International NGO Files U.N. Inquiry Into Attack on Cuban Journalist

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Cuba: HRF Asks U.N. to Inquire Into Attack on Journalist

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has submitted a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (U.N. Special Rapporteur), requesting that he send an urgent appeal to the government of Cuba regarding the brutal assault of Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez on June 11, 2014, and the repeated threats on his life. Guerra, who is the founder and director of the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS) in Cuba, was attacked solely for exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

HRF’s petition includes an account of the attack on Guerra, points to strong indications that the attack was ordered by Cuban government agents, and documents the latest threats against other journalists at CIHPRESS, including Guerra’s wife. The petition calls on the U.N. Special Rapporteur to request that the government of Cuba “adopt immediate measures to protect the right to life, security and physical integrity of Roberto Guerra and that of his family.” It also asks the rapporteur to request the government of Cuba “to take all necessary measures to ensure the cessation of physical and verbal attacks on Guerra, as well as to offer assurances and guarantees of non-repetition with regards to these attacks.”

Retaliation against independent journalists is a common occurrence in a country that ranks only “behind Iran and China as one of the world’s biggest prisons for the media.” In 2012, in the infamous case of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, the Cuban government arrested and imprisoned a CIHPRESS journalist for seven months for reporting on the existence of a cholera and dengue outbreak that the government attempted to conceal.

“The Cuban regime is required to comply with the rule of general international law that establishes the obligation of ‘cessation and non-repetition’ of acts or omissions that constitute internationally wrongful acts. This means that Cuba must guarantee that attacks against Guerra stop, and ensure that they never happen again,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s general counsel. “Cuba may not be a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but as a member of the U.N., it can be held accountable for violations to the right of freedom of expression of its citizens. This right is enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a binding instrument of customary international law signed by Cuba in 1948,” said El-Hage.