Press Advisory: Oct. 10 vote: Oppose Castro’s and Diaz-Canel’s Bid for U.N. Human Rights Council Seat

Press Advisory

Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel.

October 10th vote: Oppose Castro’s and Diaz-Canel’s Bid for U.N. Human Rights Council Seat

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington DC. October 10, 2023. Cuba, a dictatorship now holding over 1,000 political prisoners after 64 years in power, seeks another term on the United Nations Human Rights Council that will extend its existing tenure for another three years ( 2024 to 2026). The Center for a Free Cuba is recommending UN General Assembly members to vote against Cuba.

The vote is scheduled to take place today, October 10th in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly. 

There is competition in the Latin American group, with the communist dictatorship of Cuba running against the democracies of Brazil, Dominican Republic and Peru for three available seats. This was not the case last time. In October 2020 the Castro regime was elected unopposed to the UN Human Rights Council in a process where there were only three candidates for three spots. 

Havana is aggressively lobbying for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

“Today the United Nations General Assembly will vote on whether to elect the Cuban dictatorship to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Naming Raul Castro and his puppet Miguel Diaz-Canel to sit on the world’s human rights body would be like placing Jack the Ripper on the committee to end knife violence in London.” said John Suarez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

.Like Jack the Ripper, the Castro regime murders innocents, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded on June 9, 2023 in their report on the merits regarding the killings of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012 by Cuban government agents, and with its membership on the UN Human Rights Council “consistently obstructs the body’s human rights mechanisms when it seeks answers.”

“This is why we are opposing their candidacy,” added Suarez.

Over 2,400 human rights advocates, religious leaders, writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, former diplomats and academicians appealed to members of the UN General Assembly to expel Cuba from the UN Human Rights Council.

Among the signatories are Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman of the Christian Liberation Movement, a prisoner of conscience who spent seven years in a Cuban prison; Paquito D’Rivera, Grammy-winning musician and composer; Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch;  Dr. Jianli 建利 Yang 杨, President, Citizen Power Initiatives for China; Mary Curtis Horowitz, Chair, Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy; Guillermo Marmol, businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba; Dmytro Potekhin, Ukrainian civic activist and blogger; and Ambassador Everett Briggs, former U.S. ambassador to Portugal and Panama.

The Center for a Free Cuba sent out the following letter to UN General Assembly members from around the world that are democracies.

Dear Ambassador XXXXXXX,

On October 10, 2023 the United Nations General Assembly in New York City will be voting on memberships to the Human Rights Council in Geneva for 2024-2026. There are three openings and four candidates for Latin America, and one of them is Cuba, a dictatorship. The other three candidates, Brazil, Dominican Republic and Peru, are democracies.

The human rights record of the regime in Cuba is actively hostile to the stated agenda of the UN Human Rights Council that claims to be “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.” In addition to Cuba, candidates for this election cycle in other geographical regions include China and Russia. The vote this time comes in the aftermath of a major crackdown in Cuba in July 2021 when Cubans across the island took to the streets demanding freedom and were met with deadly force by the dictatorship, and the presence of Cuban soldiers in Ukraine fighting alongside Russian troops in an illegal war of aggression.

Cuban president gives “order of combat” against nonviolent protesters on national television

President Miguel Díaz-Canel appeared on national Cuban television on July 11, 2021 declaring: “They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.” (Source: ) … “We are calling on all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to take place today from now on, and in all these days and face it decisively, firmly, with courage.” (Source: ) The Cuban president concluded his address stating “the order of combat is given, revolutionaries take to the streets.” (Source: ). This combat order was an incitement to violence by government security forces against civilians. (Sources: Freedom House, RSF).

Over a thousand Cubans today are identified political prisoners in Cuba. Since 1989 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been permitted to inspect conditions in Cuban prisons, although between 2002 and the present the ICRC visited detainees over 100 times at the United States Guantanamo Naval Base prison in eastern Cuba in comparison.

Cuba’s new Penal Code, which was announced in February 2022, approved in May 2022, and came into force on December 1, 2022. Amnesty International reported on its severity  calling it “a chilling prospect for 2023,” highlighting the expansion  of the death penalty to 23 crimes, and punishing free expression. “In a context where the judiciary continues to be neither independent  nor impartial and allows criminal proceedings to be brought against  those critical of the government as a mechanism to prevent, deter or  punish them from expressing such views, this could result in human  rights activists or critical actors being imprisoned for even longer  periods of time.”  

Human rights defenders arbitrarily detained

Reporting on human rights violations in Cuba continues to be a dangerous practice as highlighted by the case of a Cuban father and daughter both with a vocation for defending human rights. Felix Navarro ( age 68 ) is a member of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) board of directors. He has been arbitrarily jailed since July 12, 2021. He is both a prisoner of conscience and in precarious health due a number of health issues and advanced age.  His daughter, the Lady in White Sayli Navarro (age 35) was also detained on July 12th, but was released hours later, and has been staying with her mother, who is in poor health. Sayli had also spoken out against her father’s arbitrary imprisonment. 

 Félix Navarro Rodríguez was sentenced to nine years in prison. Sayli Navarro was condemned to eight years in prison. Both are long time human rights defenders who have reported on systematic human rights violations in Cuba. Their crime: going to the police station to inquire about the plight of detained nonviolent protesters in the July 2021 protests in Cuba. On March 2, 2022 the Cuban dictatorship confirmed their prison sentences . Sayli was taken away in shackles to begin serving her prison sentence.

Extrajudicial killings

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on June 12, 2023 made public its June 9, 2023 “Report on Admissibility and Merits No. 83/23 of Case 14,196” in which it held the State of Cuba responsible for the deaths of Cuban human rights defenders Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.

Cuban officials recognized one death in the July 2021 protests. Diubis Laurencio Tejeda was a 36-year-old singer who was shot in the back by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in Havana on July 12. 

Christian Díaz, age 24, disappeared after joining these protests. Relatives on July 12, 2021 reported him missing to the PNR in Cárdenas. Police told his father that Christian was jailed in Matanzas. On August 5, 2021 officials informed his family he’d drowned in the sea and was buried in a mass grave. His family is convinced he was beaten to death.

There are others, but like Christian they have not been officially recognized, and victims’ families have been intimidated into silence.

Placing the Castro regime on the United Nations Human Rights Council is the equivalent of placing Jack the Ripper on the committee to end knife violence in London. Like Jack the Ripper, the Castro regime murders innocents and with its membership on the UN Human Rights Council “consistently obstructs the body’s human rights mechanisms when it seeks answers.”

Over 2,400 individuals from around the world have signed a petition to members of the UN General Assembly to expel Cuba from the UN Human Rights Council. The full list of signers is available upon request.

We are requesting that democratic governments speak out on Cuba’s human rights record, and vote for the three democracies vying for seats on the Council, and against the dictatorship in Cuba.


John Suarez

Executive Director

Center for a Free Cuba