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Freedom House Condemns Cuban Government's Arrest of Czech Citizens
On Friday, January 12, the Cuban government detained and arrested two prominent Czech citizens in the central Cuban province of Ciego de Avila for "counter-revolutionary" activity, according to Cuba's state controlled newspaper, Granma.
Freedom House understands that the Cuban government has arrested the Honorable Ivan Pilip, a former finance and education minister and current deputy in the Czech Parliament's lower house, and Jan Bubenik, a student leader in the 1989 Velvet Revolution and former deputy. According to press accounts, Pilip and Bubenik were arrested after meeting with Cuban democratic activists. Two Cuban citizens were also briefly detained in connection with the meetings.
Freedom House condemns the arrest and stands in solidarity with Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik for their efforts to advocate for human rights, democracy, and freedom. Freedom House calls upon the international community to roundly condemn the arrest of these private citizens and to call upon the Cuban government to release them immediately.
Freedom House, a Washington-based non-governmental organization founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, routinely encourages and facilitates private and public communication and contact between citizens of all countries to advance the interests of freedom. For 60 years, Freedom House has supported efforts to monitor human rights and to establish open communications between citizens of different countries to promote the development of free and open societies, although it does not comment on the efforts of private citizens in totalitarian countries when it might endanger them.
"Freedom House supports and encourages person-to-person contact in all societies," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "The purpose of this contact is to increase understanding between citizens everywhere in the interest of developing free and open societies. The fundamental goal of these efforts is to promote global democracy and respect for universally recognized human freedoms."
According to published reports, the director of the Havana-based Cuban Committee for Human Rights, Elizardo Sanchez, argued that the arrests were illegal. Mr. Sanchez said the Czech citizens committed no crime in meeting with Cuban dissidents, adding that "the Cuban government is violating civil rights" by its behavior. Freedom House supports this statement.
Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky remarked that Freedom House "encourages dialogue and discussion among all citizens, especially between citizens who have navigated their countries through a democratic transition and those who remain in closed societies. The exchange of experiences and information, including information about democracy and freedom, is an international right."
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.