Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Human rights lawyers under threat in Cuba

Human rights lawyers under threat in Cuba
Published on November 21, 2016

HAVANA, Cuba -- Members of Cubalex, a Havana-based organization of human
rights lawyers, have been subjected to months of harassment and
intimidation by the Cuban authorities for their work.

Progressively since September, Cuban authorities have intimidated
members of Cubalex (Legal Information Center), a non-government
organization, not recognized by the Cuban authorities, which provides
free legal and human rights advice in Havana, the capital.

On 23 September, according to its director, Laritza Diversent,
authorities searched Cubalex's centre of operation without warrant,
confiscated a number of laptops and documents, and forced at least one
woman to undress. The provincial prosecutor in Havana provided notice to
Cubalex that it was under a tax investigation.

According to Cubalex, since then, state prosecutors have summoned at
least two members of the organization for questioning. Cubalex stated
that the interviews, which reportedly lasted up to one hour and 45
minutes, were filmed, leading members to believe that the authorities
were seeking information to criminalize activities of the organization.

According to Cubalex, authorities have also questioned people who
received advice and information from their centre.

Cubalex's director reported that she has been stopped and questioned a
number of times at the airport during her recent trips. She believes her
home, which provides a base for Cubalex's activities, is under
surveillance. One of Cubalex's members, Julio Ferrer Tamayo, reported
being strip searched and detained during the search of Cubalex on 23
September and remains in custody.

On 13 October, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and
the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression issued a press release
expressing concern at retaliation actions of the Cuban state against
Cubalex, an organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression.

In 2015, a number of articles appeared on pro-government blogs that
appeared to defame Diversent.

Cubalex members were the subject of precautionary measures issued by the
IACHR in April 2015. The IACHR asked that the Cuban authorities take
measures to safeguard the lives of Cubalex members and ensure their
humane treatment.

Human rights NGOs are currently unable to legally register in Cuba and
it is customary for them to operate from the homes of their members or

Source: Human rights lawyers under threat in Cuba | Caribbean News Now -

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