Cuba: HRF asks U.N. to inquire into attack on journalist

The Human Rights Foundation,
(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- NEW YORK. —The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has submitted a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (U.N. Special Rapporteur), requesting that he send an urgent appeal to the government of Cuba regarding the brutal assault of Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez on June 11, 2014, and the repeated threats on his life. Guerra, who is the founder and director of the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS) in Cuba, was attacked solely for exercising his right to freedom of opinion and expression.

“In Cuba, there is a widespread pattern of repression, persecution, and imprisonment of journalists who represent an alternative to the media monopoly of the dictatorship, which is mainly devoted to government propaganda. The case of Roberto Guerra is emblematic of these types of systematic human rights violations,” said Sarah Wasserman, COO of HRF. “For years, Guerra and the journalists at Hablemos Press have bravely reported on these abuses, either through their modest website or by distributing press releases they manage to print in the most rudimentary form,” said Wasserman.

 
HRF’s petition includes an account of the attack on Guerra, points to strong indications that the attack was ordered by Cuban government agents, and documents the latest threats against other journalists at CIHPRESS, including Guerra’s wife. The petition calls on the U.N. Special Rapporteur to request that the government of Cuba “adopt immediate measures to protect the right to life, security and physical integrity of Roberto Guerra and that of his family.” It also asks the rapporteur to request the government of Cuba “to take all necessary measures to ensure the cessation of physical and verbal attacks on Guerra, as well as to offer assurances and guarantees of non-repetition with regards to these attacks.”
 
“These journalists have committed the ultimate offense in a totalitarian state, which is to dare to report on facts that the Cuban dictatorship has tried to hide for years. Those are, to name a few, the dreadful state of public healthcare and education, the arbitrary arrests of peaceful dissidents, malnutrition, lack of food safety, and the continuous outbreaks of cholera and other diseases,” said Wasserman. “These reports are deadly blows for a Latin American dictatorship that has historically excelled in its ability to sell myths, like the ones that praise Cuba for its ‘excellent’ public healthcare,” said Wasserman.
 
Retaliation against independent journalists is a common occurrence in a country that ranks only “behind Iran and China as one of the world’s biggest prisons for the media.” In 2012, in the infamous case of Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, the Cuban government arrested and imprisoned a CIHPRESS journalist for seven months for reporting on the existence of a cholera and dengue outbreak that the government attempted to conceal.
 
“The Cuban regime is required to comply with the rule of general international law that establishes the obligation of ‘cessation and non-repetition’ of acts or omissions that constitute internationally wrongful acts. This means that Cuba must guarantee that attacks against Guerra stop, and ensure that they never happen again,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s general counsel. “Cuba may not be a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but as a member of the U.N., it can be held accountable for violations to the right of freedom of expression of its citizens. This right is enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a binding instrument of customary international law signed by Cuba in 1948,” said El-Hage.
 
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.
 
Contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486, jamie@thehrf.org

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