Cuba remains the only country in the Western Hemisphere to effectively outlaw peaceful advocacy for human rights and democratic reforms. Independent civil society in Cuba – including human rights defenders, democracy activists, and independent journalists and scholars – are the targets of constant persecution. The universally-recognized rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are systematically violated by the State and victims have virtually no means of redress within the judicial system.
In a severe crackdown on independent civil society in Cuba, 75 peaceful human rights, democracy and political activists were arrested in the spring of 2003, summarily tried and sentenced to jail terms of up to 28 years. Although 20 of the original 75 have since been released, conditions for independent civil society activists have deteriorated significantly since July 2005, when an additional 15 activists were jailed. Meanwhile, a number of the activists that remain imprisoned since March 2003 suffer from worsening medical conditions which have been exacerbated – and in some cases triggered – by the harsh conditions of their incarceration.
Moreover, actos de repudio (“acts of repudiation”) are regularly carried out against peaceful human rights activists and their families by the Cuban government and its “Rapid Response Brigades” of civilian mobs. Activists have been the targets of harassment, mob intimidation, threats, insults and violence perpetrated against them and their family members.
The transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul on July 31, 2006, and the subsequent election of Raul Castro as President on February 24, 2008, have not produced any significant change in the human rights situation on the island. The Raul Castro government continues to hold human rights defenders in prison and violates the Cuban people’s rights of expression and association.
Human Rights First supports the right of Cubans to peacefully defend their basic rights and to form independent associations that seek human rights reforms. The Cuban government should support human rights defenders and end its persecution and imprisonment of those who peacefully express their beliefs and defend universally-recognized rights.
Disappointing Cuba UPR Review Session at the UN Human Rights Council
On June 10, the UN Human Rights Council met to adopt the UPR report on Cuba. Human Rights First prepared a joint statement (see initial statement below) to be delivered in conjunction with other international NGOs calling attention to the precarious situation of human rights activists in Cuba. We were unable to deliver our statement as NGOs friendly to the Cuban government flooded the speakers’ list, and signed onto a joint Human Rights Watch statement (see video) at the last minute.
Release Ill Cuban Activist from Isolation Cell
Tony Diaz, an instrumental organizer of a civic initiative known as the Varela Project in Cuba, was thrown in jail for his human rights activities in the spring of 2003. This week, Diaz was transferred to a prison isolation cell, seriously endangering his health. Read More about Tony Diaz’s Case
Read More about Tony Diaz’s Case
Join the Ladies in White in Calling for Human Rights in Cuba
On the sixth anniversary of the jailing of 75 activists in Cuba, join their wives, daughters, and others in demanding their release and calling for respect for human rights on the island.