Human Rights Defenders: Release Cuban Dissidents

Friday, October 30, 2015

CUB 001 / 1015 / OBS 090
Judicial harassment / Arbitrary detention

October 28, 2015

Cuba: Judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cuba.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) Messrs. Zaqueo Báez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet Rene as well as Ms. María Josefa Acón Sardiñas, also member of the Ladies in White, a peaceful protest group founded by female relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

According to the information received, on September 20, 2015, the three human rights defenders, along with other activists, were arrested while trying to approach Pope Francis in his car in Havana on his way to the mass he was giving, and dragged away by security personnel at Havana’s Revolution Square. Their intention was apparently to raise awareness over human rights violations and the increasing repression against Ladies in White, UNPACU, and other groups in Cuba. As of issuing this urgent appeal, the three human rights defenders would still be detained.

The Observatory would like to recall that these arbitrary detentions are part of genuine wave of political and social repression that led to several “preventive detentions” that took place around Pope Francis’ visit, and at least 882 in September, as denounced by Cuban human rights organisations. Activists have been arrested and detained by the authorities to prevent them from attending papal ceremonies.

The Observatory urges the Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Zaqueo Báez Guerrero, Ismael Bonet Rene and Ms. María Josefa Acón Sardiñas as well as all human rights defenders currently held in detention, since their detention only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities aimed at protecting and defending freedom of expression.

The Observatory more generally calls upon the Cuban authorities to put an end to the continuing harassment, including at the judicial level, against the above-mentioned human rights defenders and to protect and respect the right to freedom of expression.