Versión española disponible aquí Commissioners: José De Jesús Orozoco Henríquez; Dinah Shelton; Tracy Robinson; Felipe González; Emilio Álvarez Icaza, Executive Secretary Petitioners: Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica y Desobediencia Civil Orlando Zapata Tamayo; Movimiento Femenino por los Derechos Civiles; Directorio Democrático Cubano, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen State: Cuba
Photo Credit: Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
Petitioners representing human rights defenders in Cuba revealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the situation for those who fight for their rights in Cuba has not ameliorated. At the October 29 hearing, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a native Cuban, asked the Commission not to be deceived by the current Cuban regime. She insisted that there are no real reforms in Cuba and that the Castro regime has actually increased its oppression against those that fight for freedom in Cuba. The Congresswoman commended the Petitioners, among them victims of the Castro regime, and asked the Commission to help them in their battle. Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as Antúnez) and his wife shared their stories of the oppression and violations they have faced under the Castro regime. Antúnez spent seventeen years and thirty-eight days as a political prisoner.  During this time, he faced gross mistreatment from Cuban officials, such as beatings and refusal of medical attention. He and his wife were violently and arbitrarily detained a number of times by the Cuban police. They informed the Commission that, as they spoke, the Cuban police were undertaking ‘operations’ at his and fellow human rights defenders’ houses to discourage their actions. These ‘operations’ are called repudiations, according to the Representative from the Directo Democratico Cubano. The police practice is to organize these rallies, or repudiations, and go to the houses of those who speak out against the government to vandalize, throw things, and scream out obscenities, all in the hope of discouraging the actions of the human rights defenders. Antúnez and his wife told the Commission that they are not the only ones who have had these experiences. Many of their comrades in Cuba have felt the oppression of the Castro regime. They have witnessed assassinations, beatings, and arbitrary detentions. The Directo Democratico Cubano also revealed that the Castro regime further limits the rights of known human rights defenders. For example, they are not allowed to move freely in the territory or speak freely in the media and internet. Because of these limitations, the Petitioners assert, Cuba has been able to portray a more positive international image, while in reality the situation of the Cuban people is worse than ever. The Commissioners asked about the precautionary measures the international community has suggested the Cuban regime take and whether these benefits are felt by the Cuban people. In response, the Petitioners thanked the Commission for putting this international pressure on Cuba to address human rights concerns and admitted that the precautionary measures have had some effect. For example, Mrs. Antúnez revealed that women usually receive less frequent beatings when they participate in peaceful protests, but these benefits are short lived. The Petitioners contend that there is essentially no law in Cuba, and, as a result, there is no opportunity to lodge a complaint when a person’s rights are being violated. Because of this, many violations go unreported and the international community is “fooled” by the Castro regime,. They urged the Commission to recognize and provide some protection to those who are in Cuba defending their human rights.   The Commission expressed a great deal of concern about what the Petitioners said and stated that Article 61 of their Rule of Procedure states that every state is obligated to guarantee the physical integrity of their individual and individuals are free to come to the Commission to state their case. They recognize the brave efforts of the Petitioners and promised to bear in mind their testimonies moving forward.