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UN rights chief calls for prompt release of protestors held in Cuba

The massive protests began on Sunday and are the biggest in decades, with thousands taking to the streets across the Caribbean island nation to demand the lifting of economic measures which have restricted access to basic goods, including food, medicine and COVID-19 vaccines. 

More than 100 people have been arrested, according to media reports.   

Use of excessive force 

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was very concerned at the alleged use of excessive force against protestors, and the large number of arrests. 

“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,” she said. 

Ms. Bachelet also lamented the death of one person in protests in the capital, Havana.  She underlined the importance of conducting “an independent, transparent, effective investigation” into the incident, and for those responsible to be held accountable. 

Address grievances, lift sanctions 

“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,” she said.  

The High Commissioner also urged the authorities to fully restore access to the Internet and social media.  She reiterated her appeal for the lifting of sectoral sanctions, which have had a negative impact on human rights, including the right to health. 

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