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Cuba: Authorities Must Release Detained Human Rights Defenders
In response to the October 1 arrest and continued detention of José Daniel Ferrer, a prominent Cuban human rights defender, and three other members of the group Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Freedom House issued the following statement:
“We call on Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release José Daniel Ferrer, the UNPACU members arrested with him, and all prisoners of conscience,” said Deborah Ullmer, director of Latin America and the Caribbean programs at Freedom House. “The arrest and detention of these activists without an explanation of the charges against them is alarming, even more so considering that one of those detained is a minor. Their mistreatment at the hands of the government, including the denial of access to a lawyer, medical care, and contact with their families, is unconscionable. The detention of a high-profile figure like Ferrer for an extended period indicates that the Cuban government is attempting to tighten its control over independent voices in the face of economic distress and increased popular discontent.”
José Daniel Ferrer is a human rights activist and founder of the UNPACU, an organization that works to achieve democratic change in Cuba through peaceful means. Ferrer and six other members of the UNPACU were arrested on October 1, following a police raid on Ferrer’s home and the organization’s headquarters. One of the UNPACU members arrested with Ferrer was his son, a minor. To date, Ferrer has not been informed of the charges against him and has been denied access to a lawyer and medical care. He has not been allowed contact with his family since October 4. Three of the six UNPACU members arrested with Ferrer continue to be held incommunicado.
Amnesty International previously recognized Ferrer as a prisoner of conscience while he was imprisoned from 2003 to 2011 as part of the government’s crackdown on dissidents known as the Black Spring. According to the advocacy group Cuban Prisoners Defenders, Cuba continues to hold at least 126 political prisoners. By imprisoning these individuals based on the peaceful exercise of their human rights, the Cuban government continues to violate international law and human rights principles.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.