Two Cuban human rights defenders from the Cuban province of Villa Clara were prohibited from travelling to a Civil Rights Defenders training in Colombia on May 1st. The police patrolled outside the house from early morning and told them they were not permitted to leave the facility, without giving a reason. A third participant was told A couple of days before the event that she would not be allowed to travel. A fourth participant was not allowed to renew his passport and could therefore not attend the training.
This is just another couple of examples of a worrying trend. In 2018, Civil Rights Defenders organised Defenders Days, a conference where we welcome human rights defenders from all over the world to Stockholm to take part in an extensive capacity building programme. Two of our invited partners from Cuba were prohibited to leave, contacting us on Facebook to tell us about their situation. Without any kind of explanation their bags were taken off the plane and they were escorted out from the airport, only informed that they had been given a restriction to leave the country.
Between 2016-2017, Civil Rights Defenders had 28 out of the 77 partners we invited to trainings either arrested or simply prohibited from leaving the country. Several other organisations report similar trends with at least 20-30% of the invited being stopped when trying to leave.
All of these events are clear cases of violations of the right to leave one’s country (“1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. 2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.” Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). Civil Rights Defenders will therefore start to register all these cases and ask organisations working with HRDs and that have cases of invitees that have not been allowed to travel to send us the information.
Since 2016, Civil Rights Defenders has organised trainings in human rights work and The Defenders’ Database (DiDi) for our Cuban partners abroad. Many of them have faced difficulties when trying to attend the courses, with some being detained for “precautious reasons” and some simply being banned from leaving the country. We have therefore decided to register all our partners that have not been able to leave the country in DiDi.
In 2016 we invited two Cuban partners to take part in the preparation for the Colombian peace agreement. When trying to leave for the airport they were arrested by the national police until they missed their departure time. The officers made it clear that. “You will not attend the Colombian election because Cuba will never have an election.” Not ready to give up, our partners hid in the woods during the night and managed to get on the flight the next day.
The situation for our Cuban partners has continued to worsen during the last few years with harassments, prohibition of movement, confiscation of technical equipment and intimida
tion from the government. Due to their work in the country being considered illegal and a threat to the state, they have been called in for police hearings, detained and stopped when trying to leave the country.
This is the reality that many of our partners face when trying to improve their living situation in the country. Constantly being miscredited in media and by state power as CIA agents or unpatriotic, many of them are under constant harassment and stress, simply for voicing their opinions and wanting a democratic change in Cuba.If you are working with Cuban defenders or with people from other regions, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and help us register these cases. If you are a defender yourself and have experiences from being harassed or prohibited when trying to leave your country, please let us know so we can register your case.