EXECUTIVE SUMMARY NO.12

Criminalization of protest in Cuba. Violations of academic freedom and other rights of university members stemming from civic protests on July 11th, 2021

The Observatory on Academic Freedom (OAF) has documented multiple cases of restrictions on academic freedom and other related human rights of university members that form part of a policy implemented by the State in contradiction of international human rights regulations1.

 

The current report documents different cases of violations of university professors’ and students’ human rights stemming from civic demonstrations initiated on July 11th this year in Cuba. Herein is provided a registration of arbitrary detentions, expulsions, sanctions, and different academic retaliations exacted against university members who participated in the protests and/or made public their stance on them.

Ideological biases in speeches given by Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba, on July 11th and 17th, 2021, in response to civilian demonstrations initiated on July 11th, 2021

On July 11th, 2021, Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba, emitted an address on national radio regarding the civilian demonstrations, and using that media platform, he rallied the regime’s forces and sympathizers to carry out repressive actions against the peaceful protestors.

 

On July 17th, to commemorate the act of “revolutionary reaffirmation” celebrated in Havana, President Díaz-Canel read a new speech in which he referenced and elaborated in greater detail the ideas he had expressed on July 11th.

 

In the sphere of academic freedoms, the order given via these speeches signified not only attacking and repressing the students and professors who dared to manifest their nonconformity with the prevailing state of things in their country, but also an unleashing of political persecution and ideological coercion within institutes of higher education, actions which have become traditional since the insertion of the revolutionary regime.

 

By way of conclusion, on July 26th, subsequent to the measures taken against the students who demonstrated during the protests of July 11th or who freely expressed their opinions on social media in the face of criticism from a number of segments of the population, several declarations made by Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez were distributed in which he affirmed that “universities have never been exclusively for revolutionaries or non-revolutionaries. What is expected is the maintenance of revolutionary training”.

1. Violations of academic freedom and other human rights of university members stemming from civilian protests initiated on July 11th, 2021

In Cuba, a pattern has been registered of cases of students being the target of repressions because of their participation in the demonstrations initiated on July 11th. The most conspicuous of these acts of repression include prohibited participation in final exams, threats of suspension and expulsion from the university, as well as legal charges of instigation, joining protests, or divulging content on social media.

1.1. Arbitrary detention of Abel González Lescay, Musical Composition student at the Higher Institute of Arts (HIA)

On July 12th, Abel González Lescay, musician and poet, who graduated with a specialty in piano from the National School of Art and is currently a Musical Composition student at the University of Art, withstood arbitrary detention for his participation in the demonstrations on the 11th of the same month, allegedly detained for public misconduct and propagation of the pandemic.

 

Abel González was a victim of the violation of the right to freedom of expression and opinion2, the right to freedom of thought or conscience3, the right to non-discrimination, and, in particular, the right to access to education and academic freedom, recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment  N°  13  of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents, among other documents4.

1.2. Arbitrary expulsion of Alejandro Perdomo García, student in the Course of Higher Technical Training for Tourism Assistance

On August 5th, 2021, the Daily Paper of Cuba reported the case of young Alejandro Perdomo García, who was expelled from the Course of Higher Technical Training for Tourism Assistance, which was being held at Memories Miramar Hotel and was led by the Gaviota Corporation, S.A. The cause of Alejandro’s exclusion is related to critical comments he made about current president Miguel Díaz-Canel’s political management.

 

Alejandro Perdomo was a victim of different violations of human rights, which include the right to freedom of expression and opinion5, the right to freedom of thought or conscience6, the right to non-discrimination7, and access to education and academic freedom8, among other rights9.

1.3. Arbitrary dismissal of Alberto Góngora Mulet, Stomatology student and employee of the Mariana Grajales Coello Medical Sciences University in Holguín

On August 16th, 2021, the web portal CiberCuba posted the case of Alberto Góngora Mulet, a Stomatology student who was dismissed from his work at the Medical Sciences University in Holguín because he posted on social media expressing his support for Cuban doctors after Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz had held them responsible for the health crisis sweeping through Cuba.

 

Alberto, via a video posted on his Twitter account, joined the challenge #CuidadoConLosMédicosChallenge (#CarefulWithTheDoctorsChallenge) affirming that Cuban doctors deserved respect.

 

The events herein described exposed Alberto Góngora to different violations of human rights, which include freedom of expression and opinion10, the right to freedom of thought or conscience11, the right to non-discrimination12, and the right to work13, among other rights14.

Use of “Rapid Response Brigades (RRB)” to repress civic demonstrations

On July 11th, 2021, the web portal Cuba Denuncia Ciudadana (Cuban Citizen Denouncements) posted a video showing a throng of people armed with sticks, comprising the Rapid Response Brigades, which were activated by the Cuban government following the combat order emitted by President Miguel Díaz-Canel that same day in which he summoned revolutionaries to take to the streets and prove to civil society that the Revolution must be defended at all costs.

 

According to the web portal CubaCute, these factions of people dressed in civilian clothing who use violence against citizens were weaponized in the demonstrations to intimidate and capture anyone who mobilized against the Cuban government. This is a non-conventional confrontational strategy that the Cuban government has employed as a method of repression when citizens decide to mobilize and take to the streets.

The university community’s rejection of the violations committed against academic freedom and other human rights of university members, stemming from civilian protests initiated on July 11th, 2021

The current report compiles a series of press releases published by a range of members of the university community, rejecting the arbitrariness of the actions committed by the Cuban State during the civilian protests initiated on July 11th, 2021. Among the publications, one stands out as a statement written on July 16th by students, professors, alumni, citizens, and civilians, in which they demand from the Ministry of Higher Education (MHE) the immediate release of detained students as well as an official declaration by the MHE that endorses support for the aforementioned students. They also demanded a freeze on processing any type of sanction from the educational institutes of the detainees.

 

On July 22nd, a press release directed at the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic and at Attorney General Yamila Peña Ojeda was published, written by professors, students, alumni, and civilians in which they demand the immediate liberation of those students who had been arbitrarily detained and call for transparency of their current legal processes.

 

Other releases were signed by students from the School of Audiovisual Media Arts (SAMA); students, professors, and alumni of the International School of Film and Television (ISFT); a group of university students and graduates participating in the People’s Victory Caravan event; students of the School of Biology at the University of Havana (SBio); the Federation of University Students at the University of Camagüey (UC); and the University of Holguín (UHO), in addition to students detained during the protests.

Summoning forced participation in defense of the “Revolution” as a violation of academic freedom

The current report documents a series of denouncements of summons to perform acts of “revolutionary reaffirmation,” or in other words, taking to the streets in defense of the regime and counteracting the civilian demonstrations convened on July 11th. Such appeals were performed by some student federations and universities or employment centers around the country, where students and employees were forced to demonstrate in favor of the Cuban government or they would be punished with some kind of sanction. This situation violates the rights of freedom of expression and opinion15 and academic freedom16, coercing students with the threat of potential academic retaliations in order to guarantee they attend gatherings in support of the regime.

1 Cuba is a participating State in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on Children’s Rights and its two voluntary protocols, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, Cuba has ratified the ILO’s Convention (No. 87) on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948), the ILO’s Convention (No. 98) on the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively (1949), the ILO’s Convention (No. 100) concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value (1951), the ILO’s Convention (No. 111) on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) (1958), and the ILO’s Employment Policy Convention (No. 122). The Cuban Government, even after its subscription on February 28th, 2008, has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, nor that of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Cuba participated, furthermore, in the approval of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (1948) and ratified on July 16th, 1952, the Charter of the Organization of American States.

2 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

3  Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

4 It is crucial to highlight that the International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State. However, given that they were signed in 2008, it is important for them to be mentioned in the current report. Regrettably, neither the American Convention on Human Rights nor the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador, 1988) has been ratified by the Cuban State.

 

5 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

6 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (Article 18) and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

7 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2).

 

8 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment N°13 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents.

 

9 It is crucial to highlight that the International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State. However, given that they were signed in 2008, it is important for them to be mentioned in the current report. Regrettably, neither the American Convention on Human Rights nor the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador, 1988) has been ratified by the Cuban State.

10 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

11 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 18).

 

12 Recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2).

 

13 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 7), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 23), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XIV), and the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Protocol of San Salvador (Article 7).

 

14 The International Covenants on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 have not been ratified by the Cuban State, nor has the American Convention on Human Rights.

15 Recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 19), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19), the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Article IV), and the American Convention on Human Rights (Pact of San José) (Article 13).

 

16 Recognized by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 13), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26), General Comment N°13 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XII), among other documents.

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