Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rev. James Lawson Speaks at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict at Tufts University

James Lawson (2010)

"When you are a child of God... you try thereby to imitate Jesus, in the midst of evil. Which means, if someone slaps you on the one cheek, you turn the other cheek, which is an act of resistance. It means that you do not only love your neighbor, but you recognize that even the enemy has a spark of God in them, has been made in the image of God and therefore needs to be treated as you, yourself, want to be treated Jesus is very clear about this: "do unto others as you want others to do unto you." — which is a rather powerful ethic for personal relationships, regardless of whether family or school or community or nation." --James Lawson, preparing students for nonviolent action at an FOR workshop

James Lawson arrested on May 24, 1961 at a Bus station for non-violent activism

During his address on June 20, 2010 at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict at Tufts University Reverend Lawson reflected back to the first time he heard about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and its significance at the time:

"December 6, 1955 that was the date when many people in the world learned of the beginning of the Montgomery bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama; a very simple stroke it was not initially called a non-violent movement. But Rosa Parks, Ed Nixon, Mary Jo Robinson, Martin King, Ralph Abernathy, and a host of other people who engaged that first effort sent a wave of hope around the world. I learned of it in Nagpur, India on December 6 it was on the front pages of the papers of India and on the radio. It was on front pages in Africa, Latin America and Asia alike. That in this nation of the United States the wealthiest the most powerful nation that our human history knows anything about. A simple business of a bus boycott began. It sent waves of hope and aspiration around the world." -- Rev. James Lawson, June 20, 2010
The June 20, 2010 presentation is available below in its entirety and is required viewing for any nonviolent activist:

Rev. James Lawson - FSI 2010 Keynote Address from ICNC on Vimeo.

Rev. James Lawson returns to Vanderbilt University after his expulsion in 1960 do to his civil rights activities. Welcomed back as a faculty member 47 years later he would outline nonviolent resistance in the University's distinguished lecturers series.

Below are excerpts from the lectures Reverend Lawson gave at Vanderbilt as a distinguished lecturer in the fall of 2007. It is a treasure trove for the civic non-violent activist searching both for historical context and useful information for more effective activism.

The Non-Violence Struggle, 9/4/07, Part 1 of 2

The Non-Violence Struggle, 9/4/07, Part 2 of 2

The Non-Violence Struggle, 9/11/07, Part 1 of 2

The Non-Violence Struggle, 9/11/07, Part 2 of 2

The Non-Violence Struggle, 9/18/07, Part 1 of 2

The Non-Violence Struggle, 9/18/07, Part 2 of 2

Rev James Lawson The Non-Violence Struggle 9-25-2007

Amnesty International tells Cuban regime enough of lame excuses start respecting human rights

Pablo Pacheco Avila

'In my opinion, the blogger movement in Cuba has become an excellent alternative form of free communication... I consider myself to be the voice in this dismal prison of those whose voices have been taken away from them...' Pablo Pacheco, blogging from prison, 13 July 2009 – imprisoned for his journalism.

Restrictions to freedom of expression create climate of fear in Cuba

30 June 2010

AI Index: PRE01/207/2010

Cuba’s repressive legal system has created a climate of fear among journalists, dissidents and activists, putting them at risk of arbitrary arrest and harassment by the authorities, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

The report “Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Cuba” highlights provisions in the legal system and government practices that restrict information provided to the media and which have been used to detain and prosecute hundreds of critics of the government.

“The laws are so vague that almost any act of dissent can be deemed criminal in some way, making it very difficult for activists to speak out against the government. There is an urgent need for reform to make all human rights a reality for all Cubans,” said Kerrie Howard, Deputy Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Yosvani Anzardo Hernández

Yosvani Anzardo Hernández, the director of the Candonga online newspaper, is one of many Cuban independent journalists who have been arbitrarily arrested, interrogated and intimidated by the authorities.

In September 2009 he was arbitrarily detained for 14 days, before being released without charge. At the time, police also confiscated his computer, which hosted the website, and disconnected his telephone line.

Although Yosvani Anzardo is resigned to not continuing with the site, he still does not understand why it was closed. “We were hoping that the government understood that what we were doing was exercising a right, we didn’t hurt anyone”, said the journalist. “We tried very hard to give information about what was happening in the country. They [the authorities] considered this to be dangerous.”

The Cuban state has a virtual monopoly on media while demanding that all journalists join the national journalists’ association, which is in turn controlled by the Communist Party.

The authorities have also put in place filters restricting access to blogs that openly criticize the government and restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

The Cuban Constitution goes even further in curbing freedom of expression by stating that “[n]one of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to what is established in the Constitution and law, or contrary to the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism.”

The Penal code specifies a range of vague criminal charges that can also be used to stifle dissent, such as “social dangerousness”, “enemy propaganda”, “contempt of authority”, “resistance”, “defamation of national institutions” and “clandestine printing”.

Provisions of Law 88 on the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba have also been used to repress criticism and punish dissidents who work with foreign media.

With a judiciary that is neither independent, nor impartial, critics of the government find that an unlimited range of acts can be interpreted as criminal and end up facing trials that are often summary and unfair.

Cuban authorities deny the existence of political prisoners in the country but Amnesty International knows of at least fifty-three prisoners of conscience who remain incarcerated in the country for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

One of seventy-five dissidents arrested in the ‘Black Spring’ crackdown in 2003,independent journalist Pablo Pacheco Avila was sentenced to a 20-year jail term for writing articles for foreign and online newspapers, being interviewed by foreign radio stations, and publishing information via the internet.

Despite some prisoners of conscience being released on health grounds, including Ariel Sigler Amaya in June 2010, most of them, including Pablo Pacheco Avila, are still imprisoned.

The Cuban government has sought to justify its failure to protect human rights by pointing to the negative effects of the embargo imposed by the US.

“It is clear that the US embargo has had a negative impact on the country but it is frankly a lame excuse for violating the rights of the Cuban people”, said Kerrie Howard. “The government needs to find solutions to end human right violations, instead of excuses to perpetrate them.”

Amnesty International calls on the Cuban government to revoke or amend legal provisions that unlawfully limit freedom of expression, end harassment of dissidents, release all prisoners of conscience, and allow free exchange of information through the internet and other media.

“The release of all prisoners of conscience and the end of harassment of dissidents are measures that the Cuban government must take immediately and unconditionally”, said Kerrie Howard.

“However, to honour its commitment to human rights, Cuba must also dismantle the repressive machinery built up over decades, and implement the reforms needed to make human rights a reality for all Cubans.”

Update: Report abstract here and full report in English and Spanish now available in pdf format.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Still I Rise: A Cuban Torture Survivor’s Story

Amado Rodriguez recalls the torture techniques he endured over 23 years in prison

Amado Rodriguez speaks at the Freedom Tower which is part of Miami Dade College on June 25th

First the Cuban dictatorship on January 28, 2009 invited Manfred Nowak, the UN Human Rights Council's expert on torture to visit Cuba towards the end of 2009 only to delay it until 2010 and withdraw it later. This was followed by a claim that torture does not exist under the regime which flies in the face of a number of well documented instances of torture and extrajudicial executions.
It is an important moment to examine the historical record, and the testimony of survivors like Amado Rodriguez especially when considering that Cuban prisons are closed to international human rights organizations. Amado in his presentation discusses how torture is something that has been institutionalized both in state security and in the prisons.

The international community has arrived at a consensus on what torture is and in an international convention both defined it and called for its prohibition. There is still a long way to go for that day to arrive when torture is a thing of the past, but at least their is a common internationally agreed reference point as to what is torture.

A definition of torture

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Taken from Part I, Article 1, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
Amnesty International Miami both co-hosted the event with the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture and gave an introduction to the event.

Following Amnesty's introduction Abigail Alexander from the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture, spoke about the support services and resources available to torture survivors living in South Florida. She spoke about having many clients from Cuba, Haiti, Central and South America, and recently has seen clients from Africa. All are living here in the South Florida area.

Carlos Marin, one of the founding members of the local Amnesty chapter 248, spoke briefly about the local Amnesty chapter and its 30 year history. He went on to both introduce Amado Rodriguez and then translate for him during the presentation.

Amado Rodriguez was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1943.
At 13, he joined the 26th of July Movement against the Batista regime and was later sent into exile to save his life. At the height of the revolution, he returned and became an activist against the Castro regime.

He was arrested and spent a total of 23 years as a political prisoner during two different terms. He was 18 years old when he was first arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 30 years, of which he served 18. Four years later, Amado was arrested and sentenced to 15 years. He was released in 1989 and sent directly to the United States after serving five years, four of which he spent in solitary confinement.

Amado Rodriguez was considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. His release was the result of personal visits and petitions to the Cuban government from representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross International, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a US Senator.

Additional videos and commentaries will be posted shortly.

Below Amado Rodriguez describes how by June of 1985 he was the only "plantado" prisoner at Boniato prison in jail cell #2 a small sealed punishment cell. He was only in underwear isolated without knowing whether it was day or night. Nine months later he was moved to sealed cells within the Boniato prison were he began a new process of minimal caloric consumption but by October of 1986 since he refused to break he was subject to the use of handcuffs and placed in a stress position.

For the first (and last time since 1959) in 1988 various international human rights organizations were able to visit Cuba they were interested in the situation of political prisoners and especially the historical political prisoners.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Four Months Later

Martyr and Icon of the Cuban human rights movement

"It is a very sad and painful day for this mother ... knowing that Zapata was buried four months ago solely for seeking freedom." - Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger

“Es un día muy doloroso y muy triste para esta madre…el saber que ya Zapata lleva cuatro meses de ser sepultado solamente por buscar libertad”- Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger

New Video: Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Martyr of the Cuban human rights movement

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Torture in Cuba: One man's experience on the other side of the Guantanamo Fence

Cuban Torture Survivor to Share His Experiences at MDC’s Freedom Tower June 25

Miami, June 10, 2010 From now until August, Miami Dade College’s (MDC) renowned Art Gallery System will join Amnesty International, for a series of informative discussions and cultural programs about the history of torture and its effect on modern culture.

The latest program, Still I Rise: A Survivor’s Story, the story of Cuban torture survivor Amado Rodriguez, will be held on Friday, June 25, 2010 at MDC’s Freedom Tower.

Joining Rodriguez on the program will be Abigail Alexander from the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture, who will speak about the support services and resources available to torture survivors living in South Florida.

Rodriguez worked closely with Amnesty International Secretariat’s investigator for Cuba in the 1990’s under the umbrella of the Human Rights Watch. At 13, he joined the 26th of July Movement against the Batista regime and was later sent into exile to save his life.

At the height of the revolution, he returned and became an activist against Castro’s tyranny but eventually was detained and spent the next 18 years in prison. Today, Rodriguez is the coordinator of human and labor rights for the Solidaridad de Trabajadores Cubanos-Solidarity with Cuban Workers, an organization affiliated with international labor movements in Latin American and Europe. He is also the founder and an executive board member of the "Instituto de la Memoria Historica Cubana Contra el Totalitarismo."

Still I Rise is part of a series of informative discussions planned throughout the summer to coincide with the powerful Instruments of Torture through the Ages exhibition currently on display at MDC’s Freedom Tower until August 29, 2010.

The exhibition features nearly a hundred instruments designed for torturing and executing and is on loan from the Museo Toscana in Italy. Organizers hope the exhibition draws attention to contemporary human rights issues around the world.

Still I Rise: A Survivor’s Story

WHEN: Friday, Jun. 25, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

WHERE: The Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, 600 Biscayne Blvd., First Floor, Downtown Miami

COST: Free admission to the program. Admission to the exhibition will be reduced to $10 beginning at 5 p.m. All proceeds will benefit Amnesty International.

For more information about the exhibition, contact the MDC Art Gallery System at 305-237-7700 or Reservations are required for the reception; please call 305-237-6379.

PARKING: Free parking is available in the parking garage, Building 7, diagonal from the rear of the Freedom Tower (corner of NE Fifth Street and Second Avenue).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Amnesty International Urgent Action for Dr. Darsi Ferrer

UPDATE June 24, 2010: Amnesty International released statement Release of Cuban prisoner of conscience long overdue which in part states:

"We are very pleased that Darsi Ferrer was released the same day of his trial and is back with his family, but he was detained on trumped up criminal charges and in truth he should never have been detained in the first place" said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International's Americas deputy director.

“Though he has been released, Darsi Ferrer’s sentence still constitutes punishment for criticising the government system and is a powerful message to any Cuban participating in dissenting activities and wishing to express opinions contrary to the government system”.

UPDATE June 23, 2010:
Reporters Without Borders statement released which in part states:

“We are obviously relieved by Ferrer’s release even if he was finally given a jail sentence to match the time he already had spent behind bars,” Reporters Without Borders said. “No one is fooled about the real reason for his detention as this is a country in which the authorities tolerate no public expression of dissenting views. His release was not in any way an act of clemency or, even less so, a sign of an improvement in respect for basis rights and freedoms.”

Cuba still has approximately 200 prisoners of conscience, who include 24 journalists. One of them is the Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, who has been held since the “Black Spring” crackdown of March 2003.

Generation Y posts video interview with Dr. Darsi Ferrer by independent journalist Jose Alberto Alvarez shortly after his release:

UPDATE 6:00pm (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes) Darsy Ferrer, a prominent Cuban opposition figure jailed nearly a year ago, kisses his wife Yusnaimy Jorge Soca and son after being released from custody following his trial, in Havana, Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

UPDATE 2:01pm: Reuters and the Associated Press reports that Dr. Darsi Ferrer given conditional release sentenced to 15 months house arrest. First 3 months at home, then 12 months of work. Regime had threatened with 3 years imprisonment. Darsi had already spent 11 months and 1 day in prison without trial. The trial ended about 1:30 p.m. Let us not forget that many remain behind bars.

Darsi Ferrer to face trial on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 in Cuba in a process that falls short of international standards. Please call on authorities to release Darsi Ferrer immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience

UA: 134/10 Index: AMR 25/008/2010 Cuba Date: 18 June 2010


CUBAN Prisoner of conscience FACING TRIAL

Cuban human rights defender Darsi Ferrer is due to be tried on 22 June on spurious charges of receiving illegally obtained goods and violence or intimidation against a state official. He has already been in pre-trial detention for 11 months. Amnesty International believes that he is a prisoner of conscience, and is calling on the authorities to drop the charges against him and release him immediately and unconditionally.

Darsi Ferrer is Director of the Juan Bruno Zayas Health and Human Rights Centre in the Cuban capital, Havana. He has also worked as an independent journalist, and written articles criticizing the Cuban health system. Since July 2009 he has been in pre-trial detention in a maximum security prison intended for inmates convicted of violent crimes.

In July 2009, Darsi Ferrer attempted to organize a march demonstrating against repression in Cuba. A few hours before the march was due to take place on 9 July 2009, Darsi Ferrer and his wife Yusnaimy Jorge Soca were detained by state security officials and police officers. Darsi Ferrer was handcuffed and beaten by more than eight police officers. They were released without charge a few hours later, but when they arrived home, they noticed that two bags of cement, some iron girders and two window frames, that had been on their property for a few months, were no longer there. According to neighbours, police officers had taken the construction materials. On 21 July, four police officers went to Darsi Ferrer’s home and asked him to accompany them to a police station for questioning about the construction materials. Instead, he was driven to a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Havana and charged with receiving illegally obtained goods and "violence or intimidation against a state official". The latter charge apparently relates to comments Darsi Ferrer was overheard making, saying that an injustice was being committed, that sooner or later things would change in Cuba and this would not happen any more.

Ordinarily, an individual accused of these crimes would be bailed awaiting trial. However, Darsi Ferrer has been refused bail four times. He will be tried before a municipal court, but according to his wife, the presiding judge will be from a provincial court normally dealing with crimes against state security.

Darsi Ferrer has previously been detained and prevented from leading and participating in major human rights events. Since 2006 he has been detained or summoned to a police station around 10 December every year, apparently to prevent him from participating in activities celebrating International Human Rights Day, which falls on that day.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Spanish or your own language:

  • Calling on the authorities to release Darsi Ferrer immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience held simply because of his activism to promote freedom of expression.


Head of State and Government

Raúl Castro Ruz Presidente

La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry); +1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)

Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Interior Minister

General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra

Ministro del Interior y Prisiones

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)

Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives of Cuba accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.


CUBAN Prisoner of conscience FACING TRIAL

Additional Information

The right to a fair trial is limited in Cuba, with courts and prosecutors under government control. Cuba’s National Assembly elects the President, Vice-President and the other judges of the Peoples’ Supreme Court, as well as the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. In addition, all courts are subordinate to the National Assembly and the Council of State, raising concerns over internationally recognised standards for fair trial and the right to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal. The right to a fair and proper defence is also unlikely to be fully respected, as lawyers are employed by the Cuban government and as such may be reluctant to challenge prosecutors or evidence presented by the state intelligence services.

UA: XX/10 Index: AMR 25/XXX/2010 Issue Date: 16 June 2010

Darsi Ferrer recognized as an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience on 2/26/10

February 26, 2010 Previous Urgent Action: Cuba: Release Darsi Ferrer: Take action now!

Cuban human rights activist in maximum security prison must be released - Amnesty International , February 26, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stand with Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma

Wishing Aung San Suu Kyi a Happy 65th Birthday and hoping that her next one will be in a free Burma. Not like the past 15 years serving an unjust prison sentence. Also extending this wish to the freeing of more than 2,100 Burmese political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. If you want wishes to come true, then you need to back them up with action (no matter how small). Take action here for her to demand her immediate and unconditional freedom and for ten other prisoners of conscience highlighted by Amnesty International.

Even small but concrete steps sustained over time have been shown to work. Please stand in solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi and the nonviolent struggle for a free Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a disciple of Mohandas Gandhi , an advocate and practitioner of nonviolent civic resistance, and has been described as the voice of her people. Unlike Gandhi she has been recognized by the international community both with the Sakharov Prize in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her biography is available online, but an excerpt of her views below should be useful there is much she can teach the world and especially pro-democracy activists. In the video she offers a concrete case for the nonviolent approach and why it is the best.

On nonviolence

Ours is a nonviolent movement that depends on faith in the human predilection for fair play and compassion. Some would insist that man is primarily an economic animal interested only in his material well-being. This is too narrow a view of a species which has produced numberless brave men and women who are prepared to undergo relentless persecution to uphold deeply held beliefs and principles. It is my pride and inspiration that such men and women exist in my country today.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours (1997)

On a just peace

Where there is no justice there can be no secure peace. ...That just laws which uphold human rights are the necessary foundations of peace and security would be denied only by closed minds which interpret peace as the silence of all opposition and security as the assurance of their own power.

Aung San Suu Kyi, In Quest of Democracy

Relationship between fear, power and corruption

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear (Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, July 1991)

It would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear (Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, July 1991)

Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear (Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, July 1991)

A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man's self-respect and inherent human dignity.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear (Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, July 1991)

It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilized man.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear (Acceptance message for the 1990 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, July 1991)

On Investments and Sanctions

Investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward égalité and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy. I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours (1997)

Amnesty International: "Neda’s killer must be brought to justice"

Take action now and demand accountability for killing of Neda Agha Soltan

19 June 2010

Iran: Neda’s killer must be brought to justice

One year after the killing of Neda Agha Soltan, the failure of Iranian authorities to bring her killer to justice is a damning example of the culture of impunity that has widened since the 2009 election protests, says Amnesty International.

Neda Agha Soltan, then 27, was shot in central Tehran on 20 June 2009 as she left a peaceful demonstration. A video clip of her dying on the pavement as bystanders came to her aid, was circulated around the world, making her an icon of the protest movement.

"Neda's unlawful killing is emblematic of not only the numerous human rights violations committed against Iranians over the past year - which are still continuing today - but also of the government's steadfast refusal to bring to justice those responsible for torturing and killing its critics" said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Despite the wealth of video-taped evidence and witnesses, the Iranian authorities have not carried out any independent investigation into Neda's death, nor the apparent deaths of scores of others at the hands of government forces between June and December 2009. They have denied allegations that the paramilitary Basij caused Neda's death and blamed, instead, a range of people and organizations including the BBC, CNN, the CIA, and even the doctor who rushed to Neda's aid when she was shot.

"The government's response to Neda's killing has been a cynical face-saving exercise," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. "It is all too typical of the wider failure of the Iranian authorities to observe the rule of law, and to ensure accountability for the crimes that continue to be committed in its name."

Amnesty International has renewed its call on the Iranian government to allow an independent inquiry into the deaths and abuses that took place during and after the demonstrations, including an investigation into Neda's killing.

It is also calling for UN human rights experts to be allowed into Iran. Despite a standing invitation issued by the government to the UN, no UN human rights visits have been allowed to Iran since 2005. At least five requests to visit made by UN human rights experts have remained unanswered.

"The authorities should know that their attempts to brush away the evidence pointing to their responsibility will not silence Iranians, who continue to demand truth and justice for the deaths of Neda and many others" said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.


Neda Agha Soltan's alleged shooter was briefly held at the scene of the shooting by protesters, but information on his identity has been ignored by judicial authorities. The man was allegedly carrying ID of the Basij, the armed paramilitary force heavily employed by the authorities to repress the demonstrations. Witnesses have reported that he shouted out 'I did not mean to kill her'.

The deaths of up to 80 people - and possibly many more - during and after the demonstrations, including as a result of torture in detention, have mostly not been investigated. Independent inquiries into excessive use of force, rape, and other forms of torture while in custody have not been carried out. Instead, the authorities have threatened those who have alleged violations, arrested some who have tried to uncover the truth and sought to discredit others who have tried to bring evidence forth.

Investigations into post-election abuses, where conducted, have been inadequate, not transparent and appear to make low-ranking officials scapegoats for the abuses that took place.

The campaign to demand accountability for the post-election abuses has been led by the Mourning Mothers group, which is made up of mothers whose children have been killed, disappeared or detained during violence following the election.

Amnesty International's June 2010 report Iran: From protest to prison: Iran one year after the election (AI Index Number: MDE 13/062/2010; 9 June 2010) documents a widening crackdown on dissent that has left journalists, students, political and rights activists as well as clerics languishing in prisons.

Let's continue to raise our voices for Neda.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Transparency for Cuba by Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

"In this way each person, enjoying freedom of expression, ... and enjoying appropriate freedom of association, will be able to cooperate effectively in the pursuit of the common good." -Pope John Paul II

The Cuban government has continued the dialogue with the European Union in which the speaker-designate, is the Spanish government. They have accepted the rules of the Cuban government and the most significant of these rules is: That the highest Spanish functionaries not dialogue with nonviolent Cuban dissidents.

This exclusion is representative of the contradiction between that dialogue and the most legitimate aspirations of the Cubans. That is why this dialogue is not a facilitator of dialogue among Cubans, or of peaceful change, because it denies a voice to those who expressly and directly go to the root of the problem by demanding rights for Cubans. If there are political prisoners in Cuba, it is because the government denies many rights to the Cubans. You can not disconnect those Cubans for the cause of which they were unjustly imprisoned. They, our brothers and comrades in struggle, are in prison for peacefully defending the rights of all Cubans, for that reason they must be released quickly and without conditions.

The government does not respect the people's right to know, it submerges them into anxiety, misinformation and uncertainty about their lives and their own future and do not even commit to its citizens to make changes and respect their rights. It is not the church that has imprisoned the prisoners, but the government. It is not the church that denies rights to Cubans, but the government. But it is also not fair to the people of Cuba, nor the faithful and suffering Church in Cuba, which is part of people, that some pastors accept the unique role of being sole partners of the government here in Cuba, accepting and practicing the condition of exclusion imposed by the government itself. At the moment that Cubans want change with transparency, rights and that what belongs to the people be respected: Freedom. That which God gives and no one can take away.

From the time of the other dictatorships that scourged Cuba and throughout the tortured history of political imprisonment in this dictatorship, many relatives of political and also common prisoners, as Cubans persecuted and excluded have found in the Church support, comfort and humane support in the midst of poverty, the enormous difficulties and the pain. It has been also and especially after the imprisonment of those we call the Prisoners of the Cuba Spring that are a sign of hope of liberation. The church can be persecuted and criticized by anyone, but when they have no where to go to even those who criticize and persecuted as any other, can go to it and touch its doors and find the loving acceptance of nuns, priests, lay people and also their bishops. Much more a church in Cuba that has grown up in poverty and has been affirmed and suffering persecution united in their allegiance to Jesus Christ. We have also learned from the Church, that no one should pretend to be a political actor from the Church because it converts the church into being a political part, when it should be a facilitator of dialogue between all parties. We believe that Cubans should not be spectators of this or any negotiation or dialogue, and should also prepare to be agents of their liberation, the protagonists of their own history as prophesized by Pope John Paul II.

The government neither recognizes us dissidents, nor engages in dialogue with us, because it would have to recognize and respect the rights and freedom of Cubans. In dissent or opposition the movement inside and outside the country peacefully struggles for freedom, reconciliation and human rights in Cuba. The Dissidents, then, is much more than a theme that can be treated by the Government and representatives of the Church without listening to or considering us. We are a group of Cubans who for decades, most of the time as a lone voice in the wilderness of terror and lies, have proclaimed the right of Cubans to their rights and sought peace working for justice. We do not ask for a space or privileges or recognition for us, or place in dialogues that are not with all Cubans. We only announce and proclaim that, with or without this dialogue, we will continue to fight nonviolently for freedom, rights, justice and peace in Cuba until we achieve those goals. This place is not given to us by anyone in this world and in that mission, we entrust ourselves to God our Father, Lord of History.

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

Coordinator,Christian Liberation Movement

June 17, 2010

Original text in Spanish available here and the Cuban bishop from Holguin's response here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Catholic Church: Mediator between Dictatorship & Opposition

"Overcome evil with good" -Father Jerzy Popieluszko

Vatican foreign minister arrived in Cuba on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 to attend Catholic Social Week & meet with regime leadership according to the Associated Press to address island's economic plight and activists hope to obtain release of political prisoners. Picture above by AP of Vatican foreign minister Monsignor Dominique Mamberti and the Cuban foreign minister.

Program X Catholic Social Week
From 16 to June 20, 2010
Casa San Juan María Vianney

The Catholic Church in Cuba: a bridge for dialogue and encounter (excerpt)

We have recognized that the outcome of this mediation has been a triumph for Cardinal Jaime Ortega (i.e. for the Catholic Church in Cuba), for the Ladies in White and the Cuban government. However, we know that the best way to assimilate this outcome – until now - positive, is not triumphalist, but has to be done with the humility necessary to raise awareness that the disposition to meet and dialogue, to achieve understanding and consensus , is the best service we can offer for the general welfare of the nation. 

To obtain this welfare, it is necessary to express it, transits today by: providing a definitive agreement for the treatment of the Ladies in White, resolve the sensitive issue of political prisoners, finding the best way for all Cubans to be able to express their views and always seek consensus among all, renew cultural anthropology of the Cuban, re-found economic structures, and achieve better relations with the world – also with the United States
Above extract from the Digital Supplement to Espacio Laical Magazine No.102 June 2010

Wednesday 16

12:30 p.m.
Lunch for delegates.
3:00 p.m.
Meeting with delegates to provide general guidance on Social Week.
4:30 p.m. Strong Snack
5:15 p.m.
Travel to the auditorium at San Gerónimo College.
6:00 p.m. Inaugural lecture by Monsignor Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States, of the Vatican. Aula Magna of the University College San Gerónimo
8:30 p.m. Concert in the
Minor Basilica of San Francisco de Asis.
11:00 p.m.
Strong Snack

Thursday 17

7:30 a.m. Marian Act.
8:30 a.m. Breakfast.
9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and of Monsignor Emilio Aranguren, bishop of Holguín and president of the National Commission for Justice and Peace.
9:30 a.m. Presentation of the encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in veritate. Father Jorge Cela, sj.
10:30 a.m. Break.
11:00 a.m. Debate about the presentation of the encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in veritate.

12:15 p.m. Lunch.
2:30 p.m. Panel on dialogue among Cubans. Participants: Aurelio Alonso, Jorge Ignacio Dominguez and Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. Coordinator: Habey Hechavarria Prado.

4: 00 p.m. Break.
4: 30 p.m. Debate on the dialogue among Cubans.
6:00 p.m. Rest.
7:00 p.m. Dinner.
8:00 p.m. Departure for the SMI Cathedral of Havana.
8.30 p.m. Solemn Mass in the Cathedral of Havana SMI.
10:00 p.m. Public gesture at the San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary.

Friday 18

7:30 am. Mass.

9:00 a.m. Panel on public spaces of the Church. Participants: Maritza Sánchez (Social work of the Church), Sergio Lázaro Cabarruvy (Social communications media), Maria Caridad Campistrous (Educational activities), Roberto Méndez (Relation with the world of Culture) and Gustavo Andujar (Presence of the laity)
Coordinator: Leni Gonzalez Mederos.
11:30 a.m. Break.

11:45 a.m. Debate about the panel on public spaces of the Church.
12:30 p.m. Lunch. 2:30 p.m. Panel on economy and society. Participants: Pavel Vidal, Omar Everleny,Carmelo Mesa-Lago and Cristina Calvo. Coordinator: Reydel Robles.

4: 30 p.m. Break with strong snack.

5: 00 p.m. Debate on economy and society.

6:00 p.m. Rest.

6:45 p.m. Leave for the Vatican embassy.

7:00 p.m. Reception at the Vatican embassy.
10:30 p.m. Strong Snack

Saturday 19

8:00 a.m. Lauds.

8:30 a.m. Breakfast.

9:00 a.m. Panel on reconciliation among Cubans. Participants: Father Juan Carlos
Carballo, Rafael Hernández, Arturo López-Levy and Lenier González.
Coordinator: Osvaldo Gallardo.

11:00 a.m. Break.

11:30 a.m. Debate on reconciliation among Cubans.

12:15 p.m. Lunch

2:30 p.m. Exhibition on how to integrate the topics presented during the Social Week
to the pastoral task of the Catholic Church in Cuba.
Father Jorge Cela, SJ.
(Only for delegates from the Catholic Church.)

3: 30 p.m. Break.

4: 00 p.m. Debate on the involvement of Father Jorge Cela, SJ. (Only for delegates
of the Catholic Church.)

6:15 p.m. Closing Mass

7:30 p.m. Dinner.

8:30 p.m. Exhibition of paintings of the Virgin Mary

Thank you to Dora Amador's blog Palabra Cubana for pointing me in the right direction for information on this meeting and the Cuban Church.