Havana protest on July 11, 2021 / Photo Adalberto Roque (AFP)

Havana protest on July 11, 2021 / Photo Adalberto Roque (AFP)

Cuba Is Obliged to Allow Peaceful Protests, says UN Official

13 / noviembre / 2021

Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, issued a reminder to the Cuban government – on the morning on November 11th 2021 – in regard to the imminent 15N protest.

On his Twitter profile, Voule clarified the Cuban Government’s obligation to protect and facilitate expression through the peaceful protest summoned by the Archipielago group. “It’s a violation of state obligation,” he said, “to harass and intimidate the organizers in order to prevent peaceful protests.”

A day before (November 10th), the office of Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, declared that it would monitor “the human rights situation in Cuba remotely” in regard to what happens on 15N. However, the Office stated that it had no authority to take part in in situ monitoring; and it repeated its willingness to provide assistance to the Government and other actors when they need it.

Social tensions in Cuba are about to reach boiling point with 15N around the corner – and many different scenarios could play out. Cuban ambassador, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, appeared before the accredited diplomatic body on the island, on the morning of November 10th. Among other matters, he repeated in his speech that the protests were part of a strategy funded by the US Government to overthrow the Cuban socialist system.

In the evening that same day (November 10th), Yunior Garcia Aguilera, Archipielago’s director and coordinator, posted a statement on his Facebook page. He announced his decision to walk alone on November 14th “in the name of every citizen who has been robbed of their right to protest on 15N by the regime” and added: “I will walk in silence at 3 PM in the afternoon, down 23rd Avenue in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, from Parque Quijote to the Malecon, carrying a single white rose. This isn’t a heroic act, it’s an act of responsibility.”

Protest is a human and basic right when peaceful, and it should never be interpreted as an act of rebellion, ever. Occupying the public space – in contrast to the private space – is one of the characteristics and effects of the nature of protest. The lack of a law in Cuba that delimits or regulates the right to protest threatens respect and civic spirit and offers a broad margin for government agencies to act, putting them in a position of irrevocable power regarding those who dissent.

Nyaletsossi Voule’s warning call is in keeping with the general principles established in the Joint Declaration on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and democratic governance. This declaration was signed on December 9, 2020 by Voule in coordination with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

As part of the principles outlined in this document, the obligation of States to “pursue an approach based upon the principle that freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental right and not a privilege” was recognized.

It also states that “States must respect and ensure the rights of all persons participating in assemblies without discrimination on any grounds.”

This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.

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