Cuban Activist Arrested Ahead of Human Rights Summit

Home of activist ‘Antúnez’ raided before UN Watch human rights event in Geneva

Cuban prison guards
Cuban prison guards / AP

A prominent Cuban opposition activist has been arrested ahead of a United Nations-related human rights conference he was expected to attend in Geneva, his supporters said Wednesday.

Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as "Antúnez," was reportedly arrested with several other activists after Cuban state security forces raided his home around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Antúnez’s brother Loreto Hernández García, who said he was detained along with Antúnez but later released, called the raid a "high level operation of the political police with fire trucks, six patrol cars, five trucks, approximately four skid trailers of police."

"The political police painted the house blue, the whole house, all the signs were painted over," García said. "And they took the television, the computer, they have even taken the pots. They took it all, and what powerfully catches my attention of this that is happening, is that a senior official whose name I do not know said he did not know whether Antúnez returns or is going back to prison."

Antúnez is the leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front for Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience (OZT Front) and one of Cuba’s most high-profile opposition figures. He spent 17 years in prison and was released amid international pressure in 2007.

Supporters said the arrest could be related to his expected attendance at the upcoming Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, and claimed the Cuban government had been delaying his efforts to get travel documents.

Cuba won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council at the end of last year, along with China and Saudi Arabia. UN Watch, the human rights group that is hosting the upcoming summit, actively opposes Cuba’s membership on the council.

"[Antúnez is] one of the main [opposition] leaders inside the island, and his participation in the summit would be a hassle to the regime," said activist Janisset Rivero.

Other Cuban activists arrested on Wednesday reportedly included Antúnez’s wife Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Donaida Pérez Paseiro.

UN Watch condemned the arrests and called on UN officials to address the Castro regime’s repression of opposition activists.

"We call on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to strongly condemn Cuba's repression of a human rights activist who is planning to participate in a UN-related event," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

"As a recently elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, Cuba has a special obligation to uphold the highest human rights standards, and we call on the UN to hold Havana to account. Antúnez must be released immediately and permitted to visit Geneva, and his wife must also be set free without delay."

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The Geneva summit is scheduled for Feb. 25.