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Human Rights Lawyers Forced Into Exile

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After Being Forced into Exile in the Face of Persecution and Harassment, Cubalex Continues to Support Human Rights Efforts in Cuba

An extreme rarity in Cuba, the Center for Legal Information Cubalexoffered free legal advice to Cubans about their human rights, investigated human rights issues by the Cuban state, and aided activists at risk. The Cubalex team themselves became targets of the Cuban state, culminating in September 2016 when the organization’s headquarters was searched without a warrant and officials confiscated their laptops and documents.

Following the raid, under the guise of an investigation into their “illegal economic activity,” members of the Cubalex team were summoned for questioning, and some were strip-searched or arbitrarily detained. Articles were published on pro-state blogs defaming Laritza Diversent, Cubalex’s executive director. This was not the first time the Cuban government targeted the organization and its members—in 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued precautionary measures to safeguard the lives of the organization’s staff due to a smear campaign and sustained harassment by government authorities following their participation in international human rights hearings.

The majority of the Cubalex team fled to the United States after the raid, although Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo remained arbitrarily detained until 2017. Today, Cubalex continues its work in exile but has had to overcome “radical and painful change,” including difficulty providing proper personal counsel to Cubans from afar, Cuba’s archaic internet infrastructure, and ongoing persecution and persistent threats against human rights defenders and the members’ families who remain in Cuba.

Why is This a Key Case?

Since coming under authoritarian rule in 1952, the Cuban state has suppressed human rights in almost every imaginable form and has gone to great lengths to silence human rights activists and political dissenters. The most notable was perhaps Oswaldo Payá, the revered activist and dissident who was killed in a car crash under highly suspicious circumstances. But Cubans of all walks of life face severe restrictions to their freedoms. Without groups such as Cubalex operating, the ability for the state to suppress said freedoms further looms large.

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Cubalex?

In May 2018, jointly with Cubalex itself, the organization filed a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of the members of Cubalex asking the IACHR to hold Cuba responsible for violating their rights to privacy, to due process of law, and to freedom of assembly and association under international law.

What is the Status of the Case?

The case is awaiting a decision on the merits from the IACHR.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Laritza Diversent et al. v. Cuba


Month/Year of filing

June 2018


Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights


Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)

Articles 1 (right to life, liberty, and personal security), II (right to equality before the law), IV (freedom of investigation, opinion, expression, and dissemination), V (right to protection of honor, personal reputation, and private and family life), VIII (right to residence and movement), IX (right to inviolability of the home), X (right to inviolability and transmission of correspondence), XI (right to the preservation of health and to well-being), XVIII (right to a fair trial), XXI (right of assembly), XXII (right of association), XXV (right of protection from arbitrary arrest), and XXVI (right to due process of law) of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man


Procedural stage

Merits


Counsel

RFKHR and Cubalex


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