Abuses and perils that Cuban human rights’ defenders face

Source: Cuba Archive

Cuban laws do not allow free association; no independent group can legally register or gather, including those that monitor and promote human rights. Human rights defenders, considered “peaceful opponents” because they face a totalitarian system, suffer systematic repression by the authorities (especially the political police): beatings, arbitrary detentions, kidnappings, surveillance, invasion of privacy, home invasions, dismissals from work, confiscation of property, prohibition from traveling outside the country, restrictions on movement within Cuba, threats of all kinds (including to life), “accidents,” and other abuses. Some face fabricated charges, rigged trials, and lengthy jail sentences under terrible conditions; others pay with their life or disappear. They have no legal protections or remedies and are denied access to evidence when reporting violations.

Cuba Archive will soon publish a detailed report on more than 50 peaceful opponents and other detractors who have lost their lives or disappeared since Raúl Castro took charge in July 2006.
We highlight three cases, among many others, that illustrate the grave dangers that Cubans who defend human rights face on the island.

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Iván Hernández Carrillo resides in Colón, Matanzas. He is the General Secretary of the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba, an independent journalist, and founder of a private library in his home. His long career as a human rights’ defender began when he was sentenced in 1992, at the young age of 21, to two years in prison for “enemy propaganda and contempt for the figure of Fidel Castro.” In 2003 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison during the repressive wave known as “Black Spring” and endured a regime of maximum security. Declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, in 2011 he was released to serve the rest of his sentence at home.  His mother Asunción Carrillo, is a long-time member of the Ladies in White, a women’s group that founded to advocate for political prisoners. On March 25th, this past Palm Sunday, Asunción tried to reach a church in Colon, as the Ladies do in different parts of Cuba every Sunday, and was violently detained close to home. When her son Ivan came to her defense, police officers kicked him, punched him in the face (they split his mouth), and dragged him down the street until he was violently thrown into a police car. He and his mother were detained for several hours and were released with fines of 2000 Cuban pesos each. Ivan has endured a litany of atrocities and arrests for years and his Twitter account has been hacked. His mother is systematically and violently repressed for belonging to the Ladies in White. Currently, one of the Ladies from Artemisa, Marta Sánchez, has been in detention for over two weeks and has gone on hunger strike in protest.

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Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, from Velazco, Holguín, is a prisoner of conscience according to Amnesty International. The medical doctor is the National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement. In November 2016, he was arrested and beaten in the presence of his wife and children in front of his home in the town of, for criticizing Fidel Castro shortly after his death. He was sentenced to three years in prison for “attacking an official of the state.” After a year and four months in prison, Dr. Cardet, will have the right to be released on parole, per the regime’s laws. For that to happen, he must first be transferred from the high-security prison where he is serving his sentence to a lesser facility, however, that has not happened. His health is a cause of serious concern, as he suffers from chronic asthma and has a nasal lesion that might require surgery (according to his wife, also a doctor, it could be a carcinoma). Prison authorities proposed three months ago to reduce the severity of his imprisonment, but the Ministry of the Interior has denied it.

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Leonardo Rodríguez Alonso (shown, far left, with his family) is Coordinator in Cuba of the Patmos Institute, founded in 2013 to provide a forum for Christian intellectuals and civil society that, among other things, denounces internationally violations of religious freedoms taking place in Cuba. A husband and father, he resides in Camajuaní, Villa Clara, with his family. On February 28, he was arrested in Caibarién after meeting with activists who monitor religious freedoms in other parts of the country. He was taken to the Provincial Unit for Criminal Investigations in Santa Clara and detained for more than 48 hours without his family knowing his whereabouts. Days earlier, he had been arrested at his home and transferred to a police unit, where he was interrogated and threatened as well as informed that he would not be allowed to travel outside the country. This is the latest of a long history of harassment, detention, and threats leveled by state authorities against him and his family. His adult children, Dalila and Leonardo, both professors, were expelled from their teaching positions at the Marta Abreu Central University in Villa Clara last year. In 2016, Cuba Archive detailed attempts to incriminate him in common crimes and an attack with a toxic substance against his home. 
What can we do?
It is frustrating to watch the indifference of the international system and the impunity that Cuba has been granted. From the three cases above and others we have highlighted in past bulletins, often the lesser-known opponents who live far from the international journalists and diplomats in Havana are more viciously repressed. We can help protect them and others in danger -with social network activism or using the internet to report abuses to the media, international organizations, churches, governments, supporting organizations that document the violations and take the complaints to international instances and/or being creative with our activism. Please consider helping in any way you can. These brave people who fight for freedom peacefully need us.