Help locate hundreds of jailed Cuban protesters

The mothers of those detained wait to enter the Havana Police Station at 100th and Aldabo Streets on July 19, 2021. Photo by ‘Desaparecidos’ [Missing] #SOSCuba

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban Conference of Religious Leaders (Concur) is an organization made up of Catholic clergy who serve in Cuba. On Sunday July 18, they announced on their Facebook page a new service to support relatives of people imprisoned following the July 11 protests.

In the project launch message, they explain that the service will focus on support in the preparation of a habeas corpus appeal, help in locating detainees and spiritual and psychological support for families.

Joeluis Cerutti Torres, professor of physics at the University of Havana, is one of the promoters of the service. He explained that the main motivation is to be by the side of those who suffer as part of the Christian commitment; however, he notes that sometimes this support process requires more “concrete” help.

“A mother who still does not know where her child is, will not sit down to talk without first doing everything possible to locate that child. In this sense, it seemed useful to us to help anyone who wishes to submit a habeas corpus request and attempt to locate the detained persons. This could involve calling places or going with the family to the offices that are supposed to give this information, ”he said.

Joeluis Cerutti said it is not that difficult to file a habeas corpus petition and anyone can bring one. However, their service can be useful for those unfamiliar with the details of these processes. “It’s not just about presenting a form; it’s about supporting someone who needs you to explain to them what the documents are for, and maybe you accompany them to present it, if for some reason they ask you to.

Although the project had only been launched a few hours before, Cerutti noted that the person in charge of receiving calls was already surprised at how quickly those interested had responded.

According to Eduardo Llorens, Catholic priest of the Society of Jesus, since July 12, they have already filed around twenty requests for habeas corpus. The authorities responded within the time limit set, but always with the same words: they declared the petition “unfounded”. However, in each case, they also gained valuable information about the condition and location of those in prison.

When they accompanied families to detention centers, says Father Llorens, the results were similar: either elusive responses with almost no information, or very general information. However, “the most important thing is to make the cases visible and to show that there are people interested in knowing where the detainees are being held”.

He also clarified that most of the situations they were able to witness are in Havana. When they receive requests from other provinces, they accompany them as much as possible or try to contact someone in that region who can help them. “We must be clear that we will not be able to support everyone. It’s impossible. But for those that we can, we try to offer high quality support.

What can be done to find out where those detained after the July 11 protests in Cuba are being held?
The filing of a Habeas Corpus petition is the most effective mechanism for those who need to know where the protesters arrested during the July 11 demonstration in Cuba are being held. “El Toque Juridico” offers an example of such a petition.

The exact number of people detained following the July 11 protests is still unknown. Different civil society groups and organizations are trying to divulge all possible information about those who remain in prison. Often the family does not know their whereabouts or their legal status.

The most recent of these efforts is a list on which a group of volunteers are working with Cubalex, an NGO dedicated to defending human rights in Cuba. So far, they have released 505 names of people detained as a result of these efforts. Some of them have already been released, but the fate of the others is still unknown.

In cases where there is information, the document includes the province where the detention took place, the place and time the person was last seen, their age, the status of his legal record and to what extent his record has been verified.

Reactions to detentions in Havana universities

On Friday July 16, a group of students, professors and alumni of the University of Havana delivered a letter to the main offices of the Ministry of Higher Education. The letter, always open to new signatures, is addressed to the minister, José Ramon Saborido. He demands the immediate release of the students detained for demonstrating.

“We believe that – in view of the time that has elapsed (more than 96 hours) – their situation is in a state of irregularity”, he underlines.

The signatories demanded the immediate intervention of the ministry in this matter, because it is a violation of the rights of the educated persons. They also called for the transparency of the corresponding judicial processes to be guaranteed.

The document demanded an immediate statement from the Ministry of Higher Education about these events, as well as the systematic publication of each student’s situation, until their final release was obtained.

Fearing subsequent administrative reprisals, the letter asks the deans of the institution not to impose any sanctions on the released students.

The ministry responded with a brief note that only – and partially – addressed one of the issues raised in the letter.

In its official note, the Ministry of Higher Education alleged that the participation of university students had been minimal, and only in a few localities. “We are staying on top of the investigation process. We have confidence, like all our people, in the actions of the competent authorities.

After receiving the response, the university community reiterated its demand for the immediate release of all students. The ministry message ignored this question.

Students from the Faculty of Audiovisual Media Arts at the University of Arts have also issued statements against incitement to violence. They criticized the official media campaign aimed at discrediting the protests.

In addition, they declared themselves in favor of transparency of information and the right of Cubans to demonstrate peacefully. They disagreed with the government’s call for large rallies to repudiate the July 11 protests.

“We believe that this is not the best example to give to the population, given the epidemiological situation in Cuba and the increase in the number of infections and deaths due to the Sars Cov-2 virus on the island last week. The activity that has been called is in contradiction with the most basic indications of the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba and of international public health organizations ”, declared the signatories of the declaration.

Read more about Cuba here on Havana Times.

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