Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
December 14, 2011
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.