30 Global NGOs Appeal for Youth Activist

Sunday, March 7, 2010
Urgent NGO Appeal for Cuban Human Rights Defender Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience

Dear Madam High Commissioner (of the U.N. Human Rights Council),

We urge you to intervene with the Cuban government to challenge its unlawful barring of human rights defender Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina from leaving the country and addressing this Monday's 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.

As you know, Mr. Lobaina is president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, and one of the most recognized dissidents in Cuba. He was jailed for more than five years for the crimes of "disrespect," "public disorder," and "damage," and became the object of a worldwide Amnesty International campaign to free him as a prisoner of conscience.

The global civil society organizers of the Geneva Summit invited Mr. Lobaina to be a distinguished panel speaker at their conference. He duly received all necessary approval from the Swiss authorities. However, the Cuban government has refused to grant Mr. Lobaina permission to exit, thereby preventing him from participating at this important gathering of human rights defenders.

Under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights similarly guarantees that "Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own." This right "shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant." In General Comment No. 27 (1999), the UN Human Rights Committee established that restrictions on the right to leave must be "provided by law, must be necessary in a democratic society for the protection of these purposes and must be consistent with all other rights recognized in the Covenant." None of these conditions have been met by Cuba's restrictions in the present case.

Article 5c of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, guarantees that "[f]or the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, at the national and international levels [...] to communicate with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations."

Travel restrictions such as those imposed on Mr. Lobaina unfairly and arbitrarily impair his ability and the ability of his organization to address international forums about human rights concerns in Cuba.

For these reasons, we urge you to intervene with the Cuban authorities to see that they immediately lift these restrictions against Mr. Lobaina. We also urge you to demand that the Cuban authorities ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances.

We look to you and the United Nations to reverse this counter-productive decision to block a human rights defender from conducting his work. We hope this travel ban will be lifted so that Mr. Lobaina can join fellow dissidents this Monday at the Geneva Summit, and thereafter travel without restriction.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Paula Schriefer, Director of Advocacy, Freedom House
John Suarez, International Secretary, Directorio
Bart Woord, President, International Federation of Liberal Youth
Tashi Albertini, President, Associazione Ticino Tibet
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch
Maran Turner, Executive Director, Freedom Now
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and Co-Founder, Stop Child Executions
Ahmad Batebi, Founder, Human Rights Activists in Iran
Gabriel Salvia, Chairman, CADAL
Gibreil I. M. Hamid, President, Darfur Peace and Development Centre
Jacob Mchangama, Head of Legal Affairs, Center for Political Studies
Phil ya Nangoloh, Executive Director, National Society for Human Rights of Namibia
Harris Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates
Carlos E. Tinoco, President, A.C. Socrates de Venezuela
A. P. Gautam, Member Secretary, Nepal International Consumers Union
Aixa Armas, Secretaria General, Espacio Civil
Omar Lopez, Executive Director, Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba
Theodor Rathgeber, German Forum Human Rights
Catherine Waters, Main Representative, Catholic International Education Office
Jaime Vintimilla, Executive Director, CIDES
Kok Ksor, President, Montagnard Foundation
Anne Shay, Justice Contact, Presentation Congregation
Margarita Lacabe, Executive Director, Derechos Human Rights
Joan Powers, Coordinator, Presentation Sisters Victoria Justice Ministry
Tanja Mirabile, INCOMINDIOS Switzerland
Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar, Chairman, Center for Youth and Democracy
Forum Maghrebin, Pour L'environneùent et Le Développement Morocco
Ted Brooks, Jr., Executive Director, Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy
Nguyên Hoàng Bao Viêt, Delegate, Vietnamese Writers in Exile Centre
Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights
Klaus Netter, Main Representative, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations
Jeff King, President, International Christian Concern