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Cuba: Rights of human rights defenders must be upheld, says UN expert

GENEVA (11 March 2021) – A UN expert today called on Cuba to stop intimidation and detention of human rights defenders working for racial justice in the country.

“The recurrent arrests of human rights defenders on the island, the lack of access to legal representation while they are detained and the surveillance exercised by agents of the Department of State Security is contrary to international law and must cease,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Members of the Committee for Racial Integration in Cuba, who combat racism and discrimination against the island’s Afro-Cuban population, have been detained since 2017 by State Security agentin their homes.  Up to 2019, they have also been prevented from travelling to events related to human rights advocacy with little or no explanation.

Lawlor said there is an intrinsic relationship between human rights and those who defend them. “Human rights defenders raise their voices calling for the proper functioning of the rule of law and their role must be recognised.”

The Special Rapporteur said members of the Committee for Racial Integration in Cuba were targeted frequently. “They suffer limitations to their freedom of movement due to what appears to be an intelligence network that begins with the misuse of criminal law and ends with harassment by the authorities.

"Human rights defenders must not be subjected to reprisals because of their legitimate work to help create a civil and just society,” Lawlor said.

The expert is in contact with the authorities on this matter.

The expert’s call was endorsed by: Ms. Dominique Day (chairperson), Mr. Ahmed ReidMr. Michal BalcerzakMr. Sabelo GumedzeMr. Ricardo A. Sunga III Working Group of Experts on People of African DescentMr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association,


Ms Mary Lawlor, (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was the Director of the Irish Section of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, became a Board member in 1975 and was elected Chair from 1983 to 1987.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 
UN Human Rights, Country Page: Cuba

For more information please contact Adriana Zarraluqui (+41 22 917 9965 / azarraluqui@ohchr.org) or write to defenders@ohchr.org.

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 229289855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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