Case History: Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera
Cuban authorities have been engaged in a series of arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against defenders in Cuba in the last half of 2015. Amongst them, the case of human rights defenders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both of whom were arrested on 11 November 2015 and released the following day.
Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is the president of Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement), which is a feminist movement fighting to end the repression against human rights defenders and for the release of political prisoners.
Mr Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been arbitrarily detained since 25 October 2015 and is now facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in peaceful demonstrations in Cuba.
Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza are also currently under detention following their arbitrary arrest on 5 November 2015 and a summary trial on 6 November 2015 in which they were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.
This is an example of several cases of arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against defenders in Cuba in the past months. Amongst them, the case of human rights defenders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both of whom were arrested on 11 November 2015 and released the following day.
Human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been detained since 25 October 2015 when he was arrested while on his way to participate in the demonstration “Todas Marchamos” (We all March), organised by the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement. He is being detained at the Fifth Unit of the Municipality Playa (Quinta Unidad del Municipio Playa), in Havana. The human rights defender is facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in a demonstration at the premises of the Attorney General's office on 22 October 2015 demanding that all human rights defenders detained during the Pope's visit to Cuba should be released.
Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza were arrested on 5 November 2015 and taken to the police station in the city of Palma Soriano. In the morning of 6 November 2015 both human rights defenders were subjected to a summary judgement and sentenced to six months imprisonment. They were both convicted of failing to pay a fine of 15,000 Cuban pesos (approximately 4,700 euros) for allegedly making anti-government graffiti in the city of Palma Soriano. The graffitti read "Queremos Cambios" (We want change), "No más hambre" (No more hunger), "No más desempleo" (no more unemployment).
On 11 November 2015, at approximately 7am, members of the regime’s special brigade broke into the home of Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” in Camaguey and arrested him along with his wife and fellow human rights defender Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera. The arrests happened one day after Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” launched the campaign “No, no and no” (“No, no y no”) asking the government to free Messrs Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza. Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera were released the following day, but their home was seized by the police and their computer was taken along with some documents.
Front Line Defenders has received recurrent reports on arbitrary detentions conducted against human rights defenders in Cuba. The human rights organisation Information Centre “Let's Talk” Press (Centro de Información Hablemos Press - CIHPRESS) has recently issued a document reporting 1,021 arbitrary and politically motivated arrests in Cuba in the month of October 2015 alone. The alarming number of arbitrary detentions in Cuba shows that human rights defenders who speak out against the regime continue to be targets of systematic repression. In this context, one of the most vulnerable group of human rights defenders are the women from Damas de Blanco since they are frequently subject to harassment during their weekly protests in Havana and other Cuban cities. This group of women has seen an increased pattern of arbitrary detention against them, where the government detain them for a few hours and re-arrest them the following week.
On 11 February 2014, the home of human rights defenders Mr Jorge Luís “Antúnez” García Pérez and Ms Yris Pérez Aguilera was raided for a second time, following an earlier raid on 5 February 2014.
The house has been under siege since 24 January 2014 by the National Revolutionary Police despite the fact that Yris Pérez Aguilera is in need of medical attention.
At 6am on 11 February 2014, members of the National Revolutionary Police broke down the doors of the human rights defenders' home and took them from their beds before arresting them. Human rights defenders Messrs Yunier Santana Hernández and Leodanis Rico Herrera, who were also present in the house at the time, were also arrested. Yunier Santana Hernández was reportedly beaten while he was arrested and taken to the city of Santa Clara. Whilst the human rights defenders were held at the police station, the house was reportedly ransacked and items such as mobile phones were taken. All four human rights defenders were later released. Since the incident, National Revolutionary Police have not allowed food or supplies into the home of the human rights defenders, and have not allowed Yris Pérez Aguilera to see a doctor.
Since 24 January 2014, there has been a permanent security cordon maintained by state security forces around the home of Antúnez and Yris Pérez Aguilera. The house was raided by state security forces on 5 February 2014. On 10 February 2014, Antúnez, together with Yunier Santana Hernández and Leodanis Rico Herrera, went on hunger strike to protest against the cordon and demand the return of belongings taken on 5 February 2014. There are reports that other activists in Cuba have begun a hunger strike in solidarity with them.