Issue 443: One year after suspicious death of Cuba's top dissident, 125 leaders urge U.N. to investigate

Signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, European Parliament VP, former presidents & foreign ministers, ambassadors, human rights activists and dissidents
paya_oswaldoGENEVA, July 22 — Marking the first anniversary of the suspicious deaths of top Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya andactivist Harold Cepero, more than 100 public figures from around the world today called on the highest officials of the United Nations to launch an international and independent investigation. (See full text below.)
“Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic, a leading figure in the human rights world, cannot go ignored by the international community,” implores the petition.
While leading officials in the U.S. and elsewhere have previously spoken out for an inquiry, this is the first time that the controversy will be officially part of the UN’s agenda.
The manifesto was filed today as an official submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Geneva-based non-governmental group UN Watch, which organized the appeal together with a fellow human rights group, the Cuban Democratic Directorate.
Under UN rules governing submissions by accredited NGOs, the appeal will be circulated to all delegates as an official UN document, and placed on the agenda of the Human Rights Council’s upcoming September session, increasing pressure for an inquiry, and for Cuba to answer for the alleged killings.
High-level signatories of the appeal include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, Chinese dissident Yang Jianli, numerous former presidents, foreign ministers & ambassadors, MPs and human rights activists.
The statement calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and all 193 UN member states to support the call for an international investigation. Despite previous entreaties, neither Ban nor Pillay have yet endorsed an inquiry.
UN Watch has been among the leading voices at the UN for human rights in Cuba, often bringing dissidents to testify before the Human Rights Council.
In March, UN Watch brought Havana-based activist Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the slain dissident, to testify before the Council, where she was rudely interrupted by the Cuban delegate.
In May, UN Watch revealed how Cuba used more than 400 front groups to cheat on its quadrennial UN human rights review.
The activist group noted the irony that UNESCO has just honored Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara by listing his works in the World Memory Register.
“Instead of the UN honoring Che Guevara — a man of violence who boasted about his firing squads to the UN General Assembly — the world body should really be honoring Oswaldo Paya, a man of non-violence and disciple of Martin Luther King,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
As submitted today to UNHRC, to be placed on agenda of September 2013 session.
Appeal to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner
for Human Rights Navi Pillay and Ambassadors of all Member States
for an International Inquiry into the Death of Oswaldo Paya
We urge you to support our demand for an international and independent investigation into the alleged murder of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, a world-renowned figure and recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, who died in a car crash in Bayamo, Cuba, on July 22, 2012, together with fellow activist Harold Cepero.
In dramatic testimony by the driver of the car, Ángel Carromero describes, in a Washington Post interview dated 6 March 2013, how their vehicle was followed, harassed and ultimately rammed from behind by a car bearing government license plates. Mr. Carromero further alleges that, following the crash, he was drugged, mistreated and coerced by Cuban authorities into making a false confession.
The revelations corroborate the claims made by the families of the victims and other witnesses, as well as the report by Spain’s ABC news agency about text messages sent contemporaneous with the incident from the mobile phones of Mr. Carromero and another passenger, Aron Modig, indicating that their car was chased and then hit, causing the crash.
Significantly, according to the family of Oswaldo Payá, state security agents had repeatedly threatened to kill him.
Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic, a leading figure in the human rights world, cannot go ignored by the international community.
The families of the victims, and the people of Cuba, have a right to know the truth, and they have a right to justice. This can only happen with the creation of an international and independent inquiry. We therefore respectfully urge you to support our call.

  1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate
  2. Armando Calderon Sol, former President of El Salvador
  3. Alfredo Cristiani, former President of El Salvador
  4. Luis Alberto Lacalle, former President of Uruguay
  5. Alejandro Toledo, former President of Peru
  6. Luis Alberto Monge, former president of Costa Rica
  7. Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of European Parliament
  8. Markus Meckel, former Foreign Minister of Germany
  9. Irwin Cotler, MP, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
  10. Zbigniew Romaszewski, former Speaker of Polish Senate, a founder of the Solidarity movement

For all 125 signatures, click here.

UN Watch