Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

Cuba and EU dialogue: five empty chairs show serious shortcomings

February 9, 2020

Cuban human rights defenders who participated to the project of presenting a report on EU’s agreement with Cuba. [Civil Rights Defenders]

The EU needs to change strategy if it wishes to stand for democracy in Cuba by opening up to independent civil society, write Anders L. Petersson and Erik Jennische (of the NGO Civil Rights Defenders) on 4 February 2020. On Saturday 1 February. five Cuban democracy activists were stopped at the airport in Havana as they were on their way to Brussels to speak at the European Parliament today. They were banned from leaving the country by the Cuban authorities. Instead, the seminar at the European Parliament was held with Cuban activists based outside the country, and five empty chairs – a vivid reminder of the current strategy’s shortcomings. [Instituto Patmos has shown that at least 226 activists were banned from travelling abroad during 2019]. The five democracy activists were supposed to present their ideas on what the EU could do to promote respect for human rights and democratisation in the country. Their proposals form part of a report by Civil Rights Defenders – a total 30 letters from Cuban democracy activists and organisations – as a contribution to the EU’s policy development.

Although the EU and Cuba in their Agreement recall “their commitment to the recognised principles of democracy”, Civil Rights Defenders regrets that the EU remained silent on the sham elections and the transfer of power that followed. Apparently, it was all acceptable under the new Agreement…..When Federica Mogherini visited Cuba for the last time as High Representative for Foreign Affairs in September 2019, she rather perplexingly concluded that “after completing its generational transition and adopting a new Constitution, Cuba now faces major challenges in carrying out its economic modernization”.

….Reflecting on the stories of harassed and imprisoned activists in Cuba, we cannot afford to make such surrender again. The EU needs to change strategy if it wishes to stand for democracy in Cuba. It needs to build a formal and open dialogue with Cuba’s independent civil society. Since the negotiations began on the Agreement in the spring of 2014, the EU has not invited civil society to a single formal discussion on the content of the Agreement or its implementation. When the EU and Cuba held its human rights dialogue in October 2019, the Cuban government took the liberty to decide which European and Cuban organisations could participate. The papers in the report of CRD hold a great number of proposals and ideas – the two core messages being:

  • That both European and Cuban civil societies need to be recognised as formal partners to the EU in its relations to Cuba.
  • That the EU needs to speak out on the absence of democracy in Cuba and denounce all human rights violations.

The EU can never contribute to positive change in Cuba via a dialogue with the Cuban government. The only way is to give legitimacy and support to the civil society that openly and peacefully supports democratisation. It is time for the EU to include civil society in its relations with Cuba.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/15/new-rule-of-law-and-human-rights-in-cuba-and-venezuela-and-eu-engagement/

One of the award-winning Cuban dissident who was detained this week announced that he has been released without charge but barred from a planned trip to Europe for a meeting on human rights. Guillermo Farinas, a 58-year-old psychologist, is a leading voice in the opposition to Cuba’s communist government and won the European Parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize in 2010. Farinas was arrested Tuesday in the central city of Santa Clara, where he lives, as he planned to go to the Spanish Embassy in Havana to pick up travel documents. He had been due to take part in a meeting of the human rights commission of the European Parliament. “The main reason for my arrest was to keep me from traveling to Europe,” Farinas told AFP.

In the meantime a number Cuban and latin solidarity groups in Belgium had a quite different view: “Campaign by MEPs against Cuba rejected in Belgium. Another instance of the Empire’s vulgar and interfering policy of subversion and discredit against the Cuban Revolution. Cuba is sovereign and independent, we won’t yield to anyone”. http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2020/02/04/rechazan-en-belgica-nueva-campana-contra-cuba-de-eurodiputados/#.XjsNg2q23cd 


Five empty chairs remind of Cuba’s regime true nature

https://www.france24.com/en/20200207-cuban-dissident-freed-but-cannot-leave-country

https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/07/cuban-activists-blocked-from-attending-eu-meeting

Cuban Roberto Fernandez Retamar to win UNESCO’s Jose Marti Prize

January 25, 2019

NEW: Rule of law and human rights in Cuba and Venezuela and EU engagement

December 15, 2018

On 11 December 2018 the European Parliament published “Rule of law and human rights in Cuba and Venezuela and EU engagement”, done by external authors Par ENGSTROM and Giulia BONACQUISTI. 

The European Parliament (EP) has consistently followed the situation in Cuba and Venezuela. It has expressed its support for human rights defenders and democracy with the award of the Sakharov prize to Cuban activists on three occasions (2002, 2005, 2010), and to Venezuela’s Democratic Opposition in 2017 [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/27/european-parliaments-sakharov-prize-awarded-to-venezuela-opposition/]. In line with this engagement, a workshop on human rights and rule of law in both countries was held on 6 September 2018, in Brussels, at the request of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI). Dr. Par Engstrom (University College London) presented the first draft of an independent study analysing the main human rights developments in Cuba and Venezuela since 2014 and the EU’s response. The paper, which focused specifically on the Sakharov laureates, was discussed with Members and other experts, including from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European External Action Service and the European Commission. During the lively discussion, there was broad agreement with the description of major trends in the human rights situation in the two countries. Critical comments and controversial issues related to the impact of the government’s repression of the Venezuelan opposition, the need to consider not only civil and political but also economic and social rights, the effectiveness of sanctions against Venezuela and the potential role of the Sakharov Prize. Observations and comments made during the workshop fed into the final version of the study, which is also included in this report.

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/search.html?word=Venezuela

No naming and shaming on reprisals at 39th Human Right Council session

October 5, 2018

On my ‘favorite’ topic of reprisals [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/ ] the ISHR reported that for the first time, the Human Rights Council had a chance to have a dialogue on the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals on 20 September 2018. Civil society had hoped States would seize this opportunity to denounce States carrying out reprisals against defenders engaging with the UN. Regrettably only one State, Germany, made explicit reference to a case of reprisal in the report. ‘We welcome in particular Germany’s intervention in the dialogue, citing the case of Egyptian lawyer Ibrahim Metwally, detained since October 2017 by the Egyptian authorities’, said Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR Human Rights Council Advocate. ‘This is precisely what we need more of—States having the courage and conviction to stand up for defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. What we see now is defenders dissuaded from engaging because the cost is too high. What we need is for States to turn away from repression and attacks, because the cost to them is too high’.

The senior official on reprisals, Andrew Gilmour [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/andrew-gilmour/], presented the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals during the first ever interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council. The report catalogues 45 new cases of reprisals, ranging from travel bans and smear campaigns to arbitrary arrests and detention, inhuman treatment, torture, and killing. The ASG made it clear in his presentation that reported cases are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and spoke of three significant trends:

(1) the systematic denigration of human rights defenders and civil society organizations as “terrorists”;

(2) reprisals often being disguised as legal, political and administrative measures; and

(3) the use of accreditation and security procedures to hinder people from speaking out at UN headquarters and elsewhere.

ISHR delivered a statement during the session citing cases of reprisals against Chinese defenders not included in the report—Wang Qiaoling, Li Wenzu, Cao Shunli, and Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa—and calling for systematic follow-up by the Council on cases in the report.

We are especially concerned, once again, about the high number of Council Members or candidates for Council membership cited in the report, including: Bahrain, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Hungary, India, Iraq, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela,’ said El Hosseiny.

Half of the States cited in the report intervened during the dialogue to deny the allegations against them. While a significant number of States engaging in the dialogue supported the mandate to varying degrees and asked the ASG what could be taken to strengthen it, another group questioned the ASG’s methodology. Still others firmly opposed the work of the ASG on reprisals, including China and Cuba. China said it ‘regrets and objects’ to the report and the mechanism, and its use of ‘unproven information’, which it deems an interference with its sovereignty.

A side event organised by ISHR following the dialogue highlighted the urgent need to improve both the physical and digital security of defenders at risk of reprisals, and for States and the OHCHR to take a stronger position on this issue at a time when powerful States are threatening the UN system and its core values. ISHR in particular noted its disappointment with the low number of States in the dialogue that took due note of the allegations in the report, as opposed to attacking the methodology of the report and the reliability of the information.

Watch the statement here: 

Read ISHR’s full statement to the Council here.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc39-l-states-largely-decline-cite-specific-cases-during-councils-first-discussion-reprisals

‘El Sexto’ Maldonado Released from Cuban Prison

March 6, 2017

The Human Rights Foundation reported that Cuban graffiti artist Danilo ‘El Sexto’ Maldonado was finally released from prison on 21 January 2017, after spending two months in detention. Cuban authorities arrested El Sexto for spray painting “Se fue” (in English, “He’s gone”) shortly after the death of the island’s former dictator, Fidel Castro. He was sent to one of Cuba’s most notorious maximum security prisons, El Combinado de Este, where he was subjected to daily psychological torture and frequent death threats. The Human Rights Foundation filed an individual complaint with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for its Havel Prize Laureate.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/16/havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-awarded-to-girifna-sakdiyah-maruf-and-el-sexto/]
Danilo 'El Sexto' Maldonado

 

 

Blogger Yoani Sánchez – Cuba’s Underground Revolution

January 25, 2017

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez explains how technology is helping to break the information monopoly the Castro dictatorship has maintained for more than fifty years. In a country where purchasing internet access costs up to a third of the average salary, Sanchez says thumb-drives loaded with information are a vital tool of progress. Cuba is the last dictatorship in the Americas, but change is coming, and Sánchez is convinced that—aided by more information and education—the next revolution will lead to the democracy the Cuban people desire and deserve. This video is a bit older (Oslo Freedom Forum 2014) but still relevant.

see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/yoani-sanchez/

 

Cuba: reprisals against youth activists after meeting OAS Secretary General

June 22, 2016

That reprisals also take place in a regional human rights context is made clear by a report on 21 June 2016 by the New-York based Human Rights Foundation (HRF). It condemns the arbitrary arrest of activists Oscar Luis Milian and Yoandrys Gutiérrez, members of the Cuba-based youth movement Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana. Both activists were detained for six hours last week at José Martí Airport in Havana when returning to the country after taking part in meetings with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro. The meetings — organized by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy within the framework of the 46th General Assembly of the OAS in Santo Domingo — brought together human rights and democracy activists from all over the hemisphere.

Cuba: Activists Arrested After Meeting With OAS Secretary General

Bringing notepads and pens with slogans in favor of democracy and human rights into Cuba has always been considered a ‘subversive’ activity by Cuba’s 57-year-old dictatorship,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s chief legal officer. “Oscar and Yoandrys join an endless list of brave activists who are treated like criminals for daring to bring information from the outside world to ordinary citizens in Cuba. If Raúl Castro really wants to show tolerance and openness, he should begin by dismantling the regime’s repressive structure that prohibits people to think for themselves.

Milian and Gutiérrez were released six hours after their arrival in the Cuban capital and were never informed of the reason for their arrest.

Source: Cuba: Activists Arrested After Meeting With OAS Secretary General | News | Human Rights Foundation

Rosa María Payá carries on the work of her father in Cuba

June 8, 2016

After her father, Oswaldo Paya, was killed in a car accident, Rosa María Payá had two choices: keep her head down, or raise her own voice. She chose the latter. Today, despite the threats Cuban dissidents face from the Castro regime, Payá is demanding accountability for her father’s death and is pushing forward on his ambitious plan for a free and democratic Cuba. From the 2016 Oslo Freedom Forum on 24 May 2016. https://oslofreedomforum.com/talks/let-cuba-decide

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/human-rights-defenders-squeezed-by-geo-politics-the-cases-of-colombia-iran-and-cuba/

Norwegian Resolution on Human Rights Defenders in the UN Human Rights Council: will it survive hostile amendments?

March 23, 2016

Some readers will have doubt about the importance passing Resolutions in the UN, even on the noble topic of the protection of human rights defenders. However, that this is not seen as a sinecure is clear from the diplomatic battles fought every time [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/un-general-assembly-adopts-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders-with-increased-majority/]. Tomorrow (Thursday 24 March) another such clash is expected. Here are the issues:

It is usually Norway that leads the negotiations on the resolution on human rights defenders as is the case this year at the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution this year takes account of the severe risks that human rights defenders face when defending economic, social and cultural rights, including as they relate to environmental, land and development issues, corporate responsibility, anti-corruption, transparency and accountability issues. The draft resolution calls on States to take effective and practical steps to address the continuing violations of the rights of defenders.

During the first week of this session of the Human Rights Council, Norwegian State Secretary Tore Hattrem stated that “Threats and attacks against human rights defenders who are exercising their right to freedom of speech to advocate economic, social and cultural rights, severely hamper the realisation of these rights”. Also Ambassador Steffen Kongstad raised this important topic during the interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst, stating that “Threats and attacks against human rights defenders may hamper the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, undermining social cohesion, and ultimately stability and development”.

The resolution has been discussed in several open informal consultations in Geneva, taking into account a number of suggestions from different countries. Norway formally tabled the resolution on 16 March full text see website. There are currently around 50 countries from all regional groups that will  co-sponsor the resolution. Still, this is far from won as earlier this week a number of countries (including the serial offenders Russia, China, Egypt, Cuba and Pakistan) have put forward 31 adverse amendments to the text. These amendments include proposals which have the purpose or would have the effect of:

 

Selection of what happened at the local level on Human Rights Day 2015

December 13, 2015

International human rights day is an occasion for a multitude of local activities, some denouncing violations others quietly remembering, some (trying to) march in the streets, others issuing statements. This anthology of 10 such events is far from complete but gives an idea of the variety, from human rights defenders speaking out to governmental institutions ‘celebrating’ …. Read the rest of this entry »