In response to the uninterrupted acts of intimidation and violence committed in the last two months by Cuban authorities against members of the dissident organization Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU), its leader José Daniel Ferrer, and his family, international human rights organizations issued the following statement:
We call on the Cuban authorities to immediately end the unlawful police abuse, arbitrary detentions, exorbitant fines, and invasive home raids of members of UNPACU. Cuban state security must end its occupation of the perimeter of José Daniel Ferrer’s house, as well as its surveillance and control over the access points to the home which serves as the headquarters of UNPACU. The most recent actions align with a pattern of harassment by Cuban authorities against the organization’s members and other political dissidents. The Cuban government must stop the persecution and repressive actions against activists, human rights defenders, and independent journalists, and must immediately free the more than 134 political prisoners who, according to the organization Prisoners Defenders, remain incarcerated during a dangerous pandemic.
It is unacceptable for the international community to tolerate harassment and repression against dissidents, and these acts should not become normalized in the eyes of global public opinion. Cuba, which has been part of the United Nations Human Rights Council on two occasions and which this year aspires to reoccupy a seat, must commit itself to Resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly, which requires States to comply with the strict standards related to the protection and promotion of human rights.
On April 3, 2020, a court in Santiago de Cuba condemned opposition figure Jose Daniel Ferrer and three other UNPACU activists to four-and-a-half year house-arrest after finding them guilty for the supposed crime of “injury and deprivation of freedom” against another citizen. The accusations were presented in an irregular trial conducted behind closed doors. The four accused activists had been in prison since October 2019.
Independent lawyers argued that Cuban authorities had violated Article 241 of the Law of Penal Procedure when they raided Mr. Ferrer’s home without an order of detention or a search warrant. In November 2019, the European Union parliament also issued a resolution condemning the arbitrary detention and reported torture of Mr. Ferrer.1After the transfer of Mr. Ferrer from prison to house-arrest in 2020, Cuban authorities continued harassing UNPACU activists and their families. As of July 2020, these instances have escalated and are part of a wave of repression denounced by the international press and international civil society organizations.
Amnesty International previously recognized Mr. Ferrer as a prisoner of conscience while he was incarcerated from 2003 to 2011 as part of a wave of government repression against dissidents known as the “Black Spring,” during which 75 people were condemned to lengthy prison sentences under Law 88 “of protection of the national independence and the economy of Cuba.”
Within the first days of September 2020, Cuban authorities carried out more than fifty detentions and official citations with the objective of prohibiting the participation of civil society groups like UNPACU and other human rights activists in the “Sunflower Revolution”, a peaceful protest called for on September 8, 2020 with the intention of encouraging citizens to take to the streets with a sunflower or yellow belt as a sign of protest. This pattern of repression has accelerated during the novel coronavirus pandemic, as uncertainty increases, aggravated by an economic crisis of extraordinary proportions. The militarization of the largest cities, especially Havana, and the police abuses not only against activists but also against the general population including minors, is particularly worrying.