After five days of silence, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged on Friday (16) that the Cuban dictatorship release people who were arbitrarily arrested “for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly or to freedom of opinion and expression”.
“I am very concerned about the alleged use of excessive force against demonstrators in Cuba and the arrest of a large number of people, including several journalists,” Bachelet said. “It is particularly worrying that among them there are people allegedly held incommunicado – and people whose whereabouts are unknown. All those held for exercising their rights must be released urgently.”
Bachelet, whose silence has so far been criticized by the NGO Human Rights Watch, also lamented the death of one of the Havana protesters and called for an independent, transparent and effective investigation and for those responsible to be punished.
“I urge the government to respond to the demands of the protesters through dialogue and to fully respect and protect the rights of all people to peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression,” said Bachelet, who also urged the regime that the connection internet and social media is re-established on the island.
The high commissioner took the opportunity to reinforce the request to lift the US embargo on Cuba, “given its negative impact on human rights, including the right to health.”
After the NGO’s complaint Prisoners Defenders, the UN, through urgent action of the Committee Against Enforced Disappearance, is demanding a response from the Castro dictatorship about 187 people who were detained and about whom, until Tuesday, it was not known where they were.
The Committee demands that these people be found and that, if they are still in prison, they can communicate with their families and lawyers. It also asks the regime to report measures taken to identify those responsible for the disappearances. The Committee gave a deadline of June 30 for the Cuban regime to report on the procedures carried out to meet the required demands.
This Thursday, the NGO Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH), based in Spain, denounced the defenseless situation of detainees in Cuba during protests in recent days, as the country’s courts will be closed for a week – therefore , during this period it will be impossible to present appeals in favor of “victims of the repression in Cuba”. The organization also said that police stations are not receiving lawyers hired by family members of the detained protesters.
“There is no law, Cuba is in a state of undeclared siege or exception, while the security forces continue with the repression, organizing incursions, invading houses to detain protesters with total discretion and violence,” denounces the NGO, which has a network of observers in the country.
Repression in the streets and on the internet
Cuban independent journalists say social networking and messaging applications remain blocked on Friday, and can only be accessed through VPNs (virtual private networks), which are also being blocked by the regime.
The digital rights organization Access Now said late on Thursday that internet traffic in Cuba had decreased around 4 pm on Sunday (11), the day the protests began, and that although some services had been established in Cuba Throughout the week, many social media platforms remained blocked on the island. The NGO recalled that the dictatorship controls the company ETECSA, the only internet provider on the island, which makes it very easy to block access to the service.
“This censorship of telecommunications is obviously due to several reasons,” independent journalist Yoani Sánchez said on Twitter this Friday morning. “Preventing people from uploading the images they recorded during the protests”, “preventing Cubans on the island from seeing these scenes of civic demonstrations and disproportionate police violence” and “limiting the capacity to summon that digital platforms for Cuban citizenship had, for its decisive role in the social mobilization that began on Sunday,” she said.
Throughout the week, the strong police presence on the streets of several Cuban cities was also reported, while arrests continued to be made, from house to house. The Cuban Human Rights Observatory reported that, in Camagüey, buses were used by police to arrest and transport people identified in the protests.
Angel Juan Moya, activist and former political prisoner, denounced on his Twitter that the leader of the Damas de Blanco movement, Berta Soler, was arrested this Friday (16), in Havana, and taken in a bus by police officers. According to him, the national headquarters of the Ladies in White movement has been under surveillance by the police since Sunday. The group was created in 2003 to demand the release of 75 political prisoners held that year.