GENEVA, May 7, 2019 – Swiss-based human rights group UN Watch today welcomed the release on parole of Cuban political prisoner Eduardo Cardet following two and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges.
However, UN Watch urged the Cuban government to abide by a recent UN decision, which unanimously upheld UN Watch’s petition to declare Cardet a victim of arbitrary detention, and to release him fully and without any conditions.
“We urge UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and human rights chief Michele Bachelet to demand that Cuba uphold its basic obligation, as an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, to comply with the ruling of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental organization accredited with special consultative status at the United Nations.
“The leadership must remind Cuba that the 5-member UN panel demanded that Cuba immediately release Dr. Cardet without any conditions whatsoever; compensate him for their arbitrary deprivation of his liberty; thoroughly investigate Dr. Cardet’s case in order to ensure accountability for those responsible for his treatment; and launch larger reforms to bring the country’s justice system in line with international standards.”
Last year, in June 2018, UN Watch filed a petition and legal brief on Cardet’s behalf with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
In its Opinion no. 66/2018 (unofficial English translation here), the UN panel found that Cuba’s arrest of Dr. Cardet, leader of the pro-democracy Christian Liberation Movement, with no legal basis.
Neuer said it was “shameful” for Cuba to ignore the Working Group’s decision not only because it is a member of the UNHRC, but also because Cuba voted in 2016 for a UN resolution urging all states to cooperate with the Working Group, and to take appropriate steps to remedy the situation of the prisoners in question.
While Dr. Cardet noted the “ambiguous and unjust terms” of his parole, he maintained hope for an improvement in the situation for fellow dissidents oppressed by the Cuban regime.
“I’ve been in prison for around two and a half years, but here we are, and we’re on our feet, full of life, full of desires and hoping for the best for everyone, especially for our people who are in such a difficult situation right now,” he said.
Background on Arrest of Cardet
Cuban security forces violently arrested Dr. Cardet outside his home on November 30, 2016, after he returned from an overseas trip where he was quoted saying that “Castro was a very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our people.”
Cuban State Security forces threatened his wife that they would arrest Dr. Cardet on his return due to his political activism.
Dr. Cardet became a democracy activist with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Cuba in the early 2000s and rose up through the ranks to become its leader in 2014. He has spearheaded MCL initiatives aimed at peaceful democratic change in Cuba, including The Varela Project and One Cuban, One Vote.
On March 20, 2017, a Cuban court convicted Dr. Cardet in an unfair trial on trumped-up charges of attacking a police officer during his arrest and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Since being arrested, Dr. Cardet has been subjected to severe beatings, harsh prison conditions, denial of medical treatment, denial of visits by a priest, denial of release on bail, and routine deprivation of family visits.
Most recently, on May 26, 2018, the Cuban authorities suspended family visits altogether for a six-month period as punishment for the family’s public campaign for Dr. Cardet’s release. Cuban agents have also harassed Dr. Cardet’s family, monitoring their movements and throwing rocks at the family home.
UN Watch’s Campaign For Cuban Victims
UN Watch, founded in 1993 by civil rights leader Morris Abram, has been a leading voice for Cuban human rights defenders and victims at the UN. The group often brings Cuban dissidents to testify before UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council.
In May 2018, when senior Cuban officials came before the UN for a mandatory review of the regime’s human rights record, UN Watch and its partners co-hosted the only counter-event, featuring Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Payá, Freedom House’s Alessandra Pinna, CADAL’s Gabriel C. Salvia and UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer.
At the side event, UN Watch revealed how the Cuban regime submitted hundreds of positive reviews of its human rights record from supposed NGOs which are in fact state-controlled entities unconnected to human rights—including the “Cuban Urological Society” and the “Cuban Federation of Canine Sports.” UN Watch exposed the fraud, which was reported worldwide by Spanish newswire EFE.
During the UNHRC plenary debate, Cuban official Rodolfo Reyes lashed out at UN Watch for exposing his regime’s abuses, saying, “We reject the dirty and failed maneuvers of organizations like Freedom House and United Nations Watch, both with a well-known record of actions against every fair and noble cause that exists in the world.”
BELOW: UN Watch highlighted Eduardo Cardet’s plight at its 2018 and 2019 Geneva Summit for Human Rights.