UN rights chief calls for release of detained protesters in Cuba

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (File photo)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (File photo)

Geneva [Switzerland], July 16 (ANI): Amid the reports of detention of protesters in Cuba, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday called for the release of all those who have been detained for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, or freedom of expression.

In a statement issued on Friday, Bachelet said, "I am very concerned at the alleged use of excessive force against demonstrators in Cuba and the arrest of a large number of people, including several journalists. It is particularly worrying that these include individuals allegedly held incommunicado and people whose whereabouts are unknown. All those detained for exercising their rights must be promptly released."

"I deeply regret the death of one protester in the context of protests in Havana - it is important that there be an independent, transparent, effective investigation, and that those responsible are held accountable," she added.

The COVID-19 pandemic and precarious economic situation have made life in Cuba difficult. Thousands of protestors took to the streets demanding the lifting of economic measures which have restricted people's access to basic goods, including food, medicine and COVID-19 vaccines.

"I urge the Government to address the protesters' grievances through dialogue, and to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to peaceful assembly and to freedom of opinion and expression," Bachelet said. She also called for full restoration of access to the Internet and social media.

The High Commissioner reiterated her call for the lifting of unilateral sectoral sanctions, given their negative impact on human rights, including the right to health.

Earlier, US President Biden Joe Biden also called on the "Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves."

Sunday's protests in Cuba were the largest the communist country has seen since the 1990s. Cuba is facing food and power shortages as it struggles against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cuban government blamed US trade sanctions for the nation's troubles, while Washington said mismanagement by Havana is to blame. (ANI)

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