We are deeply troubled by reports of increased repression by the Government of Cuba against Cuban citizens peacefully expressing themselves. Of particular concern are reports that government officials and government-organized groups detained, harassed, and assaulted dozens of human rights activists, journalists, and others to prevent them from marking Human Rights Day on December 10. President Obama has declared Human Rights Week from December 10 to December 17.
Members of the Damas de Blanco, winners of the Department of State’s 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award, faced harassment by government officials and pro-government groups over the past week and were arrested after attending Mass on Sunday December 4. Several activists, including one detained November 30 for demonstrating peacefully in a Havana park, have been held without charges or judicial review. Over the last month, dozens of other activists have faced repression throughout the island. Reports put the number of detentions in December at more than 300.
At a time when citizens around the world are marking Human Rights Week, we call for an immediate end to the harassment and violence against Cuban citizens who are peaceful critics of the government.
President Obama has focused our policy toward Cuba on increased engagement with the Cuban people to promote democratic ideals and improve human rights conditions on the island. As he said during his March address in Chile, “Cuban authorities must take some meaningful actions to respect the basic rights of their own people – not because the United States insists upon it, but because this is what the people of Cuba deserve.” We call on the Cuban government to respect all peaceful activities related to the commemoration of Human Rights Week.