Being a defender in Cuba

I spent 6 months in prison and after that my studies to become an accountant was over”.

She is 29 years old and lives in Cuba where arbitrary detentions are occurring daily. Every month people are being arrested on the island for association with international HR organisations, when trying to leave the country momentarily or simply for speaking their minds against a repressive state. “What we have is not a life, we are just surviving, day by day, ”.

For the first time in her life, she has landed on South American soil and realising the possibilities when living in a country where she can walk freely without having national police following her and accessing Internet at no cost, she becomes excited for the things that many of us are oblivious to. Packed stores with food and merchandise, the polluting traffic in the city centre, markets and people as far as the eye can see “we don’t have this in Cuba, all these options and possibilities don’t exist.”

A few days before her trip, she was stopped by the police for trying to leave her town to attend a civil society training. “The police had blocked off the whole street, we could not go anywhere and they forced us into their cars and took us back home.”

Civil Rights Defenders had invited three human rights defenders to participate in a human rights training but only one made it through customs. “When I turned my head and was waiting for the others I could see the screen behind the customs agent. It was blinking and I realised that something was wrong.” The two other activists were stopped and informed that they were under restriction of movement, with no further explanations to why. “You never know who they will stop, last time they stopped me and let my friend through, this time it was the other way around.”

With the help of the Defenders’ Database, she will start registering human rights violations occurring in the region. Her hope is that by registering and compiling the information, she and her colleagues will create a good foundation to document and use as proof in a future transitional justice on the island.

She is supported by Civil Rights Defenders and through our aid she can continue her work in registering violations of human rights occurring in Cuba. “I want a change, I want a better life for all Cubans. I want to walk freely, be able to go anywhere I want without being harassed or stopped by the government.”

If you are an active member of a human rights organisation or interested in accessing the database to register the violations occurring in your region, feel free to drop us an email at