IACHR and Its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression Concerned About Persistent State Repression of Protests in Cuba

May 12, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression are concerned about reports of State repression against peaceful social protests on May 6 in Caimanera, Cuba. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship condemn the structural pattern of repression, particularly the selective and deliberate criminalization of individuals who exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association by speaking up against government policies.

According to publicly available reports, on May 6, residents of Caimanera, in the Cuban province of Guantanamo, poured out onto public spaces to denounce their precarious living conditions and their lack of access to basic rights. According to these reports, demonstrators were violently repressed by the State's law enforcement agencies, who resorted to physical violence and arbitrary arrests.

There were reportedly also deliberate Internet blackouts in several cities around the country, to hinder the peaceful protest movement and prevent the dissemination of news about it. The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression heard reports of at least five arbitrary arrests, including two where detainees were being held incommunicado for taking part in the protests.

According to public reports, Palenque Visión reporter Yeris Curbelo Aguilera was interrogated by State security forces after covering the protests and interviewing relatives of five demonstrators who were arrested in Caimanera.

The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression stress that social protest—including the right to freedom of unarmed, peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of expression—is an essential tool for the defense of democracy and human rights. The State must respect, protect, enable, and ensure these rights.

The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship stress that the use of force during protests must always be a measure of last resort that seeks to prevent a more serious event than the one that triggered the State's reaction, and that, even in such exceptional circumstances, the State must respect the principles of legality, proportionality, and absolute necessity. Criminalizing street protests in themselves is inadmissible, while States must refrain from conducting mass, collective, or indiscriminate arrests during demonstrations.

The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship further stress that the media play a crucial role during social demonstrations, to keep society adequately informed. The State has a duty to ensure that journalists will not be arrested, threatened, attacked, or have their rights restricted in any other way for doing their job.

The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship call on the State to refrain from enforcing arbitrary Internet blackouts—whether full or partial—and from slowing down Internet communications in order to restrict or otherwise control the dissemination of information, which entails a violation of international human rights standards.

Finally, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression stress their call on Cuban authorities to end their refusal to accept international observers and international human rights systems, and to commit to working with civil society to find peaceful solutions to the challenges the country is currently facing.

The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the IACHR to promote the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Americas, considering the fundamental role that right plays in the consolidation and development of all democratic systems. A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.

The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 086/23

12:20 PM