Niober García faces tough persecution for standing for human rightsPublished: Sep 13, 2018 Reading time: 3 minutes
People in Need has been following the human rights work of Mr. Niober García Fournier consistently since 2013, as well as repressive reactions to his work from local authorities.
For more than five years, he has been reporting human rights abuses and assisting the victims and their families. While originally an independent journalist, he has become a key Human Rights Defender fighting for a society in which human rights are respected. Following his vision and values, he has also participated in advocacy activities abroad, denouncing the poor situation of political and civil rights in Cuba, which increased his public profile and his visibility, as well as the attention of Cuban authorities.
His human rights work brought him and his family undesirable yet expected consequences, not only psychological harassment (threats by phone calls , frequent short-term detentions and interrogations ), material costs (confiscation of phones and computers), but his life was also at risk.
An important incident took place in 2015, a member / an affiliate of State Security stabbed Mr. García, due to which he ended in the hospital. Thankfully, the location of the injuries were not lethal. This year, in January, Mr. García was detained together with other HRDs during one of their meetings, after police broke into the house of one of them . After the detention, the surveillance over him increased, months after, he was detained and questioned again, after a couple of days in the detention centre he was taken to prison and accused of espionage and collaboration with foreign actors.
They shaved his hair and kept him in prison for a few hours, then released him – both without any explanation. From our 20-year-long experience of working with HRDs in repressive countries, such inhumane treatment usually leads to negative effects on the psychosocial health of respective HRDs. Described incidents indicate that the Cuban authorities periodically violate Mr. García’s rights as described in the Universal Declaration, especially Article 5 (on inhuman treatment) and 9 (arbitrary arrest).
Niober after his release from prison
Police told him that he was going to be imprisoned in September 2018 for the charges he was accused of. In addition, his passport was taken from him.
Mr. García wanted to try to get a new passport in order to:
(1) help him temporarily leave the island until the situation improves, and
(2) to participate at a renown human rights summit in Paris.
Unfortunately, the officers at the migration office told him that he was “regulated” and of “public interest” and, therefore, unable to get a new passport. This prevents him to go to international events, temporary shelter and even safe place in long term in case of need. At the same time, he is often prevented from travelling within Cuba (especially leaving the province is problematic for HRDs).
Mr. García has been prevented from traveling for over a year. This also violates the Article 13 of the Universal Declaration, as he has no right to freedom of movement and residence within Cuban borders, as well as no right to leave/ return to his own country.
Mr. García has shown an unprecedented courage and resilience, his strong personality and the support from the network he created have been crucial to maintain his mental health. People in Need considers crucial that his case comes to be known and his rights should be advocated for by key international actors, including the EU, as this could help Mr. García to normalize his situation, reduce the ongoing repression by local State Security agents over him and allow him to travel freely according to his needs.
We should not forget that Mr. García is only fighting for the rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, considered inherent for every human being and which should be protected and guaranteed by every government.