Cuba, a difficult place for human rights defenders: Antonio González Rodiles

(Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders on November 15, 2012)

On 14 November 2012, the family of human rights defender Mr Antonio González Rodiles were informed that the human rights defender is to be charged with ‘resistance to authority‘, as he remains in provisional detention. The human rights defender was arrested in Havana in a wave of police beatings and arrests of human rights defenders on 7 and 8 November 2012. Antonio González Rodiles is the head of Estado de SATS, an independent project that aims to create a space for participation and debate through panel discussions, forums and other events that are filmed and broadcast on the Internet.  On 7 November 2012, another human rights defender Ms Yaremis Flores was arrested in connection with news articles in which she was critical of the Government’s response to Hurricane Sandy, as well reporting on deaths of prisoners in detention. As human rights defenders gathered at the police station to protest her detention, a number of others were also beaten up and arrested, including Antonio González Rodiles and Ms Laritza Diversent, lawyer and blogger. On 8 November 2012, blogger Ms Yoani Sanchez, blogger and writer Mr Ángel Santiesteban Prats, Mr Angel Moya Acosta, Mr Julio Aleaga, Mr Librado Linares, Mr Félix Navarro, Mr Iván Hernández Carrillo, Mr Eduardo Díaz Fleites and Mr Guillermo Fariñas Hernández were all arrested as they called for the release of those arrested on the previous day. In Camagüey, four more human rights defenders were detained and six further individuals arrested when they made their way to the police station to demand their release. After several days in detention, they were released, as were all of the human rights defenders held in Havana. However, Antonio González Rodiles remains in detention and members of his family were informed that the Public Prosecutor has requested that he be held in provisional detention on charges of resistance to authority, a charge that carries a sentence of between three months and one year in prison.

Many of those arrested are members of the “Demanda ciudadana por otra Cuba” (Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba) campaign. A meeting of the group was to be held in Antonio González Rodiles’ home. The campaign is calling on the Cuban Government to immediately put into practice the legal and political guarantees endorsed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, through the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the Cuban authorities signed in February 2008. In August 2012 the document “Demanda ciudadana por otra Cuba” was signed by hundreds of Cubans around the island and the diaspora, and then delivered to the headquarters of the National Assembly.

The NGO Front Line Defenders believes that the arrests of the aforementioned human rights defenders and the continued detention of Antonio González Rodiles are directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights. The regular prevention of peaceful gatherings by police, who block off access to the venues on the date of planned events, constitutes a clear denial of the right to freedom of assembly in Cuba. In addition, human rights defenders continue to face harassment and physical attacks from police around the island.