without legal warrants or court orders and without leaving any records or receipts for having done so.

The IACHR called on the Cuban State to clarify the circumstances of the operation at the San Isidro Movement’s premises through a serious, impartial investigation. It also spoke out against the fact that what purported to be a health intervention was in fact a covert operation against the protest being carried out.

The IACHR reminded Cuba of its obligations to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly and the inviolability of the home during any peaceful, unarmed protests. In this case, in which the protesters had decided to start a hunger strike, the State’s alleged concern for the life and integrity of those involved in the strike cannot be used as an absolute justification for breaking into a home or specific address or for using force to suspend actions that constitute a form of protest. In this sense, the IACHR recalls that States have the duty to remain in constant communication with the leaders of social protests and demonstrations to guarantee that these unfold peacefully.

The IACHR also learned that the individuals who were deprived of their freedom were allegedly released a few hours after their arrest, indicating that medical protocols to rule out the possible spread of COVID-19 were not carried out.

Furthermore, the IACHR was informed that the whereabouts of activists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Anamely Ramos Gonzáles remain unknown. According to the San Isidro Movement, the detainees who were released are under surveillance and are being prevented from leaving their homes by the security agents who have not provided legal or judicial grounds for these actions and decisions.

The IACHR once again stated that illegal, arbitrary detentions are prohibited, especially during social protests, and merely being involved in these cannot be used as grounds for placing a demonstrator in State custody. It also drew Cuba’s attention to the failure to determine the whereabouts of the two people mentioned above, especially given they were last seen in State custody. It also stressed that concealing the location at which a person in State custody is being deprived of their freedom may constitute forced disappearance.

The IACHR expressed its concern over the repression of the San Isidro Movement and its members, which took place against a backdrop of increased intolerance of artistic demonstrations that call the Cuban political system or regime into question. It asked the Cuban State to investigate the events that occurred, determine those responsible for them, and sanction them accordingly. It also asked the State to cease all forms of harassment, surveillance, and monitoring of the communications of members of the San Isidro Movement, to return their premises to them, and to account for the goods that were confiscated during the operations described above.

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.

No. 286/20