Cuba and its allies tried to block a UN speech today by the daughter of leading dissident Oswaldo Paya (right). With the support of China, Russia, Belarus, Pakistan and Nicaragua, Cuban officials demanded that Rosa Maria Paya (below, left) should not be allowed to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where she presented a petition (extract below), calling for a UN inquiry into her father’s suspicious death. But “following a strong intervention in her defense by the US delegate, Paya was allowed to continue,” according to reports.
“They say that my father died in a car accident, but we have confirmed … that they were actually crashed into and run off the road by another vehicle,” she told reporters in Geneva:
Cuban authorities said that my father and Harold Cepero, a youth activist, died in a traffic accident. But after interviewing the survivors, we confirmed that their deaths were not accidental.
[Interruption by Cuba on point of order: “The speaker is a mercenary… she’s not speaking about an urgent situation...” The objection is echoed by points of order exercised by China, Russia, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Belarus. USA takes the floor to defend the rights of all NGOs to speak. Council president gives her back the floor.]
Thank you, Mr. President. The driver of the car told the Washington Post that they were intentionally rammed from behind. The text messages from the survivors on the day of the event confirm this.
The Cuban government’s state security calls my family home in Havana to say: We’re going to kill you. They are the same death threats that were made to my father. The physical integrity of all members of my family is the responsibility of the Cuban government.
“Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic … cannot go ignored by the international community,” read the petition, signed by 46 politicians, parliamentarians and human rights activists from around the world.
The appeal, signed by former presidents of Peru, El Salvador and Uruguay, and 43 other public figures, including foreign ministers, parliamentarians and human rights activists, was organized by UN Watch, a Geneva-based rights group.
“Rosa Maria Paya is a very brave woman who clearly inherited a lot from her father,” said Hillel Neuer, the group’s executive director. “This is the first time we’ve brought a Cuban dissident to speak at the UN who’s not in exile, but who rather has to go back to Havana and assume all the risks that come with taking on a police state in which one still lives. I hope she’ll be safe.”
“The fact that a parade of serial rights abusers rallied behind Cuba to silence a human rights hero only underscored the true nature of Havana’s repressive regime,” added Neuer.
An open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and Ambassadors of all Member States
We urge you to support our demand for an international and independent investigation into the alleged murder of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, a world-renowned figure and recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, who died in a car crash in Bayamo, Cuba, on July 22, 2012, together with fellow activist Harold Cepero.
In dramatic new testimony by the driver of the car, Ángel Carromero describes, in a Washington Post interview dated 6 March 2013, how their vehicle was followed, harassed and ultimately rammed from behind by a car bearing government license plates. Mr. Carromero further alleges that, following the crash, he was drugged, mistreated and coerced by Cuban authorities into making a false confession.
The new revelations corroborate the claims made by the families of the victims and other witnesses, as well as the report by Spain’s ABC news agency about text messages sent contemporaneous with the incident from the mobile phones of Mr. Carromero and another passenger, Aron Modig, indicating that their car was chased and then hit, causing the crash.
Significantly, according to the family of Oswaldo Payá, state security agents had repeatedly threatened to kill him.
Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic, a leading figure in the human rights world, cannot go ignored by the international community.
The families of the victims, and the people of Cuba, have a right to know the truth, and they have a right to justice. This can only happen with the creation of an international and independent inquiry. We therefore respectfully urge you to support our call.
Armando Calderon Sol, former President of El Salvador
Luis Alberto Lacalle, former President of Uruguay
Alejandro Toledo, former President of Peru
Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of European Parliament
Markus Meckel, , former Foreign Minister of Germany
Zbigniew Romaszewski, former Speaker of Polish Senate, a founder of the Solidarity movement
Stanislav Shushkevich, former president of Supreme Soviet of Belarus, a current opposition leader in Belarus
Arnold Vaatz MP, Deputy Leader CDU, Germany
Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, former Foreign Minister of Iceland
Mantas Adomênas MP, Lithuania
Laura Alonso MP, Argentina
Mbarka Bouaida, former MP, Morocco
Philip Claeys MEP
Michael Danby MP, Australia
Mátyás Eörsi, Secretary-General of Parliamentary Forum for Democracy, former MP, Hungary
David Kilgour, former MP, Canada
Adam Lipinski MP, former State Secretary of Poland
Martin Palouš, former Ambassador, Czech Republic
Marija Aušrin? Pavilioniene MP, Lithuania
Marco Perduca, Italian Senator, co-vicepresident of Nonviolent Radical Party
Janelle Saffin MP, Australia
Egidijus Vareikis MP, Lithuania
Renate Wohlwend MP, Lichtenstein
Emanuelis Zingeris MP, Lithuania, President of Parliamentary Forum for Democracy
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, United Nations Watch
John Suarez, International Secretary, Cuban Democratic Directorate
Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy
Ken Wollack, President, National Democratic Institute
Zohra Yusuf, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Yang Jianli, President, Initiatives for China
Carlos E. Ponce, General Coordinator, Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy
Faisal Fulad, Secretary General, Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society
Alessandro Pettenuzzo, European Union of Public Relations
Lehlohonolo Chefa, Executive Director, Policy Analysis and Research Institute of Lesotho
Anki Flores, Former Secretary-General of the Antiracism Information Service, Geneva
Shauna Leven, Director, René Cassin organization
Bhawani Shanker Kusum, Executive Director, Gram Bharati Samiti, India
Duy Hoang, Spokesperson, Viet Tan
Dickson Ntwiga, Executive Director, Solidarity House International Foundation
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President, Stop Child Executions
Atamao B T Kane, President, Southpanafrican International
Okay Machisa, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association
Obinna Egbuka, President, Youth Enhancement Organization
International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization
Zofia Romaszewska, one of the founders of Solidarity movement, Poland