Activists, journalists and dissidents detained to prevent protests on International Human Rights Day

On 9th and 10th December 2019, several human rights defenders, intellectuals, leaders of opposition groups and journalists were placed under house arrest without a judicial order. Many reported that security officers were guarding their homes, threatening to arrest them if they went out into the street. This wave of repression took place around the celebrations for International Human Rights Day on 10th December. According to reports, the detentions were conducted to prevent protests.

Peaceful Assembly

In a related development, the women-led activist group Damas de Blanco continues to be subjected to harassment and criminalisation. On 10th December 2019, Angel Juan Moya denounced that the Cuban police arrested members of the collective when they were protesting outside the headquarters of Damas de Blanco in Lawton, Havana. The defenders Berta Soler, Gladis Capote and Yolanda Santana were detained. They were released on the same day.

Also in the wave of detentions before International Human Rights Day, the police reportedly arrested activist Agustín López Canino for organising a peaceful protest, scheduled for the 10th December 2019, to demand respect for the rights of Cubans who are banned from travelling. "Los regulados" (the “regulated”), as the regime calls them, are often activists, journalists and dissidents who are prohibited from leaving the country without explanation or notification of their status. López Canino was released after being held incommunicado for 24 hours. Given the repression, the protest did not take place. According to news outlet ADN Cuba, in September 2019 leaders of a protest against travel bans were also detained to prevent their participation in a demonstration.


On 12th November 2019, independent journalist and religious freedom defender Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre was detained in Camagüey after presenting himself at the police station in compliance with a verbal summons. CSO Christian Solidarity Worldwide stated that Izaguirre has documented over 60 violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba in 2019. According to reports from digital news outlet La Hora de Cuba, law enforcement agents refused to provide a reason for the arrest to Izaguirre’s wife and supporters.They also allegedly insulted his wife and threatened to criminally charge the journalist for “counter-revolutionary” activities. The police released Izaguirre on 15th November 2019, warning that he is likely to still face charges for "usurpation of functions".

On 14th November 2019, State Security agents detained the photojournalist and writer Ariel Maceo Téllez. According to a report on ADN Cuba, where the photojournalist is a correspondent, Maceo sent a message to journalist Abu Duyanah notifying him of the ongoing arrest and asking him to tell his family. Maceo had recently written a social media post to demand the creation of an animal protection law, which received wide support and generated comments encouraging protests against animal abuse. He was released on the same day.