Closing Remarks of Secretary General Luis Almagro
Conference on the Human Rights Situation in Cuba
December 7, 2018
We have heard presentations from 21 panelists and witnesses this afternoon, five of whom were unable to travel to Washington because they are prohibited from leaving the island. Another attempt by the regime to silence their voices.
In fact, last Monday, as a journalist friend was on his way to the house of Iván Hernandez Carrillo to film his video, the Cuban political police confiscated all his work equipment, including his mobile telephone. He was detained for seven hours at the police station in Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos, and told that he would be charged with “Usurping Public Functions”, but he was eventually released.
We have listened to the chilling testimony of victims and their families.
The brother and uncle of Berta Antúnez, who were unjustly convicted and subjected to mistreatment, humiliation, and beatings, and forced to live in the most appalling inhumane conditions.
Berta described the conditions 140 political prisoners were forced to live in, awful overcrowding, deprived of food, beaten and denied medical assistance, slave labor from dawn to dusk, barefoot, half naked, malnourished, hungry, and forced to work until they are sick, lest they be beaten and thrown in solitary confinement.
The testimony of Jorge Garcia and how he lost 13 members of his family, including children and grandchildren, when on July 13, 1994, the Cuban regime murdered 37 men, women, and children in the tugboat “13 de marzo” massacre.
The testimony of Sylvia Iriondo, who miraculously survived the February 24 massacre against the planes of the Brothers to the Rescue.
We have heard how the Cuban regime has repressed, represses, and will continue to repress its people by resorting to such ludicrous offenses as “pre-criminal danger to society,” with the power to use them in practically any circumstance in order to jail political prisoners and to silence critics with minimal justification and without any justification at all.
We have seen how the model of repression against the freedom of expression and against human rights defenders has morphed into a new form of repression that seeks to leave no trace or evidence; preventing the registration of civil society organizations, making them illegal; using arbitrary detention, imposing travel restrictions, and using the judicial system to criminalize these defenders.
We support the efforts of International Cuba Justice Commission to investigate, document, and bring to trial the perpetrators of crimes against humanity committed against the Cuban people.
It is vital that the repressors know that there is not, nor will there be, impunity for crimes against humanity. The initiative of Cuba Justice Commission is indispensable for real democratic change in Cuba.
We take note of the four resolutions adopted by the Commission to consider concluding the four cases that had been opened, to continue receiving new complaints, to expand the Commission by adding legal, medical, and technical experts, and to organize the call for the creation of an international tribunal for crimes against humanity committed in Cuba. We will continue to support the important work of the Commission.
We will continue to draw attention to abuses and international crimes committed by the Regime through conferences and hearings, like this one, and others that we will organize.
As I said this morning, it is time to raise awareness about the oldest dictatorship in hemisphere. It is time to get to work, here at the OAS, on delegitimizing the Cuban regime which, for decades, has been operating and contaminating the rest of the region with its dictatorial practices, always low-profile and almost invisible.
We support the request made by Rosa Maria Paya for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to draft a country report on Cuba.
We support the request of Lartiza Diversent that Cuban civil society organizations have access to this Organization, so that they can bring their concerns and complaints, not only to the IACHR, but also to the General Secretariat and the meetings of the OAS political bodies.
We salute the initiative of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to prepare a plan of action on Cuba and the fact that it will hold hearings on Cuba at its coming session in Bolivia.
We welcome the suggestion of Carlos Ponce that the General Secretariat prepare a report on the crimes committed in Cuba.
We hope to soon receive the thematic report of the IACHR Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
All these ideas and initiatives are positive steps to make visible the violations and crimes committed in Cuba. To debunk the false myth and propaganda of the Cuban Government that for too many years has served to “normalize” the situation on the island in the eyes of the international community, and break down the shield surrounding a criminal regime.
We must continue denouncing this situation in order to restore hope to all those who demand their civil, political, and human rights in Cuba and who dream of a free and democratic Cuba.