Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

‘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 »

Human rights defenders squeezed by geo-politics? The cases of Colombia, Iran and Cuba.

September 11, 2015

Health and holidays (in that order) have slowed down my blog production somewhat this summer, but perhaps this was a welcome break for many of my readers for reasons of holiday and health (in that order I hope). Anyway, during these summer months I read quite some instances of HRD repression related to countries involved in major ‘geo-political’ progress and I started wondering whether this is coincidental. Take the following three cases: Colombia, Iran and Cuba. Read the rest of this entry »

Havel Prize for Creative Dissent awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto

April 16, 2015

On 15 April 2015 the New York based Human Rights Foundation announced that the laureates of its 2015 Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent are:

  • the Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement Girifna,
  • the Indonesian stand-up comedian Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and
  • the Cuban graffiti artist and activist El Sexto.

Girifna, Arabic for “we are fed up,” is a nonviolent resistance movement founded in 2010 by pro-democracy youth activists. Thousands of Girifna members work together to monitor crackdowns on protests and defend dissidents in spite of constant surveillance by the Sudanese authorities. “While the international press focuses its attention on Sudan’s history of armed conflict, Girifna has challenged the al-Bashir regime in novel ways—from producing humorous commercials to teaching citizens the art of nonviolent protest…” said jury chairman Thor Halvorssen.

Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is a stand-up comedian from Indonesia whose comic routine advocates for individual rights and challenges Islamic fundamentalism. She grew up watching U.S.-based comedians and decided to use the same medium to talk about issues plaguing her own country. Television producers have asked her to censor her jokes, but Ma’ruf, who believes comedy mirrors a culture’s hypocrisy, has refused to be silenced. “Sakdiyah Ma’ruf is marshaling the use of parody to challenge oppression and extremism—no small risk for a woman in Muslim culture. She is an inspiration,” said Amnesty International Norway Secretary General John Peder Egenæs.

El Sexto, whose real name is Danilo Maldonado, is a Cuban graffiti artist and activist whose public work has turned him into a formidable dissident, evidenced by the ongoing repression he suffers. This past December, El Sexto was arrested on his way to put on a performance art piece called “Rebelión en la Granja,” with two pigs decorated with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl.” El Sexto was charged with contempt and remains in prison awaiting trial. “Through his art, El Sexto reveals the intolerance of the Cuban regime,” said former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.

For more information on the award see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/václav-havel-prize-creative-dissent

The ceremony on 27 May will be broadcast live online at oslofreedomforum.com beginning at 16:00 CET; for more info contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486, jamie@thehrf.org

2015 Havel Prize Awarded to Girifna, Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, and El Sexto | News | The Human Rights Foundation.

Joint Inspection Unit on human rights: not so innocent as it sounds

April 7, 2015

In a long but excellent post in Universal Rights of 23 March 2015, Subhas Gujadhur and Marc Limon dissect the issue of the Joint Inspection Unit‘s [JIU] report at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council (2 – 27 March) under the title: “The JIU report: what’s all the fuss about?”.

The background in short is that for years a number of countries – not by coincidence those that do not like the sometimes rather forthright pronouncements by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights -have tried to get more ‘control’ over its management and resources. They are in fact using the ‘backdoor’ of the UN inspection unit to get there.

This is a very important issue but one that is too much cloaked in UN jargon to make it to mainstream media. In the words of the authors:  “Casual observers of the Human Rights Council may have been forgiven.. for a degree of bafflement at repeated and sometimes quite excitable references to a three letter acronym: JIU.

So let me quote liberally from the post in question:

The report on the ‘review of management and administration’ of the OHCHR [JIU/REP/2014/7] was produced by the JIU in response to a request by the Human Rights Council in March 2013 (resolution 22/2) and the report’s author, Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare, hoped to be able to present is to the Council at is 28th session.

This may all seem innocuous enough. However, resolution 22/2 and the JIU report touch upon fundamental and extremely sensitive questions about the role, prerogatives and independence of OHCHR, and its relationship with the member states of the Council; and are part of a long-running struggle between two groups of states with very different views on what OHCHR is, what it is there to do, and how it’s work should be overseen.

Council resolution 22/2 (adopted by a vote, with developed countries against and developing countries in favour) requested the JIU to ‘undertake a comprehensive follow up review of the management and administration of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in particular with regard to its impact on the recruitment policies and composition of the staff.’ This resolution, like many previous ones with the same title, was pushed by Cuba and others in the belief that the staffing policies of the OHCHR favoured individuals from some regions (notably the West) over others.

In Cuba’s view, OHCHR had continuously failed to improve regional balance among its staff and thus, in order to strengthen accountability; it was asked to report and explain itself to the Council.

However, to others – especially Western states – asking the OHCHR to report to the Council on an administrative issue represented a worrying step towards making this supposedly independent entity answerable – and thus under the political oversight of – states sitting in the UN’s apex human rights intergovernmental body.

Similar differences of opinion have arisen, since the Council’s establishment in 2006, with regard to the financial resources of the OHCHR. Cuba and other developing countries have regularly expressed concern about where the Office’s money comes from (the UN’s regular budget or voluntary contributions from certain states), and how it is used and allocated (e.g. to certain field operations, to certain Special Procedures mandates). These concerns led Cuba and others to circulate a resolution in 2011, calling for greater financial transparency – though this was subsequently replaced by a Presidential Statement merely inviting the High Commissioner to provide more information on funding.

Central to the concerns of Cuba and others on both issues is a suspicion that the high proportion of individuals from Western states working at the Office (including at senior levels) together with Western financial support (especially where that support is ‘earmarked’ for certain purposes), gives the West undue influence over the OHCHR.

For its part, Western states, together with a number of states from other regions, suspect that Cuba and other leading countries of the Like Minded Group are intent on undermining the independence of the Office and bringing it under the political control of the Council (and thereby seeking to stop OHCHR criticism of states’ human rights records).

It should also be noted that the main author of the report is Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare, a former Ambassador of India to the Human Rights Council, who took position in the debates favoring the prerogatives of the Council over the OHCHR.

The report (more detail in the post itself) makes six recommendations:

  1. The GA should initiate an action-oriented review of the governance arrangements of the OHCHR through an open-ended working group/ad hoc committee […] so as to strengthen the capacity of member states to provide strategic guidance and to direct and monitor the work of OHCHR.
  2. The High Commissioner should update the existing action plan with specific measures, targets and timetables to broaden the geographical diversity of the professional workforce.
  3. The High Commissioner should develop a comprehensive strategy and related action plan to adapt specific circumstances and requirements of OHCHR’s human resource management strategy and policies.
  4. The Secretary General should, in the context of the Human Rights Up Front initiative, review the mandates of the different UN entities with human rights functions with a view of streamlining their work and mainstreaming human rights across the UN system.

The controversy even led to uncertainty that Mr. Gopinathan Achamkulangare would be allowed to present the report with some states (correctly, based on a legal analysis of relevant UN documents) arguing that discussing the management and administration of OHCHR is not part of the Council’s mandate as per GA resolution 60/251. In the end, the President of the Council and the Bureau announced that, as a courtesy, the JIU inspector would be allowed to present his report, but there would be no interactive debate with states.

By the time of the report’s presentation on 13th March, the Secretary-General had provided his comments on its findings and recommendations.[Note by the Secretary-General, A/70/68/Add.1] as follows:

  • The Secretary-General in effect rejected recommendation 1, arguing that ‘existing governance arrangements strike an appropriate balance between independence and accountability.’ The Secretary-General noted GA resolution 48/141 (1993) creating the post of High Commissioner, which decided that the High Commissioner would be appointed by the Secretary-General (i.e. is part of the secretariat). He also rejected the notion (used to support the view that while the High Commissioner is independent, the OHCHR is not and should operate under the political oversight of the Council) that the High Commissioner and OHCHR ‘have separate mandates and perform separate functions.’
  • Regarding recommendation 4, the Secretary-General noted that geographical diversity is a priority for the entire secretariat.
  • The Secretary-General also rejected recommendation 5 which called for the UN secretariat’s human resource management strategy to be ‘adapted to the specific circumstances and requirements of OHCHR’, on the grounds that ‘OHCHR is part of the Secretariat…and its staff members are subject to the same regulations, rules and policies as other departments.’
  • Finally, the Secretary-General welcomed recommendation 6 as a useful opportunity to strengthen the mainstreaming of human rights across the UN system.

There was some debate in which Western states, in line with the analysis of the Secretary-General, rejected key findings and recommendations in the report. For example, Norway noted that ‘existing governance arrangements strike an appropriate balance between independence and accountability,’ and underscored the importance of safeguarding the independence of the High Commissioner.

Countering this view, Pakistan on behalf of Like-Minded Group (LMG) states, expressed support for the JIU conclusions and recommendations, noting that oversight by a relevant intergovernmental body would contribute to ‘enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of the Office activities.’ LMG states therefore called for a clarification ‘of the respective roles of the different intergovernmental bodies with a view to streamlining the governance dynamics of OHCHR’ (i.e. in line with the JIU’s recommendations).

The post by Subhas Gujadhur and Marc Limon provides detailed and interesting background to the issue of imbalance in staffing and funding and rightly states that it “doesn’t take an international lawyer to understand that all these utterances are packed with possible political meanings, some subtle some less so, and have enormous potential implications for the functioning of the UN human rights system”.

——–

In this context, on 23 March a group of leading human rights NGOs (delivered by HRW, and supported by ISHRCivicusFIDHFORUM ASIAOMCT and EIPR), called in a statement to the Human Rights Council to resist Cuban-led attempts to micromanage and fetter the independence of the UN’s top human rights official.

The statement said that among its contradictory recommendations, the report proposes a mechanism to enable States to ‘direct and monitor’ the work of the High Commissioner and highlighted that creation of High Commissioner for Human Rights was one of the landmark achievements of the Vienna Declaration adopted by all States in 1994. For more than 20 years, successive High Commissioners have provided a strong and independent voice, committed to promoting and protecting human rights around the world, the statement said.

Today, that independence is under threat. The draft resolution, inaccurately titled “Composition of staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” seeks to affirm and encourage follow-up to the report of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), which reviews the “Management and Administration” said John Fisher of HRW delivering the statement.

The independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his office is axiomatic to his effectiveness. The High Commissioner must be free to speak without fear and without favour, unconstrained by the political agenda of any State or group of States,’ said ISHR’s Michael Ineichen. ‘This report must not be permitted to be used as a subterfuge to constrain the High Commissioner and his office at a time when both their monitoring and reporting, and their advice and technical assistance, are needed perhaps more than ever before.’

See the full statement here.

 http://www.universal-rights.org/blogs/128-the-jiu-report-what-s-all-the-fuss-about

Human Rights Council: Reject attempts to limit Office of the High Commissioner | ISHR.

Easter cards to christian human rights defenders

March 17, 2015

Fra Angelico

This blog does not often carry religious paintings. This time it is to illustrate the action by Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, who is encouraging to contact Christian prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders with a message of hope this Easter. For the first time, Action by Christians Against Torture has published an Easter greetings list containing details of Christians including a teacher imprisoned on political charges in Indonesia, a priest facing threats because of his human rights advocacy in Cuba and an MP risking her safety by speaking out on behalf of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Bishop Declan stated: “Pope Francis has called on us to support Christians facing persecution wherever they are in the world. Sending an Easter message to Christian prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders is a practical yet powerful way to give hope and encouragement. Showing that they are not forgotten can also lead to better treatment by the authorities. I strongly welcome the work of Action by Christians Against Torture, and hope that Catholics throughout England and Wales will join me in sending a message of solidarity this Easter.

The Action by Christians Against Torture Easter greetings list is available at: www.acatuk.org.uk/EastercardList2015.pdf

Bishop endorses campaign to send Easter cards to persecuted Christians – Independent Catholic News.