As the world’s eyes were turned on the U.S. election, Cuba’s regime unleashed a wave of arbitrary detentions, arresting 20-25 dissidents on November 8 and 9, as they were on their way to an organizing meeting for a campaign to end human rights abuses in Cuba. These detentions are in addition to another 520 arrests that took place in October, according to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, led by Elizardo Sanchez. Freedom House condemns Cuba’s crackdown and urges the regime to release these activists and heed citizen calls for greater respect for its human rights obligations under UN treaties.
The Cuban government began arresting activists on November 8 to thwart a meeting organized by activist and intellectual Antonio Rodiles on the Citizens’ Petition for Human Rights or “Demanda Ciudadana por Otra Cuba,” a civic campaign which raises public awareness about Cuba’s human rights record and calls on the Cuban government to recognize its obligations under UN treaties. These treaties include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Cuba signed in 2008 but has not ratified. Cuba will undergo its universal periodic review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2013, a critical time for activists to shine a light on Cuba’s human rights record.
Authorities first detained a young Cuban lawyer, Yaremis Flores, who provides free legal assistance to Cuba citizens. Other dissidents were arrested when they showed up at the police station to protest her arbitrary detention, including ex-hunger striker Guillermo Fariñas, Orlando Luis Pardo, Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban,and several former political prisoners from the Group of 75 who served long prison sentences during the Cuban Spring of 2003. Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez was also detained, her second arrest in just over a month. She was detained on October 5th when she attempted to cover the trial of Angel Carromero in Bayamo.
Sanchez was released on November 9; however many others including Rodiles remain behind bars and activists claim that he was harshly beaten during his arrest.
Freedom House consistently places Cuba among the world’s most repressive societies. Cuba is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012. The island nation also received the second-lowest ranking in Freedom on the Net, a study of internet freedom in 47 countries released in 2012.