Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Universal Periodic Review of Cuba and Sirley Avila Leon: The case the Castro regime would like to disappear

All eyes on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Sirley Avila Leon
Next week on May 16, 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland the UPR Working Group which consists of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council will gather in the afternoon for four hours to examine the situation of human rights in Cuba. This is the third time such a gathering has taken place. The first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) took place on February 6, 2009 and the second was held on May 1, 2013.

On the two previous occasions and all indications are that they will be repeated next week, the Castro regime has sought to flood UPR submissions and the debate with a carefully orchestrated and obvious effort to drown out the voices of the victims, and of serious human rights analysis in a din of pro-regime propaganda.

There is one case that the Castro regime and their apologists would especially like to be forgotten, and discarded. This is the case of Sirley Avila Leon.  Sirley was a true believer who grew up in the revolution and was a member of a local municipal assembly. She believed the claims that freed education was a right for all Cubans. This belief left her an invalid and nearly led to a violent death.
She lobbied and agitated for a school to be opened in her municipality so that the children there would not have to trek 5.6 miles to go to class and then trek the same distance back to get home.

Others were not so lucky. Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez was just 23 years old, the mother of two small children and she lived in Vista Alegre, in the Municipality of Majabiquoa in Las Tunas, Cuba. She was murdered on September 26, 2014 after having warned the delegate to the municipal assembly that regime agents were plotting to murder her for speaking out on the short comings of Cuban education.

On May 24, 2015, Sirley Ávila León was the victim of a brutal machete attack that cost her her left hand and also left her right upper arm nearly severed and knees slashed, leaving her crippled. She was denied adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors that if she wanted to get better she would need to leave Cuba. The regime had been embarrassed by a campaign she organized to keep a school open. She arrived in Miami on March 8, 2016, and thanks to the Cuban exile community, a team of medical doctors attended to her, and by September of 2016 Sirley was able to return home to Cuba. She found her home occupied by strangers and went to her mother’s house. A short time later a camera was set up outside to spy on her. By mid-October 2016, Sirley was getting death threats from state security and feared for her life. She fled back to the United States a couple of weeks later and sought asylum.

Healthcare is rhetorically universal but in practice can be withdrawn or refused on the orders of the Castro regime and its secret police. This was case of Cuban dissident Sirley Avila Leon. She was not only denied adequate medical care but was prescribed treatment worsening her condition. This practice goes back decades and has cost the life of more than one human rights defender.

This terrible crime was documented and submitted by the Center for a Free Cuba (CFFC) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to the stakeholder's information page for the Universal Periodic Review that will be taking place next week. 

Below is the excerpt from the IACHR:
"On September 2, 2015, the Commission requested the adoption of precautionary measures for Sirley Ávila León. According to the application, submitted to the Commission by the Cuban Democratic Directorate, Ávila has been the object of harassment and threats that materialized in May of 2015, when the proposed beneficiary was the victim of a machete attack because of her work as a defender of human rights. After analyzing the allegations of fact and law submitted by the applicant, the Commission considers that the information reveals that Sirley Ávila León is in a serious and urgent situation, since her life and physical integrity are at risk. Therefore, according to Article 25 of the Regulations of the IACHR, the Commission asked Cuba to take the necessary measures to guarantee the life and physical integrity of the beneficiary and that she be able to carry out her activities as a human rights defender without being a target of acts of violence and harassment. It also requests the State to arrange with the beneficiary and her representatives on the measures taken and to report actions to take to investigate the alleged events that led to the adoption of this precautionary measure and thus to avoid its repetition." Read the resolution.
Below is the excerpt from CFFC:
Extrajudicial violence: The case of Sirley Avila Leon
8. Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba since June 2005 for the rural area of Limones, in the province of Cienfuegos. The authorities removed her from that position in 2012 because she had fought to reopen a school in her district. Her efforts were ignored by official channels, and responding to her constituents complaints, she reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year career in the Cuban military, was forced out when he refused to declare Sirley insane and commit his mother to a psychiatric facility. This is not the first case in which the government uses internment in psychiatric institutions and the misuse of psychotropic drugs against dissidents.

9. Ms Ávila León joined UNPACU, a human rights organization which is denied the required registration and repression against her increased. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim of a machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. She did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by doctors that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.

10. On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began medical treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk again, although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker, Osmany Carriòn, free and bragging that he “would finish the job.” She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post by the authorities. Threats against her life intensified leading her to flee to the United States and request asylum on October 28, 2016.

11. Sirley’s son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila on March 15, 2017 was working when a man he did not know told him “that it was better that the legal demand not be continued because you did not know the risk in which you were exposing me and my grandmother.” The threat is in response to Sirley Avila Leon’s legal demand presented to recover 126,000 Cuban pesos ($4754) in damages resulting from the May 24, 2015 machete attack.
What was done to Sirley Avila Leon exposed the brutal nature of the regime and the terrible truth that the Castro dictatorship in Cuba does not belong on the UN Human Rights Council as a member but rather its members should be in the Hague answering for their crimes against humanity.

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