Without Guarantees of Due Process, Detentions Always Appear Unjust / Cubalex

Cubalex, M.sc. Laritza Diversent, 3 August 2018 — The constitutional reform will recognise Habeas Corpus, as it is applied in domestic law. An obviously ineffective procedure. It does not provide protection against arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance. Nor does it comply with international standards in terms of due process.

“No-one who is imprisoned considers that it is in order,” was  José Luis Toledo Santander’s cynical comment. “Everyone detained by the police considers himself innocent and to have been unfairly detained,” adds the deputy and member of the editing commission of the constitutional text. “That implies,” he concludes, “that every person detained by the police would be able to seek a writ of Habeas Corpus.”

Abuse of power and excess of discretional authority

The agents of police and security (Ministry of the Interior) have minimal training and excessive authority. After being recruited and a 6-month course, they are ready to exercise power and enjoy the impunity guaranteed by their uniform and their licence. continue reading

Whether on the orders of a superior, personal dislike, or a battle for territorial control — it’s all the same. No-one who has a business escapes the payment of tribute to the authorities. The evidence presented and declarations to a tribunal, whether true or not, carry more weight than the law itself.

In such circumstances, it is logical that everyone detained by the police considers himself unfairly detained. That’s the logic in a country where guarantees of due process do not exist.

Do you know that the police can interpret and apply, acting as judges, 27% of the offences in the Penal Code?

Without remission of the case to a tribunal, they are authorised to judge it, and apply a fine. When they exercise this power, they do not inform the detainees that, in the event of their accepting it, they are recognising their guilt (loss of the presumption of innocence) and abandoning the right to be judged by a tribunal.

Absence of independent, impartial tribunals

Do you know that the Committee against Enforced Disappearance (an office of the United Nations) is concerned that the subordination of the tribunals to the National Assembly and the Council of State affects the independance of the judiciary?

Yes, judges are subject to all types of political influence. Both of these state organs are charged with appointing, promoting, suspending, and dismissing them. A judge can be dismissed from a tribunal, for not being willing to join the Cuban Communist Party, which subjects them to conflicts of interest and intimidation.

Total absence of the right to defence and therefore the presumption of innocence

Did you know that the national tribunals only accept legal service contracts issued by the Collective Law Firms (Legal practices supervised by the Ministry of Justice)?

Yes, in practice they are obliged to contract defence lawyers from an organisation which is unique in the country and ideologically committed to the political group holding power in the country. This situation affects the right to freely select your lawyer.

Nor are the ONBC lawyers are not independent. They are subject to interference, pressure and undue influence from the authorities who intervene in the penal process, which prevents them from performing dilligently and fearlessly, acting against the interests of their clients.

First published in Cubalex

Translated by GH

What Rights are Affected or Restricted by Decree 349/2018? / Cubalex

T-shirts: Criminal Artist

Cubalex, 16 August 2018 — The Cuban State ,through Decree No. 349 of April 20, 2018, has deliberately adopted regressive measures without consideration or justification that disproportionately influence the exercise of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

The decree limits equal access to worthy work to all people. It institutes forced labor by obliging artists to qualify with and establish links to a state institution in order to obtain remuneration for their work.

It establishes a system of retroactive censorship for cultural activities, the arts and other forms of expression, violating freedom for creative activity and the right to the full development of the human personality. It also violates the freedom of thought, belief, religion and of opinion, association and peaceful assembly. continue reading

Independent artists or those who do not have associations with the institutions of the state or groups of civil society will see themselves doubly discriminated against because their forms and means of expression are perceived by the state as a challenge, or an expression of political opinion.

It stimulates and promotes discrimination based on political opinion. It does not respond to any pressing public or social need. It does not pursue a legitimate purpose and is not compatible with the provisions, aims and objectives of international human rights law. It is not strictly necessary for the promotion of the general welfare of a democratic society.

On the contrary, it violates the principle of prior responsibilities that ensure respect for the rights or reputation of others, and the protetion of national security, the public order or health or public morals. With this decree victims are not needed, nor are affected groups or denunciations, and it does not take into account the guarantees of due process for the accused. The agents of the State will decide in a discretionary, selective and discriminatory way if any artistic manifestation promotes discrimination, violence or uses sexist, vulgar or obscene language.

Artists were not consulted before the adoption of Decree No. 349/2018 and the resolutions of the Ministry of Culture (MINCUL) that implemented this cultural policy. They are totally unprotected. They have no means to participate in the direction of public affairs nor in the process of formulation, application and adoption of public policy decisions that affect the exercise of their cultural rights.

They do not have access to effective judicial remedies or other adequate resources to obtain reparation, restitution, compensation and satisfaction or guarantees of non-duplication, in the event of possible violation of their moral and material interests. There are no mechanisms in the country to challenge this Decree in case of illegal, abusive, arbitrary, irrational or discriminatory application.

This article was first published in Cubalex.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

In Debate: Replies to Doubts About Decree 348/2018 / Cubalex, Laritza Diversent

Together we can. No to Decree 349. A law that makes art a crime..

What are “artistic services?”

Cubalex, 2 August 2018 — Artistic services are those offered by government organisations authorised to contract artistic workers. Artistic services may be requested from these entities. As I understand it, they are like agencies which employ artists or groups of artists. An individual or a business contracts the service, and pays the organisatioon. Then, the agency pays the artist. (Resolution 44/2014 “Regulations governing work arrangements for those whose work is of an artistic nature.”)

Is this terminology only used for people who are paid for their work as artists, or is it for all artists who show up in a place, if it is an independent place, like ours, where they aren’t paid to turn up?

According to Resolution 54/2014 “Regulations governing artistic work evaluation”, AN ARTIST is a person who interprets or carries out one or several works in accordance with each appearance and speciality. continue reading

To work professionally in each artistic field, a work evaluation is essential, apart from those exceptions established by the employment legislation in force for this sector (Article 11)

The artistic evaluation is confirmed by way of the issuing of the appropriate Evaluation Certificate, and is independently authorised for each speciality or each artistic position on an individual basis for each artist, and for groups of more than one artist, without prejudice to the individual pay guarantee (Article 10)

The regulation imposed by Decree 349/2018: One may not work as an artist, or carry out artistic activities without government authorisation

In accordance with Decree 349/2018, only state-authorised artists can offer artistic services, on an individual basis or on behalf of a group, and payment for work carried out is only permitted for such people.

Only people with authorisation to carry out artistic work in an artistic  position or occupation can offer artistic services, on condition that they have a signed “established contract”, with a state institution which is authorised to contract artists and to approve their offer of artistic services.

If an artist provides his services without the authority of an employing organisation which contracts with him, then an offence is committed and he will be fined. Additionally, any instruments, equipment, accessories or other goods may be seized, the performance or relevant screening immediately cancelled, any authorisation to perform independently may be cancelled, and the employing organisation may apply disciplinary measures.

Do you know where the Cuban cultural policy may be found?

The Cuban cultural policy should be all the regulations imposed by the Ministry of Culture, a government entity of the Central Government Administration of the Republic of Cuba, charged with the direction, guidance, control and execution, within its operational ambit, of the cultural policy of the state and Cuban government, in order to guarantee the defence, preservation and enrichment of the cultural heritage of the Cuban nation. The Mincult (Ministry of Culture) has a website where the cultural policy is explained.

M.sc Laritza Diversent, Executive Director of Cubalex

First published in Cubalex.

Translated by GH

Cubalex Demands the Immediate Release of the Artists Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry Del Río / Cubalex


Arrest of Luis Manuel Otero

Cubalex, 22 July 2018 – Peaceful gatherings and demonstrations are essential for public participation

On the afternoon of July 21, 2018, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco, Soandry del Río, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva and José Ernesto Alonso met in front of Havana’s Capitol building, contrary to the regulations of Decree 349 / 2018 that violates and restricts the freedom of artistic creation.

Luis Manuel Otero “covered his body with human excrement” and in a poster he demanded “free art. No to Decree Law 349” adopted by the Council of Ministers. With the exception of Nuñez Leyva they were all arrested. In the case of Otero Alcántara the arrest was carried out with an excessive use of force and along with Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río, they were transferred to the police station located on Zanja Street in the capital. continue reading

Along with José Ernesto Alonso, Iris Ruiz was released four hours later, accused of creating public disorder. Luis Manuel, Amaury and Soandry were transferred to the Vivac detention center, where they are accused of public disorder and aggression.

We remind the Cuban State that the freedom to comment on public issues without censorship or limitations, as well as to inform public opinion, is indispensable to guarantee the full exercise of participation in public affairs, which includes the freedom to hold peaceful demonstrations and gatherings, to criticize or oppose the government, and to publish political material.

The arrest of the artists is arbitrary, irrational, unnecessary and disproportionate, because it violates recognized international standards in relation to the guarantees of due process.

The procedure for legal detention in Cuba allows for arbitrary detentions, currently used by state agents as punishment for the legitimate exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association, recognized in international human rights law.

States have the obligation not only to abstain from violating the rights of people who take part in a meeting, and to respect and guarantee the rights without any discrimination for prohibited reasons or of any other nature or any other condition of political opinion. The freedom to organize and participate in public meetings must be guaranteed to all natural persons, groups, non-registered associations, legal entities and companies.

In Cuba, access to public participation spaces is excessively and abusively restricted, as a result of which the full and free exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly is practically impossible.

Cubalex demands that the Cuban State immediately release artists Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río, and adopt urgent measures to protect human rights defenders against reprisals and eliminate undue restrictions on the use of public spaces.

Cuban Woman Will Be Tried For Contempt For Calling State Official Corrupt / Cubalex

Indira Martínez Borges with her 2-year-old son. (Photo (c) Sol Grcia Basulto / Facebook)

Cubalex, 19 July 2018 — Indira Martínez Borges, 33 and the mother of a two-year-old, will be tried on July 20 in a summary proceeding, charged with the crime of “contempt” for calling an official ‘corrupt’. The official, Anais Rodríguez Cárdena,  is with the Provincial Directorate of Housing of the Camagüey municipality, which confiscated Martinez’s home and assigned her another in poor condition, for which she had to pay.

Cubalex is concerned over the incompatibility of these summary trials with the right to a defense. Martínez will be tried without the advice of a lawyer. Only if the court concurs to a trial with a Defender, will it allow the participation of one. Nor does Martinez have the resources to hire a lawyer from the National Organization of Collective Law Firms (ONBC).

Even if the accused can hire a defender, their right to defense would be violated. The legal services contracts of the ONBC are the only ones accepted by the court, a situation that affects the right to freely choose a lawyer.

ONBC lawyers are not independent. They receive influence, pressure and undue interference by the authorities that intervene in the criminal process, which prevents them from acting diligently and without fear, and so they act against the interests of their clients. continue reading

In these summary proceedings, the ONBC lawyers do not even attempt to request postponement of the oral hearing, knowing that they have not had time to prepare their defense or access to the investigation file.

On July 17, the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in a press release, expressed its concern over defining criticism of public officials in Cuba as a punishable crime.

The Rapporteurship referred expressly to the cases of Ariel Ruiz, a doctor of Biological Sciences, that of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), and also the case of Martha Sánchez González, member of the Ladies in White. All three were tried and imprisoned for this same crime, which undermines the freedom of thought and expression, and constitutes a mechanism to silence the pluralistic and democratic debate around the management of the government .

The Rapporteurship of the IACHR claims that the crime of contempt lends itself “to abuse, as a measure to silence unpopular ideas and opinions, which restricts a debate that is fundamental for the efficient functioning of democratic institutions.” It notes that in the majority of nations in the Americas the crime of contempt has been eliminated from the criminal legislation.

It calls on the Cuban State to adapt its legal framework to the Inter-American standards on freedom of expression, and reminds the Cuban government that “public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society.”

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in consolidation and development of the democratic system.

‘Cuban civil society fails to utilize the mechanisms to report human rights violations’

Attorney Laritza Diversent, Director of Cubalex

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 30 January 2018 — Forced into exile by the Cuban regime, the Legal Information Center (Cubalex) has undergone a “radical and painful change”. However, reorganized in the USA, it aims to continue along the project’s same line: “to internationally denounce the Cuban State for its human rights violations, and spotlight the situation in the country. ”

Director Laritza Diversent spoke with DIARIO DE CUBA about some aspects of the organization’s work, what it has left behind, and, above all, the reasons for the lines it has drawn and the procedures they will use under the new circumstances.

How has Cubalex reorganized in exile?

Cubalex registered in the state of Tennessee in the USA. We currently have a Board of Directors that governs the organization. The team, which includes me, works online because we live in different states, mostly in Pennsylvania.

What has it meant for the members of Cubalex to have to leave the Island?

It was difficult to accept that you have to start a new life, and adapt to new customs and idiosyncrasies. Everything is missed, especially the aroma of coffee on the terrace where we met up almost every morning to begin our work, and working in the same physical space, and personally receiving those who visited us at the office in Cuba. Today we see each other on a screen. It has been a radical, difficult and painful change. All of us have shed tears of nostalgia. continue reading

Have your relatives suffered reprisals in Cuba?

As long as we continue doing the same work as in Cuba, which is vexing for the Government, and it continues to yield results, as we appeal to international human rights organizations and shine a light on the situation in the country, our relatives in Cuba will be at risk. It is one of the forms of punishment that the regime wields best. We have to recognize it. They are effective. We are powerless in this regard.

What difficulties does having to work from outside Cuba entail?

Obtaining the resources to keep the organization running and including the entire Cubalex team that left Cuba as part of the staff. On another front, making the activists in Cuba understand the importance of reporting, at the international level, the human rights violations of which they are victims, which is a difficulty that we had in Cuba. Thus far we have not managed for many to report the repression to which they are subjected. The record of complaints lodged with international organizations for human rights violations by the Cuban government is paltry.

Has the project had to modify its objectives given this new scenario?

Not yet. We changed the population group that the organization focused on. Between 2011 and 2015 54.85% of the cases we dealt with were related to criminal matters brought to us by persons deprived of their freedom. In 2016, up until the time that our headquarters was searched, 61% of the requests for our services were made by inmates in prisons, 48% of whom presented their cases directly at our offices, through a family member, generally mothers.

After leaving the country, we cannot continue providing counsel in a personalized way, at least not directly. The deficient Internet access on the Island makes it unlikely that we can keep up this pace of work. We are currently focused on monitoring and following up on activists at risk. But, as I said before, it is a difficult task that requires a lot of patience and perseverance on our part.

In Cuba, we assisted 982 human rights activists, members of different civil society organizations who claimed to be victims of arbitrary short-term arrests, repudiation rallies, official citations, as well as searches in their homes. We conducted 96 training workshops for 613 activists in eight provinces of the country, most of them in the east. We also provided legal advice to activists in an individualized manner, but the statistics compiled by our office show that of the vulnerable groups at risk, they are those who least turned to us.

One of the main struggles with activists in Cuba is to get them to follow our recommendations to document cases of violations of their rights, which is essential to carrying out our work at the international level. We are aware of the ignorance in Cuban civil society of the mechanisms for reporting human rights violations at the domestic and international levels. This prevents the development of strategies to mitigate the risks and threats to the activities they carry out.

How is the activists’ lack of awareness of complaint mechanisms, and their importance, evidenced?

In August of 2016 Cubalex prepared basic human rights courses to teach activists from partner organizations. We formally invited 13 organizations, but only 10 responded, of which 7 appointed a representative to attend the course. Then 6 confirmed they would appear, but the course was ultimately attended by 3. This means that there is not only ignorance, but also a lack of interest.

Cubalex has observed that most activists use social media as their favorite means of reporting violations of their rights. At the beginning of 2017 we surveyed 106 activists, and 84.91% said that they defended their rights through this channel. We also monitored the social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) of 72 activists or members of at least 9 organizations operating informally in the country. The information was insufficient to monitor the specific situation and document human rights violations. Example: the names of the victims of the acts committed were not mentioned, who committed them, or when.

Social media, despite being the most used via by activists to denounce human rights violations and get the public’s attention, is not the appropriate way to attract that of international human rights organizations capable of pressuring the Government. These organizations do not use social media as a source of information. It is necessary to document the violations, draft a report, and send it to these institutions. Complaints on the social networks must be maintained, while improving posting strategies to provide more information about the incidents reported, but it should not be the main tool.

How do you get information from inside Cuba?

Directly from the victims, by telephone and by email. We use social media to identify activists at risk or to report violations occurring at the moment. If the person does not offer data to locate him, we inquire through other activists until coming into direct contact with the victim.

What is the situation like for those members of Cubalex who remained in Cuba?

They are awaiting a final decision by the US Government in the political asylum case. We keep abreast of the status of each one, especially Julio Ferrer. We presented his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests while we were still in Cuba, and it worked. He is currently free, although he is not out of danger.

What has happened to the cases that Cubalex was handling? Did the regime’s action have any consequences for those people?

For now, we don’t know. The prohibitive prices of the Internet and telephone calls off the island make it impossible for people to contact us. We, from outside, also have economic restrictions on making calls to Cuba and following up on them. Our long-term plans including creating strategies and conditions so that the population, especially the poor, have access to a free legal advice service.

What lines of work is Cubalex currently pursuing?

We are following the same line. Reporting human rights violations by the Cuban State, and spotlighting the situation in the country. The filing of complaints in accordance with special United Nations procedures is one of the few tools we have to report human rights violations in the country, and the only one that the State officially reacts to. Between 2011 and 2016 the Government received 24 communications from UN bodies, and responded to 21 of them. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, however, reported 44,604 acts of harassment during the same period. Cubalex intends to change this reality.

Cubalex is working on another report on violence against women in Cuba. Why is it necessary to revisit this issue?

In general, women in Cuba, although they have access to education, health, employment, sexual and reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work, continue to do most of the work at home, and to raise their children, despite the fact that most of them work outside the home too. Even so, Havana does boast high gender standards compared to other countries in Latin America. The Cuban State subscribes to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, but to date there is no gender law in the country that protects women from violence, and there are no shelters for victims of this scourge.

Added to this phenomenon is institutionalized discrimination, especially through criminal law. For example, the designation of people as “pre-criminal social hazards,” which allows the authorities to categorize and punish people for what they are, and not for what they do, perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes of a racial nature, based on gender, socioeconomic level, marginality, lifestyle, ideology and political opinion.

The “pre-criminal social hazard” measure, in addition to being selective and discriminatory, is an institutionalized form of violence against women. It is wielded against girls between 16 and 18 years of age who engage in prostitution, an activity considered by the authorities to be a socially reprehensible vice. Prostitution is not a crime, but the Government says it “does not tolerate it”. It represses those offering these services, but not those soliciting them, most of whom are tourists.

Many of the women offering sexual services migrate from rural to tourist areas in search of better economic opportunities. They grow more vulnerable when they are forced to submit to the sexual exploitation of pimps, to shield themselves from police repression and corruption. The “pre-criminal hazard” designation linked to prostitution is also used against trans women and other members of the LGBTI community.

Discrimination and marginalization on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation is a widespread phenomenon, but is overlooked even by civil society organizations that describe themselves as defenders of human rights, and whose members are also victims of institutionalized forms of violence and discrimination. This legal mechanism is also used to harass, threaten and prosecute human rights activists, who are stigmatized as “subversives and terrorists”.

Given this situation, what particularities do cases like that of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), who are systematically repressed, feature?

In the case of the Ladies in White, this violence acquires a special significance. They are victims of acts of torture and degrading treatment that places their lives in danger. In 2017 the organization was the target of 54.10% of the acts of harassment reported on the social networks and in other media. Its members constituted 45% of female human rights activists who were victims of repression. They suffered 53 violent attacks, which in 94.34% of the cases occurred during arrests.

The death of Ada María López Canino, a member of the organization, on December 12, 2017, is a wake-up call. In 2016 and 2017 she was arrested 81 times. She received several beatings during operations and acts of repudiation, and she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, the result of cranial traumas inflicted by blows to the head.

This brain injury produces multiple symptoms, including strong and constant headaches, which do not go away by themselves. They can lead to complications over time and cause permanent brain damage. It is also aggravated by repetitive head trauma. Cubalex knows of other Ladies in White with similar symptoms.

The Ladies in White are part of a social group that is doubly vulnerable: as women and as defenders of human rights. They suffer from aggravated forms of discrimination and violence, not only from the authorities, but also from civil society organizations themselves, which find it difficult to accept women’s leadership capacities. However, this organization does not specifically and directly address gender issues. On the contrary, they defend and fight for the rights of political prisoners.

Note: Article taken from Diario de Cuba’s English site which can be viewed here.

Cubalex Identifies State Security Agent Who Led 2016 Assault on its Headquarters

Beatrix Peña de la O led the illegal assault on the headquarters of Cubalex, an independent legal aid organization, in 2016

Today, the attorney Laritza Diversent posted on her Twitter account a photo of the State Security agent who led the illegal assault on her legal aid organization in Havana more than two years ago.

An article from 14ymedio reported the assault carried out in September of 2016: continue reading

Cubalex, The Center of Legal Information, located in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, was searched by National Revolutionary Police (PNR) officers and State Security agents on Friday… the police burst into the site which is also the home of independent attorney Laritza Diversent… Seven people were inside the home at the time the search started, among whom were Ariadna Romero, Yamara Curbelo Rodríguez, María Bonet, Teresa Perdomo, Amado Iglesias, Diego Ricardo and Laritza Diversent herself.

The assault was captured on video from outside the site, and recounted in detail, later, by Diversent, the center’s director.

In her tweets today, Diversent responded to the assault and looked to the future of Cuba.

This search warrant was illegal.
Cubalex warns that there will be “a tomorrow” and those who illegally repressed Cuban citizens will be held accountable for their actions.

Justice, truth… and a different future.

Laritza Diversent and Cubalex Begin Their Life In Exile

Laritza Diversent (center) before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami/Havana, 4 May 2017 — The team at the Cubalex Legal Information Center and its director, attorney Laritza Diversent, have obtained political refuge in the United States following the intensification of repression against the nonprofit organization dedicated to legally advising Cubans.

Diversent, told 14ymedio, from a stop at Miami International Airport this Thursday, that this was a “very hard” time for her and her team.

“We are saddened that we can not continue to provide legal advice to people within Cuba, especially to many of the prisoners we helped, but since last September our work has not been safe in Cuba,” he said. continue reading

On September 23, 2016, agents of the Interior Ministry raided the Cubalex headquarters in Havana and confiscated their work equipment as well as two hundred files of people who were advised by the organization.

“We are saddened that we can not continue to provide legal advice to people within Cuba, especially to many of the prisoners we helped, but since last September our work has not been safe in Cuba”

One day before her departure from the country, the lawyer was summoned by the Attorney General’s Office to inform her of the legal proceedings brought against her by the authorities.

“It seems it is a new strategy to raid the headquarters of organizations. It already happened with Convivencia and with Somos+,” recalls the lawyer.

Diversent explained that she was accused of violating self-employment regulations.

“The State assumes that as we receive financing from abroad we hire people. As legal guardianship is not recognized as an activity to be carried out independently we are accused of violating the law,” she says.

She also reported that they had told a “string of lies” about supposed gifts given by her in exchange for speeding up procedures to legalize her home.

The Prosecutor’s Office ruled against a ban on her leaving the country, Diversent was able to verify. “They told me they knew I was working on the immigration process, and that they would allow me to leave, but that if I returned they would activate the investigation again,” she said.

“They threatened to accuse me of forgery and bribery if I returned to Cuba.”

The lawyer says that independent organizations such as hers are a direct target of State Security and are exposed to all kinds of harassment by the Government.

The lawyer says that independent organizations such as hers are a direct target of State Security and are exposed to all kinds of harassment by the Government

“State Security is aimed directly at us. The international community does not have a strong position with the Government, so we are subject to double discrimination: that of the State that calls us terrorists and mercenaries and that of international organizations and countries that do not support us because they seek to maintain good relations with the Cuban government,” she said.

Family reasons also carried great weight in this decision:

“I am a human rights activist, but I am also a mother. I have a son 17 and I don’t want anything to happen to him. In the case of women, the first thing they do is attack their children,” she said.

Diversent explained that she will be based in the state of Tennessee and that the rest of his colleagues will travel in three groups between May 25 and June 5.

The organization, based in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo in Havana and founded in 2010, provides legal advice but is not legally recognized within the island, despite the numerous reports it has drafted for the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among other international organizations.

In July of last year the government refused to legalize Cubalex, after ruling that in Cuba no independent legal aid organizations are needed because “the State already defends the people.”

In July of last year the government refused to legalize Cubalex, after ruling that in Cuba no independent legal aid organizations are needed because “the state already defends the people”

Cubalex members, who have received refugee status, will be based in different states of the United States. However, the lawyer is confident that they will be able to meet at some point to restart the work. For now they have dismissed Miami as a possible site.

Two members of the group, Julio Iglesias and Julio Ferrer, must remain in the country because they are under criminal proceedings or in prison. Ferrer received a change of the precautionary measures against him this week.

“It really hurts me, what is happening to those in Cuba because of the commitment they have made to the people and the work they have done,” Diversent said.

The lawyer explained that for nine months they have been denouncing “violations of due process” in those cases but have not been able to do anything despite exhausting all the resources.

Following the raid on Cubalex’s headquarters, Amnesty International called for urgent action to “call on the Cuban authorities to allow members of Cubalex and other human rights lawyers and activists to operate freely without harassment or intimidation.”

“Cubalex will be legalized in the United States and will continue its work from here focused on supporting civil society organizations on the island”

Laritza Diversent’s trip to the US coincides with Thursday’s release of a communiqué from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), which reports that there have been 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the first four months of 2017.

In April alone, the organization documented 467 arbitrary arrests, of which 335 were women, 132 were men and 147 were black people, ten of whom were “brutally beaten,” according to the activists.

The OCDH has stressed that a climate of repression prevails “at a time when the Cuban Government has achieved important international support like the European Union and the Government of Spain,” and warns that “in the coming months the political climate may be aggravated, as a result of certain nervousness of the Government before the difficult economic and social situation that is facing Cuba.”

Diversent agrees.

“There is much to be done in international human rights organizations. There is a lot to do with the organizations that are inside Cuba, to support them,” she explains.

“Cubalex will be legalized in the United States and will continue its work from here focused on supporting civil society organizations on the Island.”

The Risks of Defending Human Rights in Cuba / Cubalex

Cubalex, 4 April 2017 — In the cycles of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR), held in 2009 and 2013, the Cuban State rejected 32 recommendations calling for an end to repression against human rights defenders and lifting restrictions that impede freedom of speech, opinion, association, assembly and peaceful demonstration.

Members of the Human Rights Council suggested that the state ensure a safe, free and independent environment for human rights activities, without the risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution or violence. continue reading

They recommended that the state refrain from abusing the criminal code to repress and harass people. In addition, all necessary measures should be taken including a review of the legislation, to ensure that all cases of aggression against human rights activists are investigated by independent and impartial bodies.

The Cuban State objected to these recommendations, on the grounds that they were inconsistent with the exercise of the state’s right to self-determination; they claimed that this would imply implementing a policy conceived by a foreign superpower, with the aim of destroying Cuba’s political, economic, and social system.

However, the government claims that, in the country, human rights defenders are protected, on an equal footing, and act with total freedom and without any restriction that is incompatible with international human rights instruments.

The state adds that there are the millions of people who in Cuba are grouped in thousands of organizations, and who have all the guarantees for the exercise of their rights. They do not need different protection from that of anyone with Cuban citizenship. They are not a threat, they are not in danger, nor do they face the possibility of an act in violation of the conduct of their activities.

You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex

Cubalex, 30 March 2017 — Because there is no democracy or rule of law. Nor do the conditions exist to exercise civil, political, economic, social and cultural freedoms. The elite of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), maintains power through the structures of the State and the Government with repressive methods.

Workers have no right to strike nor can they freely create trade unions. The government refuses to legalize any social organizations that do not share the policies of the party elite. Dissidents and human rights defenders are stigmatized, harassed and ultimately imprisoned. continue reading

Opposition to the government can not be organized. There are no legal mechanisms for the existence of political parties. The PCC is the only party recognized in the National Constitution, which was drafted by the founders of this political organization, senior military commanders who have remained in power for almost 60 years; almost sixty years with two presidents, brothers named Castro.

This military elite, does not tolerate opposition, nor pay any political or economic price for harassing and repressing it. They are not open to public debate. Through the Law they harass people who openly criticize them.

They count on making an example of those who oppose them. The rest of society refrains from expressing their political preferences. They fear negative consequences in their lives. They are controlled by social and mass organizations.

The electoral law does not allow political parties to participate in the elections, but the PCC participates in them, through the mass organizations. They control the electoral process. They avoid competition and ensure that the members of this political organization are elected and appointed to hold office in government. Their leaders occupy positions in the highest party and state structure.

As a consequence, people with citizenship and residence on the island cannot run on equal terms. Nor do they have the mechanisms to participate in political and economic decision-making. The election of the members of parliament does not depend on their votes and political preferences.

They are excluded from intervening in the national economy, a privilege only allowed to foreigners. While the country’s economic situation is precarious and worsens, the State limits its ability to generate income. It obliges them, through the exercise of self-employment, to carry out non-professional economic activities with only minimum profit margins.

If Cubans dramatically flee the country, it is to seek better opportunities for their lives, but also to seek freedom. “When the people emigrate, the rulers are superfluous,” is a phrase of José Martí’s that today is fully in force.

Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending Human Rights / Cubalex

Cubalex, 3 April 2017 — The defense and promotion of human rights in the world depens on the work done on the ground by civil society organzations, documenting human rights violations.

It does not matter whether the internal context of a country is more or less repressive, or whether the regime is more or less democratic. Civil society is the one that monitors the universal and effective applications and implementation of human rights. continue reading

These organizations are the mediators between individuals and the State and an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies and the rule of law. Without civil society, there is no legitimate state.

Lamentably its members often are exposed to dangers. Many times they are tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including murder. They are vulnerable worldwide, due to undue restrictions on freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Of the 43 thematic mandates of the special procedures of the United Nations, the rapporteurs who deal with the exercise of these rights are those who send the most communications to the States. Cuba is no exception. These rapporteurs were the ones that sent the most communications, either individually or jointly, between 2011 and 2016.

However, the Cuban State disagrees with the rapporteurs’ characterization of the people who make up the organizations that defend human rights in Cuba. The State considers it inadmissible that they should be recognized internationally as such and as a part of Cuban civil society.

The State says that these human rights defenders aim to openly transgress the laws, undermine, subvert and destroy the political and social system, the internal legal and constitutional order, established in a sovereign way by the Cuban nation, acting against the purposes and principles enshrined in the International agreements on human rights.

It asserts that they are everything from invaders to terrorists, hiding behind the mantle of human rights defenders. it states that they receive funding from the United States government to fabricate excuses that justify their policy of hostility, blockade and aggression against Cuba.

The government denies the work of defending human rights on the part of informal civil society organizations, and discredits them, to increase their vulnerability.

Cuba: Government Affirms That There Is No Torture In The Country / Cubalex

Recent photos of Cuban human rights activists during and after their interactions with police and state security forces.

Cubalex, Havana, 16 March 2017 — In the two cycles of the Universal Periodic Review undertaken in 2009 and 2013, the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council recommended that the Cuban State ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture as soon as possible and without reservations, and pass laws to make it clear in national legislation that torture as a crime.

The Government took note of these recommendations, arguing that it ensured respect for the physical and spiritual integrity of persons and that it had effective national resources to ensure the rigorous implementation of the Convention.

It added that international investigations confirmed that people residing in its territory enjoy the fullest protection and enjoyment of the rights and remedies established by international human rights instruments.

It affirmed that there were no practices of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country. Consequently, it did not consider it necessary, to assume obligations with procedures and instances of supranational jurisdiction, for the processing of individual petitions.

The treaty bodies responsible for interpreting and monitoring the application of international human rights instruments are not authorized to hear individual complaints from individuals with Cuban citizenship and residence. Cuba does not recognize their jurisdiction.

Cuba: “Revolutionary Integration” As A Form Of Social Control / Cubalex

Cubalex, 2 March 2017 – It is common for people living in Cuba, once they start school at about six and pass from one educational level to another, to join social and mass organizations. First, in elementary school, the Pioneers, and then, at age 14, the social and mass organization and later the student organizations.

Once they start their working life they join the country’s only union, and the organization for their professional sector. Most do not have any assigned function, but they pay their dues.

The rule is that everyone is integrated into several of the social and mass organizations — all of them the only ones of their kind in the country — according to their educational level, their professional sector or specific interests. Their lives, social and work, and that of their families depend on this integration and on participating in patriotic, political and military activities.

“Revolutionary integration” violates freedom of association, which includes the right not to be forced to join an organization. It is a requirement to obtain a university degree, to get a job, or to ascend in the workplace, where one also is required to be integrated into political organizations.

State institutions, including schools, demand and verify your membership. Sometimes directly, others through a business subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. Security and Protection, or the organs of criminal investigation, coordiante with the social and mass organizations.

For example, the administration of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), when a case is being investigated, provide private and intimate information and opinions, in many cases personal and subjective, that are later used by the prosecutor.

In the sentences of the courts, in addition to the personal data, it is taken into account whether the accused person participates in activities “targeted or programmed by mass organizations” or whether the person publicly expresses disagreement with socialist principles. This determines whether he is good or bad person.

“Revolutionary integration” is the mechanism of social control that allows the political group in power to establish systems of rewards and punishments. People who do not join these organizations for religious reasons, or who publicly express their political opinions, are condemned to work immobility, isolation and social discrimination.

Broken Dreams / Cubalex

A montage of photos of Cubalex on the day of the police raid and mail from the people they help.

Translator’s note: The references here to the empty offices and the inability to work relate to a police raid that occurred in September of last year, during which much of the organization’s equipment was confiscated.

Cubalex, 20 February 2017 – It is an ordinary November day. Cubalex members are visiting the headquarters, the emptiness of the offices hardly bearable, their faces are not the same as before, but they continue to be united.

“A letter has arrived,” says an assistant. “Read it out loud,” everyone says. “It is a new case, I don’t recall the name,” she affirms. “But start reading it,” exclaimed the investigator.

“OK, I’ll start,” she says. “Havana, 16 November 2016, Dear Laritza and the Cubalex team, I recently wrote to you, another inmate gave me the address. Today I received an answer from you in which you explained the process to be able to help me. continue reading

“And I felt like the happiest prisoner in the world. I had written to all the state institutions and none responded to me. I am speaking to you from my heart, that you have given me back my hope and a desire to go on living.”

The emotion was visible on everyone’s face, after so many days without being able to do our work this letter filled the space and all of us with emotion. It was the first pleasant emotion we had felt after more than 90 days of anguish.

“A million thanks,” she continued reading, “love and blessings to you all, a thousand thanks for the help you can offer me, I have no way to thank you. I once again want to live. In you, I have found different human beings.

“I will send you all the documents you asked me for, I am serving a sentence for a crime I didn’t commit, while the real culprit walks free. They accused me of the theft and slaughter of cattle, and condemned me to 12 years* and I swear to you I am innocent.

“Soon I will turn 21, you are my best gift, just by responding to my letters. I was planning to go on a hunger strike, but I knew of Cubalex’s existence and the help you have given to many inmates here. May God always accompany you and thousands of blessings to you,” she concluded reading.

“He’s just a kid,” said the group’s senior sadly. “Where is it from?” “From Agüica,” replied the reader, looking at the envelope. “We have to answer him,” said the psychologist, “even if it’s on a blank sheet and with a pen. We must explain what happened at our headquarters on September 23. He has his hopes set on us.”

“I have an envelope, and I saw that they left the stamps on the day of the [police] operation, you’ll find them in my drawer,” said the secretary to the assistant.

“Who will answer him?” She asked. “I will,” was the answer that was heard in chorus. “That’s like pouring a bucket of cold water,” said secretary said. “It would be better if the psychologist answered.”

The silence was an expression of the anguish captivated them. “Send him the phone number to call us,” advised the Director. “At least we can guide him. Let’s keep the letter, to show it to the teacher Julio on the next visit to the prison. By the way, who is going to make this visit?”

“I am,” replied the social investigator. “Don’t worry, I’ll give it to him.”

*Translator’s note: the penalties for unauthorized slaughter of cattle in Cuba are very severe, and it is literally true that a person may serve more time for killing a cow than someone else serves for killing a person.

Cuban Apartheid / Cubalex

“Law No. 118. Law of Foreign Investment”

Cubalex, Havana, 14 December 2016 – In Cuba there are no conditions under which economic, social and cultural rights can be exercised. “All Cubans have free healthcare and education,” is a claim that is easily refuted. We continue the debate with another question: Who decided we Cubans could not invest in a hotel or form joint ventures with the state?

First absolute silence, then a bombardment of stones. In the end, Pedro threw a pea! The National Assembly and the Council of State are those who dictate the laws, he responded, doubtfully.

“Have you read any law that says Cubans cannot invest in the national economy?” the professor asked. No, but the law is called “The Law of Foreign Investment” and it assumes that only they can participate in the national economy at the same level as the Cuban government.

Is it fair? He asked again. No, he said. Do you believe it is a violation of human rights? He continued interrogating him. I don’t know, he replied, annoyed. He approached him and slapped his shoulder twice. Yes, the state excludes us, discriminates against us, he said, while looking at him and nodding.

“We all have the right to equality and non-discrimination. It is a universally recognized right,” explained the professor while walking back and forth in the improvised classroom. The critics of this law call it Cuban Apartheid. Do they know this is a crime in the current Cuban Penal Code?

I leave them to their first task: reading paragraph (b) of Part 1 of Article 120 of the Penal Code. Explain in 140 characters, that is in a Tweet, if the situation just described could define the crime called “Crime of Apartheid.” See you next Wednesday. Don’t miss it!

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