Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cuban Dissident & Former Prisoner of Conscience from Black Cuban Spring to Address Today’s Geneva Rights Summit

Source: Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy (http://www.genevasummit.org)
Date: 15 March 2011

Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia to Address Geneva Summit

Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience who received a 28-year prison sentence for his work on the Varela project, a civic initiative calling for democratic reforms in Cuba will join other former prisoners of conscience today for the third annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Luis Enrique, who served nearly 8-years of his 28 year jail term in Cuba for his nonviolent civic activism and was released in November 2010, will speak about the situation of his imprisoned brother Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, who is still in Cuba serving a 25-year prison sentence and is also an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.

Brothers José Daniel and Luis Enrique Ferrer García, both unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime during the 2003 “Black Spring”crackdown, come from a working class family from the neighborhood of Manganeso in Santiago de Cuba.

Prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia serving 25-year prison sentence

Luis Enrique Ferrer was harassed and detained on numerous occasions. Both brothers began their activism in the opposition in the Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia (Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement), and by the mid nineties had become members of Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Christian Liberation Movement), as a leader of which José Daniel emerged in Eastern Cuba.

For his opposition activities in Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Christian Liberation Movement), he was summarily tried in December 1999 in the Mella Municipality and sentenced to 6 months house arrest for his refusal to pay a fine which he claimed was imposed upon him unfairly. At his trial, when asked why he did not accept the Revolution, he responded that he did not accept it because life for people was very bad. At that moment a State Security agent participating in the trial struck him in the face, breaking his lower lip. During his trial, Luis Enrique Ferrer's family members were denied access to the court room, instead having to wait in the corridor. At the end of the trial, a mob insulted and physically assaulted family members, including pushing Luis Enrique Ferrer's mother to the floor.

Luis Enrique Ferrer García was the coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimento Cristiano Liberación-MCL) in Las Tunas province. He organized groups of people who collected hundreds of signatures for the Varela Project. As a result of this work by organizers like Luis Enrique Ferrer and his older brother, independent journalist José Daniel Ferrer, over 11,020 signatures were collected and presented to the National Assembly in May 2002. Luis Enrique Ferrer personally presented copies of the signatures to visiting foreign legislators. Despite the fact that the Varela Project calling for democratic reforms in Cuba was an initiative that was legal under the Cuban regime’s laws, they were taking a great personal risk in promoting it.

Beginning on March 18, 2003, the Castro dictatorship began a massive crackdown, rounding up scores of human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition activists in what eventually became known as the Cuban Black Spring. Both José Daniel and Luis Enrique Ferrer García were arrested.

During Luis Enrique’s show trial on April 3, 2003 in Las Tunas, the tribunal asked him if he had anything to say in his defense. He stood up and explained to the regime’s representatives what the Varela Project consisted of: an independent citizen initiative that sought a referendum to reestablish basic rights. At the end of his explanation he invited them to sign the petition stating, “because this is a project open to all Cubans.”

Luis Enrique Ferrer received the longest prison sentence of all of those arrested in the March 2003 crackdown. He was sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment. He was transferred from "El Típico" provincial prison in Las Tunas to Combinado del Este prison after being involved in a protest with other activists caught up in the March 2003 crackdown.

Following the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo on February 23, 2010 and brutal assaults against the Cuban Ladies in White in March of 2010, international attention focused on Cuba in a negative light, which forced the regime for the first time in a the long history of dictatorship to reach out to the Catholic Church as a mediator. In July of 2010, Raul Castro committed to releasing all the prisoners of conscience from the 2003 crackdown by November 5, 2010. Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia was released in mid November and exiled to Spain. His brother Jose Daniel, who wants to remain in Cuba, is still imprisoned today.

Luis Enrique Ferrer García will be speaking at 3:30pm (Geneva Time) on The Right Against Arbitrary Arrest others participating on the panel are:

* Guang-il Jung: North Korean Dissident, tortured and escaped from labor camps.

* Farid Tukhbatullin, Turkmen human rights activist, former prisoner, threatened with death by his government

* Mohammad Mostafaei, Prominent human rights lawyer from Iran, defended Sakineh, the woman sentenced to death by stoning on charges of adultery

Admission to tomorrow’s Geneva Summit is free, and the public and media are invited to attend. For accreditation, program and schedule information, please visit http://www.genevasummit.org.

Global Civil Society Coalition: Collectif Urgence Darfour; Darfur Peace and Development Center; Directorio Democratico Cubano; Freedom House; Freedom Now; Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l; IBUKA; Ingénieurs du monde; Initiatives for China; Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children; International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY); Ligue International Contre le Racisme; LINK; Respect Institut; Stop Child Executions; Tibetan Women's Association; Ticino Tibet; Uighur American Congress; UN Watch; Viet Tan.

The Geneva Summit is organized by a cross-regional coalition of 20 NGOs, including UN Watch, Freedom House and Ibuka, with the aim of providing a voice for the voiceless and advocating action on urgent human rights situations. The conference will feature victim testimonies from renowned human rights defenders, dissidents and experts, and produce draft resolutions for the UN Human Rights Council to adopt. For more on the conference, speakers and program, click here.

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