HRD detained without charge and journalist arrested for disobedience as Cuba increases repression

Association

On 1st October 2019, security agents detained José Daniel Ferrer, leader of opposition group Unión Patriótica de Cuba (Patriotic Union of Cuba - UNPACU). Ferrer was with his four sons when the Cuban special forces detained him and four other activists, Evert Luis Hidalgo Ladrón de Guevara, José Pupo Chaveco, Iveisi Chacón García and Fernando González Vaillant. According to reports, security agents also conducted a raid at the UNPACU headquarters, where the detentions took place, taking organisation documents, forms, flashcards and mobile phones.

The UNPACU leader was held incommunicado for 72 hours, remaining in detention without charge. On 6th October 2019, Ferrer’s family denounced that the activist has been accused of assaulting a man under alleged fabricated charges. However, no official charges have been presented to date. The CSO Prisoners Defenders has documented repeated harassment and persecution of Ferrer, with over a hundred incidents of detention without charge in recent years.

Peaceful Assembly

On 6th October 2019, the police arrested 25 women human rights defenders from the peaceful movement Damas de Blanco (Ladies In White) while they were on their way to protest for the release of political prisoners. Angel Moya, who accompanied the women, posted a video of the arrest in Havana on his Twitter account. A total of 12 defenders were arrested in Havana, 11 in Matanzas and 1 in Santa Clara. Except for leader Berta Soler, all were released with a fine hours after their arrest. Soler was released after 24 hours in detention.

Expression

On 11th September 2019, authorities arrested independent Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, after he was convicted of resistance and disobedience for attempting to cover a trial of religious pastors.The journalist had denounced being beaten by police forces when he was first detained at the trial. Amnesty International has considered him a prisoner of conscience and urged for his immediate and unconditional release.

On 5th October 2019, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) presented a report at its 75th General Assembly denouncing an intensification of repression against the press in Cuba. The report outlines several cases of arrest, harassment and intimidation of journalists in 2019. Twenty cases of travel bans and increasing internet restrictions were also reported, with many independent news outlets blocked on the island. IAPA considered Cuba as one of the countries in the continent registering the greatest aggressions against freedom of the press and expression.

On 7th October 2019, nineteen independent media outlets published a declaration reporting a wave of repression from the Díaz-Canel government. Since January 2018 to date, the signatory organisations have counted 183 aggressions against journalists, with a noticeable increase in recent months. They call this a systematic campaign to silence those producing independent journalism in Cuba, and have made a series of demands for more protection and respect. The declaration states:

These attacks are part of a wave of repression of independent, non-official and non-state-owned press, and include arbitrary detentions, interrogations, psycho-sociological intimidation, verbal aggressions, house raids, bans on leaving the country, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, defamation, provocations in public and confiscation of work equipment, among others.

On 11th October 2019, the Cuban Human Rights Observatory issued a press release accusing the UN Human Rights Council of ignoring the repression in Cuba. According to the Observatory, the Díaz-Canel government uses repression to criminalise, harass and destroy any demonstration of dissent. According to the release, while this situation has been denounced by a number of international human rights organisations, the Human Rights Council has not made a public statement condemning the Cuban regime.