Sunday, 23 October 2016

Cuban dissidents to receive human rights award

8 February 2016

Prague, Feb 5 (CTK) - Eleven Cuban dissidents and former political prisoners will receive the Homo Homini award for human rights promotion from the Czech People in Need organisation at the beginning of the One World film festival on March 7, Adela Pospichalova, from People in Need, has told CTK.

The One World International Human Rights Film Festival will be held in Prague on March 7-16.

The Cubans will be awarded for their courage and moral consistency with which they decided to resist the pressure of the Cuban authorities and not to leave the country and to keep fighting for freedom there.

"Eleven former political prisoners, who despite the pressure the regime exerted on them to force them emigrate stayed on the island and continued in the fight for broader freedom for Cuban citizens. To us, these people symbolise all Cuban dissidents, political prisoners and activists who are striving for democratic reforms," said People in Need director Simon Panek.

In 2003, the regime of Fidel Castro detained 75 most significant dissident and sent them to prisons for six to 28 years. Thanks to the international effort in their support, most of them were conditionally released in 2010. However, their sentences were only interrupted and they may return behind bars any time, the organisers said.

"In spite of threats, persecution and everyday maltreatment, the 11 people have to date stayed in Cuba where they keep struggling for human rights and freedoms," Pospichalova said, adding that the Cuban government qualified the released dissidents as a security risk and limited their rights.

One of the awarded dissidents, writer and journalist Jorge Olivera, said he had never regretted and would never regret his decision to stay in Cuba.

"It was clear to me that I must stay in Cuba and continue in the fight for democracy. I knew that it would not be easy and that there would be no way back," Olivera added.

People in Need has worked in Cuba since 1997 when it started supporting local dissidents and political prisoners.

Along with a changing situation in the country, it now more focuses on support for the activities of independent civic groups and journalists. It is also monitoring human rights observance and their possible violations and stands up for people prosecuted for political reasons.

People in Need has bestowed the annual award on the personalities who have greatly contributed to the promotion of human rights and democracy in the world since 1994.

Last year, the award went to Syrian teacher and activist Souad Nawfal who was actively protesting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime as well as Islamic State.

Other Homo Homini laureates are, for instance, Azeri lawyer Intigam Aliyev, Kyrgyz political prisoner Azimjan Askarov, sentenced to life, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as Cuban Catholic dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, who died in a road accident in 2012.

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