Cuban dissident artist circumvents internet cut-off to submit testimony of abuses

GENEVA, June 8, 2021 — Despite government efforts to silence her, a Cuban dissident artist has managed to submit testimony about the regime’s gross and systematic abuses to an annual human rights assembly of activists and former political prisoners, in which she expresses concern over “the potential consequences that I will have to confront for participating in events like this one”.

Tania Bruguera, a Cuban political performance artist, has been repeatedly detained, interrogated and put under house arrest for her artwork and activism critical of the regime.

She was scheduled to deliver video testimony yesterday at the opening of the two-day virtual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, organized by a cross-regional coalition of 25 human rights groups, which brings together dissidents and former political prisoners who have been oppressed by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.

However, the conference announced that she was unable to speak yesterday because government forces repeatedly cut off her internet.

Today, Bruguera managed to circumvent restraints on her communications and was able to submit an audio message, in both Spanish and English, to the Geneva Summit.

In her powerful testimony (click here for audio and text), Bruguera describes harrowing abuses committed by the regime’s “military dictatorship” in Cuba, including impunity for killings and rape committed by police.

Cuba is “an island-prison” where “laws are created to protect those in power” and “the only thing that operates efficiently is the department of state security.”

The dissident artist reports that her country is a place where “independent journalists are persecuted, where citizens’ access to independent media via internet is blocked, where citizen journalism is penalized to such an extent that if you post a statement on Facebook that is critical of the government, you will be sought out and fined more than your monthly salary.”

Bruguera’s testimony sheds light on Cuba’s 170 political prisoners who are arbitrarily detained, publicly smeared by the regime, and refused “real legal protection because your appointed attorney works under direct orders from the government. Cuban lawyers may represent their defendants, but they work in the interest of the State”.

Informed by her personal experience and fellow artists and dissidents, Bruguera says that “people you know are afraid to lend you the phone line under their name for you to use because they know that electronic surveillance is one of the priorities of the Cuban government,” with the authorities leaving homes with “no telephone or internet for months”.

Activists “are treated as non-persons” by the regime, which “does not solve its problems, it simply expels those who keep reminding them there are problems to solve”.

Bruguera knows that she is taking grave personal risks by submitting her testimony. “While I was recording this presentation, I was thinking about my fellow activists in prison, about the potential consequences that I will have to confront for participating in events like this one, the vulnerability that we feel daily. But I take strength in joining with others the words ‘Patria y Vida’.”

Click here for audio and testimony

Related

Just Released from Egyptian Prison with Maikel Nabil

Maikel Nabil, Egyptian blogger and political activist, addresses the 4th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.   Full remarks   Tom Gross: We have with us in this session, two very brave human rights and democracy activists, one from Egypt and the other

Human Rights

Virtual: Human Rights in Saudi Arabia with Ali Al Ahmed

Ali Al Ahmed, formerly Saudi Arabia’s youngest political prisoner, addresses the 6th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.   Full Remarks   Thank you so much for having me. My name is Ali Al Ahmed, I’m calling you from Washington DC. I wanted

Democracy

Rebelling Against Assad with Ibrahim Al-Idelbi

Ibrahim Al-Idelbi, Syrian human rights activist active in the rebel North-West of the country, addresses the 7th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by translated remarks in English. Quotes: To Be Confirmed Full Remarks: English First of all, I want to thank you for allowing me

Democracy

The Struggle for Democracy in Latin America with Centa Rek

Centa Rek, Senior Legal and Policy Associate at the Human Rights Foundation, addresses the 11th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On authoritarianism in Latin America:  “For over a decade now Latin America in general and more specifically countries like

United Nations

Reflections on the 75th Anniversary of the UN Charter with Alfred Moses

Alfred Moses, Chair of UN Watch, former U.S. Ambassador to Romania, Special Presidential Envoy for the Cyprus Conflict, and Special Counsel to President Jimmy Carter, addresses the 12th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On the UN Charter: “Human

Press Freedom

The Hidden Island: The Life of Cubans Under Dictatorships with Abraham Jiménez Enoa

Prominent Cuban journalist forced into exile, grandson of the bodyguard to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Abraham Jiménez Enoa, addresses the 15th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below his remarks in Spanish, followed by the English translation and the corresponding video. Full Remarks: Spanish A mediados del

Political Prisoners

Arbitrary Arrest in Cuba with Juan Carlos Gutiérrez

Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, human rights lawyer who represents prominent Venezuelan opposition leaders and political prisoners including Leopoldo López and Juan Guaido, addresses the 11th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On arrest and imprisonment of Dr. Eduardo Cardet: “Dr. Cardet

Viva Nicaragua Libre with Felix Maradiaga, Berta Valle, Melissa Mahtani

Nicaraguan opposition leader and former political prisoner, targeted by the government on false criminal charges, Félix Maradiaga, is presented with the 2023 Courage Award at the 15th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. He is joined on stage by his wife and recognised Nicaraguan activist, journalist, and human rights defender, Berta

Yazidi Genocide

Presentation of Geneva Summit 2016 Women’s Rights Award with Anne Brasseur

Anne Brasseur, former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, awards Vian Dakhil and Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan the Geneva Summit Women’s Rights Award at the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On the threat of

Human Rights

Ending A Cycle of War with Rebecca Kabuo

Rebecca Kabuo, Congolese human rights activist who has been arrested more than a dozen times during peaceful protests and, in 2015, was dubbed the youngest prisoner of conscience in the world, addresses the 12th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy — see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

Presentation of the 2020 Courage Award with Brandon Silver

Brandon Silver, international human rights lawyer, and Director of Policy and Projects at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, addresses the 12th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On the Geneva Summit: “At the 2020 Geneva Summit for

The Right Against Arbitrary Arrest with Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia

Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, a Cuban dissident who received a 28-year prison sentence in the Black Spring crackdown of 2003 and was later exiled along with his family, addresses the 3rd Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.   Full remarks    

Human Rights

Do Human Rights Matter? with Alfred Moses

Ambassador Alfred Moses, Chair of United Nations Watch, addresses the 11th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On the battle for human rights in the world: “It has always been a battle between freedom and oppression.” “We had total oppression

Women's Rights

Trailblazer: Jailed for Showing her Hair with Shaparak Shajarizadeh

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, who became a leader in the “Girls of Revolution Street” and White Wednesday civil disobedience movements in Iran and who was famously arrested in February 2018 for removing her headscarf in defiance of Iran’s compulsory hijab laws, receives the Women’s Rights Award and addresses the 12th Annual Geneva

Democracy

How to Build a Safer World with Michael Levitt

Michael Levitt, Canadian MP and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, addresses the 11th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks. On the need for advocacy: “Unfortunately, we are seeing a resurgence of gross human rights violations around the word…And the

Democracy

Protesting Against Putin with Polina Nemirovskaia

Polina Nemirovskaia, a seasoned human rights campaigner in Russia and active player in the political campaigns of Boris Nemtsov before his tragic addition to the list of high-profile political critics of President Vladimir Putin assassinated for their dissent, addresses the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see

Political Prisoners

Fighting for my Dad with Peter Yang

Peter Yang, son of Guo Feixiong, imprisoned Chinese “barefoot lawyer” and civil rights activist, addresses the 15th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for his remarks. Full Remarks I am here today, speaking for my father, Yang Maodong, who is more known for his pen name, Guo

Terrorism

Kidnapped by Boko Haram and ISIS with Emmanuel Ogebe, Tom Gross, Saa

A panel including international human rights lawyer and advocate for the Chibok Girls, Emmanuel Ogebe; one of the hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram who is speaking under the pseudonym Saa; and journalist specializing in the Middle East and human rights, Tom Gross, at the 7th Annual Geneva Summit for Human

Press Freedom

Covering An Uprising with Moayad Iskafe

  Moayad Iskafe, a Syrian journalist who played a central role at the start of the Syrian uprising by organizing a network of local journalists to break Assad’s media siege, addresses the 6th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.   Full Remarks