Human Rights Defenders Harassed after Attending Defenders’ Days 2016

Three Cuban human rights defenders were subjected to harassment and arrest by the Cuban authorities after having participated in Civil Rights Defenders’ annual conference Defenders’ Days in Stockholm, April 2016.

When returning to Cuba, Marthadela Tamayo Gonzalez of Arco Progresista was stopped at the airport by Cuban Custom officers and informed that her luggage was missing. Two days later, when calling the airline officers, she learned that her luggage was not lost as the authorities had claimed. When finally getting her luggage back, Marthadela found that her notebook and some of the human rights material she received at Defenders’ Days had been obtained.

Arcelio Molina Leyva of Union Patriotica de Cuba (UNPACU) had his luggage inspected when returning to the airport in Cuba on 9 April, and an international magazine with news about Cuba was confiscated. During the inspection, he received a provoking call from Cuban authorities. Arcelio Molina stated that the call must have been prepared in advance and that this often happens to human rights defenders who travel abroad.

Alexeis Martinez, also from UNPACU, was interrogated and threatened with prison after his participation in Defenders’ Days. Police suggested that the CIA was supporting his attendance at the conference. Alexis was detained after participating in a demonstration against the Cuban government, and later released but fined.

The fact that these three human rights defenders were victims of repression directly linked to their participation in Defenders’ Days shows that the Cuban government is panicking facing the fact that Cuban defenders are building international alliances in favour of their work and spreading information internationally about the human rights situation in Cuba,” said Erik Jennische, Programme Director for Latin America at Civil Rights Defenders.