CubaBrief: Russia ousted from UN Human Rights Council. Making the case for Cuba, and others to be expelled. Two Cuban artists face long prison terms

The Russian Federation was suspended from the UN Human Rights Council today by the UN General Assembly in a vote of 93 in favor of suspension, 58 abstentions, and 24 against. Cuba was one of 24 countries together with China, Belarus, Eritrea, and Nicaragua that voted against Russia’s suspension today. Grounds for the suspension were based on “reports of ‘gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights’ in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to announce it was quitting the body.”

Russia was suspended from the UN Human Rights Council on April 7, 2022 by the UN General Assembly.

This is the second time that a UN Human Rights Council member has been voted off the body. “Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi,” reported Reuters today.

It was UN Watch that early on circulated a draft resolution for the UN General Assembly to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council, which the watchdog group entered into the record in testimony before the 47-nation body. In less than 24 hours, more than 120,000 people endorsed UN Watch’s call to remove Russia. Today’s vote would not have happened without the initiative of this Geneva based organization.

On April 5, 2022 at the opening of the 2022 Geneva Summit, the closing speaker Rosa María Payá, recognized that Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council would shortly be put up for a vote before the UN General Assembly. She then called for Cuba and other dictatorships present on the UN Human Rights Council to be subjected to the same process. Below is her statement.

It is important to remember that the Castro regime’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, ordered forces loyal to him to go out into the streets to carry out violence against protesters. Videos emerged of government agents brutalizing unarmed protesters, and this included police and paramilitaries firing live rounds against them. Based on the grounds that led to Libya’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, Cuba should also be suspended.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara (age 34) and Maykel Castillo (age 39) detained for months face seven and 10 years in prison for their nonviolent dissent.

Today, it was learned that Cuban prosecutors are seeking “prison terms of seven and 10 years for dissident artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara (age 34) and Maykel Castillo (age 39), who have both already spent months in jail.” Luis Manuel was recognized by Time magazine in 2021 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Maykel co-authored the song “Patria y Vida” that won a Latin Grammy in 2021, while he was in prison. Both Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Castillo “Osorbo” are Amnesty International prisoners of conscience and members of the San Isidro Movement.

At the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Hillel Neuer in his opening address (starting at 31:00) challenged the practice of electing dictators to the UN Human Rights Council.

Yesterday, US Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield said the following: “Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is this the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous. Russia is using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights. Russia’s participation hurts [its] credibility. It undermines the entire UN, and it is just plain wrong.”

Wow. This is what we’ve been saying all along, when we tried to stop Russia, China and Cuba from getting elected two years ago, but we couldn’t get any governments to say this. And from day 1 of the invasion in February, we called on Russia to be expelled from the council. We hope the resolution tomorrow passes with a large majority. And that’s one more reason why the world needs to hear the eyewitness testimony today from our speaker Olga Aivazovska, a Ukrainian civil society leader who was forced to flee Kiev.

But this should be a larger turning point. After Russia is removed, we urge the same to be done to other dictatorships.

After we hear from Joey Siu on Hong Kong, and from Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan refugee and activist, and I am sure you will agree that China does not belong on a human rights council.

After we hear from Hamlet Lavastida, an artist from Cuba, and a  political prisoner who was just released in September,  I am sure you will agree that the Cuban dictatorship does not belong on a human rights council.

After we hear from Miguel Otero of Venezuela, whose leading newspaper El Nacional was targeted by the Maduro regime, you will agree that this narco-criminal state does not belong. I urge everyone to sign the petition led by our board member Diego Arria: www.unwatch.org/expelmaduro.

And what the US Ambassador says applies perfectly to HRC members like Eritrea with its slave labor, Libya, which tortures African migrants and sells them in markets; Mauritania which still has slavery; Pakistan, which hosts terrorists; and Somalia with female genital mutilation. They, too, must all be removed.

Earlier in this CubaBrief, we touched on the plight of two artists, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara (age 34) and Maykel Castillo (age 39), now jailed and facing long prison terms for exercising their fundamental right to free expression. Like Cuban artist Hamlet Lavastida they had organized against a further limiting of artistic expression under a new Cuban law in 2018. Hamlet spoke about Decree 349 at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

“Cuban artists & their supporters have faced intimidation & attacks by the authorities for years. But in 2018, the government issued Decree 349, a new law that prohibited all artists from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval by the Ministry of Culture. You couldn’t hire an artist without the government’s blessing, and artists couldn’t sell their work without permission either.”

His full written statement is available online, along with the video of the presentation made at the Geneva Summit on April 6, 2022. The options for dissenters in Cuba, not always of their choosing, are exile, prison, or death. Hamlet was forcible exiled. Luis Manuel and Maykel Osorbo are today in prison and face many years there along with thousands of others. These are three more reasons out of countless many more why Cuba needs to be voted off the UN Human Rights Council. Please consider signing this petition to expel Cuba from this important human rights body.

BARRON’s, April 7, 2022

FROM AFP NEWS

Cuban Prosecutors Seek Stiff Jail Terms For Dissident Artists

By AFP – Agence France Presse

April 7, 2022

Cuban prosecutors have sought prison terms of seven and 10 years for dissident artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Maykel Castillo, who have both already spent months in jail, according to an entry on Castillo’s Facebook page.

Alcantara, 34, is the leader of the San Isidro protest movement (MSI) of artists and intellectuals pressing for free speech and other rights in the communist island nation.

Castillo, a 39-year-old rapper, co-authored the song “Patria y Vida” (“Fatherland and Life” — a play on Fidel Castro’s “Fatherland or Death” slogan) which has become a refrain for protesters and government critics, but has angered the authorities.

Alcantara was arrested on July 11 last year when he set out to join thousands of Cubans who took to the streets in unprecedented protests, chanting: “Freedom!” and “We are hungry.”

He has been held since then at the Guanajay maximum security prison 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Havana, and his loved ones say he is in poor health.

Alcantara was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2021, and is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

But the government in Havana considers him a mercenary in the service of the United States, which is calling for his release.

The charges against the artist include incitement to commit an offense, aggravated contempt and public disorder — all allegedly committed before last year’s mass protests.

Castillo, also known as Latin Grammy winner Osorbo, has been in prison since May last year.

He is charged with “resistance,” contempt and “aggression” for participating a year ago into a smaller protest in Havana.

A month after the start of their trial, “the sentencing requests against Maykel and Luis have been unveiled. They (authorities) are seeking ten years for Maykel and seven years for Luis,” says a post on Castillo’s Facebook page.

Opposition activist Anamely Ramos, who lives abroad, confirmed the sentencing request on Twitter.

“They are innocent and should not spend another minute in prison,” she added.

On Wednesday, US State Department assistant secretary Brian Nichols urged the Cuban authorities to provide “immediate” medical attention for Alcantara.

“The Cuban regime’s ongoing maltreatment, deprivation of medical care, and torture of political prisoners is an affront to universal values,” he tweeted.

rd/ka/cb/llu/mlr/caw

https://www.barrons.com/news/cuban-prosecutors-seek-stiff-jail-terms-for-dissident-artists-01649361607?tesla=y

Reuters, April 7, 2022

U.N. suspends Russia from human rights body, Moscow then quits

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, April 7 (Reuters) – The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to announce it was quitting the body.

The U.S.-led push garnered 93 votes in favor, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly in New York – abstentions do not count – was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Speaking after the vote, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin described the move as an “illegitimate and politically motivated step” and then announced that Russia had decided to quit the Human Rights Council altogether.

“You do not submit your resignation after you are fired,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told reporters.

Russia was in its second year of a three-year term. Under Thursday’s resolution, the General Assembly could have later agreed to end the suspension. But that cannot happen now Russia has quit the council, just as the United States did in 2018 over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform.

The United States was last year re-elected to the council. Suspensions are rare. Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United Nations “sent a clear message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored.”

“We ensured a persistent and egregious human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the U.N.,” she said in remarks to be delivered to the General Assembly later on Thursday.

UNITED NATIONS, April 7 (Reuters) – The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to announce it was quitting the body.

The U.S.-led push garnered 93 votes in favor, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly in New York – abstentions do not count – was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Speaking after the vote, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin described the move as an “illegitimate and politically motivated step” and then announced that Russia had decided to quit the Human Rights Council altogether.

“You do not submit your resignation after you are fired,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told reporters.

Russia was in its second year of a three-year term. Under Thursday’s resolution, the General Assembly could have later agreed to end the suspension. But that cannot happen now Russia has quit the council, just as the United States did in 2018 over what it called chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform.

The United States was last year re-elected to the council. Suspensions are rare. Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United Nations “sent a clear message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored.”

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations delivers remarks during an emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S. April 7, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

“We ensured a persistent and egregious human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the U.N.,” she said in remarks to be delivered to the General Assembly later on Thursday.

The Human Rights Council cannot make legally binding decisions. Its decisions send important political messages, however, and it can authorize investigations. Last month the council opened an investigation into allegations of rights violations, including possible war crimes, in Ukraine.

The resolution on Thursday was the third adopted by the 193-member General Assembly since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. The two previous General Assembly resolutions denouncing Russia were adopted with 141 and 140 votes in favor.

After abstaining on the previous two General Assembly votes, Russia’s partner China opposed the resolution on Thursday.

“Such a hasty move at the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose sides, will aggravate the division among member states and intensify the confrontation between the parties concerned – it is like adding fuel to the fire,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said before the vote.

The General Assembly text on Thursday expresses “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia.

Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” that aims to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure and denies attacking civilians. Ukraine and allies say Moscow invaded without provocation.

Russia had warned countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note seen by Reuters.

https://www.reuters.com/world/un-vote-suspending-russia-human-rights-council-over-ukraine-2022-04-07/

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, April 6, 2022

Welcome with Hillel Neuer

International lawyer, diplomat and Executive Director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer delivers opening remarks at the 14th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy 

Distinguished members of the diplomatic corps, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends: Welcome to the 14th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

My name is Hillel Neuer, and I am the Executive Director of United Nations Watch. On behalf of our 25 NGO co-sponsors, it is my honor to open the 2022 edition of our annual world assembly of human rights dissidents, pro-democracy activists, former political prisoners, and family members and representatives of current political prisoners.

I want to begin by thanking our partners, a cross-regional coalition of human rights organizations, for helping us to organize this Summit, and to unite courageous champions of human rights and democracy.

I also want to thank our incredible Sheila Raccah, Chloe Hygen, Aylin Ergil-Amsellem, Dylan Rogers, and our entire team of staff and volunteers for their dedicated work and long hours over months to make this Geneva Summit a great success.

We meet across the street from the United Nations Human Rights Council, to shine a global spotlight on urgent situations of human rights abuse, and place them on the international agenda.

Sadly, all too often, the UN elevates and empowers the oppressors, for example by electing them to human rights bodies. Well, here at the Geneva Summit, we choose to elevate and empower the oppressed, those who have been thrown into prison arbitrarily by the dictatorships, those who dare to speak out, in the name of freedom and human dignity for their people.

And I have to say that we meet today next to the Human Rights Council at a fascinating moment. For only the second time in history, a member state of the UNHRC is likely to be removed, tomorrow. The US announced that, working together with Ukraine and European states, they will move to suspend Russia.

Yesterday, US Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield said the following: “Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is this the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous. Russia is using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights. Russia’s participation hurts [its] credibility. It undermines the entire UN, and it is just plain wrong.”

Wow. This is what we’ve been saying all along, when we tried to stop Russia, China and Cuba from getting elected two years ago, but we couldn’t get any governments to say this. And from day 1 of the invasion in February, we called on Russia to be expelled from the council. We hope the resolution tomorrow passes with a large majority. And that’s one more reason why the world needs to hear the eyewitness testimony today from our speaker Olga Aivazovska, a Ukrainian civil society leader who was forced to flee Kiev.

But this should be a larger turning point. After Russia is removed, we urge the same to be done to other dictatorships.

After we hear from Joey Siu on Hong Kong, and from Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan refugee and activist, and I am sure you will agree that China does not belong on a human rights council.

After we hear from Hamlet Lavastida, an artist from Cuba, and a  political prisoner who was just released in September,  I am sure you will agree that the Cuban dictatorship does not belong on a human rights council.

After we hear from Miguel Otero of Venezuela, whose leading newspaper El Nacional was targeted by the Maduro regime, you will agree that this narco-criminal state does not belong. I urge everyone to sign the petition led by our board member Diego Arria: www.unwatch.org/expelmaduro.

And what the US Ambassador says applies perfectly to HRC members like Eritrea with its slave labor, Libya, which tortures African migrants and sells them in markets; Mauritania which still has slavery; Pakistan, which hosts terrorists; and Somalia with female genital mutilation. They, too, must all be removed.

Indeed, regular people around the world ask: “Why does a human rights council include so many non-democracies?”

Defenders of the system have a ready reply. “We need a big tent, so that countries with poor records can engage, learn and improve.”

We have heard this numerous times from foreign ministers and top diplomats from several EU states. I don’t want to mention names, but we have heard this from a Swedish-speaking country, a Dutch-speaking country, and a Belgian-speaking country.

Now, perhaps there is an argument for nations with spotty records, but who actually wish to make progress, can be embraced and given technical cooperation, for example, to train their judges or police.

But does the UN have to keep electing the world’s worst abusers, dictatorships whose only intent is to win a false badge of international legitimacy?

We ask all those here who propagate the “big tent” theory: Since Vladimir Putin’s Russia was elected again and again to this Council, over a decade, did he learn and improve? Or on the contrary, did Russia assassinate more journalists, persecute more dissidents and launch more deadly military invasions than ever before?

Since China was elected repeatedly to this Council, did the Communist rulers learn and improve? Or did they crush more dissidents, like Liu Xiaobo, than ever before?

And I want to know: Since Venezuela was elected and reelected to this Council, did Chavez and Maduro learn and improve? Or did they arrest, persecute and jail more opposition leaders, like Mayor Antonio Ledezma of Caracas?

No, the “big tent” theory, which is being crushed tomorrow, is a big lie.

And so we hope the removal of Russia will be a moment to reaffirm the true principles.

Now, that we are all meeting here today, hundreds of people gathered in one room, with speakers able to travel here from Los Angeles to Dharamsala, London to Zimbabwe, is something we cannot take for granted. After two very difficult years of the Covid-19 pandemic, I want to say how truly grateful we are to be able to meet in person. During these two years, many of us had to spend time in social isolation, whether due to lockdowns or quarantine, and we learned how painful that can be.

That experience might help us to appreciate the infinitely greater suffering of innocent men and women who are severely and arbitrarily denied their freedom.And we’re going to hear compelling testimony from former political prisoners. We’ll hear from Pham Minh Hoang, a scholar and former political prisoner from Vietnam; and Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist from Zimbabwe and recent political prisoner; and

Timothy Cho, who was imprisoned and tortured in North Korea, and managed to escape and is today a human rights activist.

And we’ll hear about current political prisoners. While Russia sits across the street as a member of the Human Rights Council, we’ll here shortly about Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, from his chief of staff Leonid Volkov.

While China sits across the street as a member of the Human Rights Council, we’ll hear from Sophie Luo, about her husband, the human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi, a political prisoner in China; and we’ll hear from Rushan Abbas about the plight of the Uighurs, including her sister Dr. Gulshan Abbas, another political prisoner in China.

While the Iranian regime sits on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, we’ll hear from Mariam Claren, daughter of Nahid Taghavi, a women’s rights activist imprisoned in Iran. Belarus also sits on that commission, but we’ll hear from Tatsiana Khomich, about her sister Maria Kalesnikava, a woman human rights defender imprisoned in Belarus.

Nicaragua sits on the UN’s Committee that oversees human rights NGOs, but we’ll hear from Berta Valle about her husband, Félix Maradiaga, a speaker here in 2019, who was thrown into prison for daring to run against the dictator in a presidential election.

Saudi Arabia sits on the UNESCO Human Rights Committee, but we’ll hear from Areej Al-Sadhan, Activist, about her brother, Saudi political prisoner Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, who has been punished for  tweets—for his peaceful use of social media to call out Saudi human rights abuses.

And we will also hear from Bobi Wine, Ugandan opposition leader & 2021 presidential candidate

Last but not least, we’ll present our women’s rights award to Zarifa Ghafari, youngest elected mayor in Afghanistan, survivor of three assassination; and our courage award to Enes Kanter Freedom, NBA basketball player and human rights activist.

So it’s a powerful program, with inspiring people to inform us about vital issues going on in the world.

Friends, your participation today matters. We need you to amplify the voices of our human rights heroes. Please share our Geneva Summit posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and make sure to add your own voice, together with the hashtag #GenevaSummit2022. Follow our remarkable speakers on their own accounts, and share their testimonies.

It is not your duty to finish the work of perfecting the world, but everyone is obliged to do their part. Thank you.

For our first speaker, I would like now to invite Leonid Volkov, the chief of staff to jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, to please join me on the stage.

https://genevasummit.org/speech/welcome-6/

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, April 6, 2022

Imprisoned For An Idea with Hamlet Lavastida

Co-Founder of the Cuban dissident San Isidro Movement and recently released political prisoner, Hamlet Lavastida, speaks at the 14th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

Full Remarks

In September 2021, I was released from prison in Cuba after I signed a statement with my conditions of release. I agreed that I’d stay silent, that I wouldn’t talk about the Cuban government, or about my time in prison.

But I’m here today to tell you everything.

I grew up in Cuba in the 90s, and unlike previous generations, we never romanticized the Cuban revolution. Because we could see it for what it was – brutal corruption. Fidel Castro would always say that we’re his family. But as a kid, I was like “okay, if we’re your family, where’s our food? You gotta provide for us.” Instead, we stood in long lines to buy bread, there was no meat, no oil. The best you could do was one egg. We thought it would be short term, no. 93 passed, then 94, 95, 96, 97. That’s when the Cuban people really lost hope. One of my mom’s friends turned to prostitution to buy food for her family. It was the most shocking thing – I’ll never forgive Cuba for that.

We lived on the West Coast and we could pick up some FM radio stations from the U.S. It’s how I learned English – but it’s also the first time I heard Cuban exiles talking critically about Cuba. Inside Cuba, we understood what was happening, but we never talked about it. It was too dangerous to speak it out loud. Even when we saw thousands of people leaving in rafts.

In 1998, I began studying at the Academy of Fine Art in Havana. I knew it could bring me trouble. But I started doing research on Cuban & Russian propaganda. I started noticing the people who disappeared from history books – the names no longer listed in the captions, the faces missing from a strategically cropped photo. The Revolution has a way of devouring its own children.

Political propaganda & censorship are such integral parts of the Cuban experience that we barely think twice about it. And that’s why I decided to use my art to re-appropriate the language & imagery of their propaganda.

But I knew my art wouldn’t be welcome in the country – so as my career grew, I repeatedly left the country for residencies and exhibitions. I knew, as early as 2003, that the Cuban authorities were surveilling me.

Cuban artists & their supporters have faced intimidation & attacks by the authorities for years. But in 2018, the government issued Decree 349, a new law that prohibited all artists from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval by the Ministry of Culture. You couldn’t hire an artist without the government’s blessing, and artists couldn’t sell their work without permission either.

In other words – they can censor absolutely anything they want.

And we weren’t gonna stand for that. So alongside hundreds of other Cuban artists, musicians, and performers, the 27N movement was born. In April 2021, we wrote & signed a manifesto stating that we want to live in a country that’s inclusive, democratic, sovereign, prosperous, equitable, and transnational. And we demanded political freedoms, economic freedoms, the legalization of independent media, the right to assembly, and the right to collectively organization.

That same month, I debuted a solo exhibition at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien gallery in Berlin that consisted of two large scale installations of paper cutouts. One was a massive transcript of a police interrogation of Cuban photographer Javier Caso in 2020. One was a letter written by Cuban poet Herberto Padilla in 1971 after a brutal 36 days of imprisonment where he was forced to denounce his own work as counterrevolutionary. They were 49 years apart – and yet it seemed like nothing had changed.

When I returned to Cuba on June 20th, they sent me to a quarantine center for 6 days, even though I was vaccinated and had a negative COVID test. When I was released from quarantine, I was arrested immediately and sent to Villa Marista prison.

They accused me of “instigating to commit a crime” because of an idea that I shared with 27N in a private chat to stamp Cuban currency with logos of San Isidro & 27N. That idea never happened – but I was arrested just for thinking it & just for saying it.

For the next few weeks, they interrogated me every single day. Inside that world, I could see that even though the economy is in shambles and Cuban people are suffering extreme poverty, the Cuban police state has access to all the resources it needs.

Then, on July 11th thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest the government’s handling of COVID-19, the failing economy, and the crackdowns on free speech & peaceful assembly. It was one of the largest demonstrations Cuba had seen in decades. They detained hundreds of peaceful protestors and charged them with crimes like “Public disorder” and “contempt.”

After the protest, my interrogators escalated their threats, suggesting that I could be tried for “instigating rebellion,” which carries a 15 to 20 year prison sentence.

After that first month, I started to think I was moving to prison, that I’d never be released. Sometimes I think I’m still there. When you’re an artist you develop a certain sensibility for sound, music, beauty, horror, terror. Prison is the worst place for a person, and for an artist, even worse.

They held me in a small prison cell with 3 other inmates on the top floor of the security headquarters. They never leave you alone because they knew you could commit suicide. The lights were on 24/7. A TV in the hallway played Cuba television & propaganda all day long. I saw other prisoners losing their minds and at a certain point I started hearing voices too.

In interrogations, they tried to force me to confess – first, saying that I’d taken orders from the U.S. State Department. Then, that I was being managed by secret agents in Poland. I refused.

In early September, I contracted COVID-19 and was sent to the prison infirmary. Then, I learned that the police had made a deal with Katherine to Europe in exile. Because my son lives in Poland, they tried to play it off like I went there voluntarily – but everyone knew it wasn’t true. 20 agents escorted us directly to José Martí airport without saying goodbye to our families. They agreed to extend my Cuban passport for 2 years, but with a warning – if I continue to criticize the government and you try to return, Villa Marista will be waiting for you.

Today, I live in Germany and continue to work for a democratic Cuba. And I believe that’s much closer than you think. The reason the government is acting so strong is that they know they’re losing. That soon, an independent tribunal will summon them and they will suffer. Until that day, I will never stop talking about Cuba. And I will never stop making my art.

Thank you.

https://genevasummit.org/speech/imprisoned-for-an-idea/

UNWatch, April 3, 2022

New push to oust Russia from U.N. rights council

UN Watch has circulated a draft resolution for the UN General Assembly to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council, which the watchdog group entered into the record in testimony before the 47-nation body.

In less than 24 hours, more than 120,000 people endorsed UN Watch’s call to remove Russia.

The draft resolution would need to be formally submitted by a UN member state, and to receive two-thirds of General Assembly members present and voting.

Estonia has officially called for Russia to be removed, while U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken hinted at it.

Draft Resolution for the General Assembly

76/xxx. Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, which states that members elected to the Human Rights Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and that the General Assembly may suspend the membership rights of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights,

Reiterating the need for the full implementation of resolution ES-11/1 of 2 March 2022, entitled “Aggression against Ukraine,” and ES-11/2 of 24 March 2022, entitled “Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine”;

Condemning in the strongest terms the ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights by the Russian Federation, including those that may amount to crimes against humanity, resulting from the hostilities by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including the besiegement of and shelling and air strikes in densely populated cities of Ukraine, in particular Mariupol, as well as attacks striking civilians, including journalists, and civilian objects, in particular schools and other educational institutions, water and sanitation systems, medical facilities and their means of transport and equipment, and the abduction of local officials, as well as attacks striking diplomatic premises and cultural sites,

  1. Decides to suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation.