Amnesty International, the world's most respected human rights
organization, has just issued an "Urgent Action Appeal" asking people to send
messages opposing the arrest of Leonardo Bruzon Avila. The text of the
Amnesty appeal is appended below. In addition to sending letters to Cuban
officials, even faster messages can be sent by e-mail to: Foreign Minister
Felipe Perez Roque ([log in to unmask]) and President Fidel Castro
([log in to unmask]), with copies to Mr. Eliades Acosta
([log in to unmask]).
By taking action on this Amnesty appeal, we will demonstrate that the
world will no longer tolerate acts of cruelty and repression. It is
especially important for librarians to show solidarity when one of our
colleagues is a victim of intolerance and censorship. Sending an e-mail only
takes a few moments of your time, and please be assured your message WILL
HAVE AN IMPACT.
Friends of Cuban Libraries
UA 229/01 Arbitrary arrest/Fear of becoming
a prisoner of conscience 12 September 2001
CUBA Leonardo Bruzón Avila, independent librarian and human
Human rights defender Leonardo Bruzón Avila was reportedly arrested on 5
September, after he set up an independent video library for children in
the capital, Havana. Amnesty International fears that he may face an
unfair trial and be jailed as a prisoner of conscience.
He is now held at a police detention centre in Havana, the Departamento
Técnico de Investigaciones (DTI), Technical Investigations Department. As yet
no charges are known to
have been brought against him.
He reportedly opened the video library on 12 August, with a screening of
the Disney film Hercules, which many children came to. Leonardo Bruzón is
President of the Movimiento Pro Derechos Humanos 24 de Febrero, 24 February
Human Rights Movement named for the date in 1996 on which
two planes belonging to a Cuban exile group were shot down by the Cuban
airforce. He named the library, in his home in Havana, "The 24 February
Library". The authorities issued a warrant for his arrest and the eviction
of him and his family. Leonardo Bruzón went into hiding until his arrest.
It is not known whether the eviction order has been carried out.
Leonardo Bruzón has been repeatedly detained and harassed. In August this
year he and other opponents of the government were arrested and briefly
detained to prevent them taking part in a demonstration calling for the
release of political prisoners, in which they were planning to stand with
candles in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary in the Virgen del Camino
park in Havana. On 3 December 2000 he and other dissidents were detained
to prevent them taking part in a demonstration to celebrate Human Rights
Day. Leonardo Bruzón was not released for two months.
The media in Cuba is controlled by the state, and freedom of expression,
association and assembly are severely limited. The first independent library
was started in 1998 in Las Tunas by a couple
who were reportedly motivated by comments made at a book fair by President
Fidel Castro, who said there were no banned books in Cuba, only limited
funds with which to buy books for public libraries. Since then many
independent libraries have been set up, and many
librarians have been detained, harassed and threatened with arrest if they
continue their work, or asked to leave the country.
Leonardo Bruzón recently said that he had set up the 24 February library
for "the promotion of activities of a cultural nature ... every Sunday we
will screen films for children and young people". ("La biblioteca '24 de
Febrero' promueve actividades de índole cultural ...
cada domingo exhibiremos filmes para los niños y jóvenes ...").
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible,
in Spanish, English or your own language:
- expressing concern that Leonardo Bruzón Avila has been detained;
- urging that he be released or charged with a criminal offence;
- expressing concern that he may be a prisoner of conscience, detained
solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- urging that he be granted access to a lawyer of his choice;
- urging that independent librarians and journalists be permitted to carry
out their legitimate peaceful activities without interference from the
Dr Juan Escalona Reguera
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
San Rafael 3, La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Fiscal General, Havana, Cuba
Telexes: 511456 fisge
Salutation: Sr Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sr Felipe Pérez Roque
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Calzada No. 360
Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Ministro Relaciones Exteriores, Havana, Cuba
Faxes: + 53 7 333085 / 335261
Telexes: 511122 / 511464 / 512950
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister
Minister of the Interior
General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra
Ministro de Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Ministro Interior, Havana, Cuba
Faxes: +53 7 33 5261 / 537 301566
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister
Editor of Granma (daily newspaper)
Sr Jacinto Granda de Laserna, Granma, Apdo 6260, La Habana, Cuba
and to diplomatic representatives of Cuba accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or
your section office, if
sending appeals after 24 October 2001.