Derribando el “muro del miedo” de Cuba

Ningún derecho humano fundamental existe aisladamente. Hay superposiciones y enlaces significativos entre todos los derechos humanos, por ejemplo, los relacionados con la libertad de religión o creencia (LdRC), la libertad de expresión, y la libertad de asamblea. Estos tres derechos se ubican juntos en los Artículos 18, 19 y 20 de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas.

Durante el año pasado, y sobre todo en meses recientes, estos derechos relacionados entre sí han sido crecientemente atacados en Cuba, durante manifestaciones pacíficas de miembros de la sociedad civil independiente, como artistas y periodistas que además se identifican con una religión o creencia en particular. Estos grupos se mantiene protestando de diferentes maneras hasta el día de hoy, solicitando reformas legales y políticas, sobre todo en contra del Decreto Legal 370 y el Decreto Legal 349.

El Decreto Legal 349 entró en vigor en el 2018 y otorgó al gobierno control extensivo sobre toda forma de expresión artística en la isla, especificando incluso que cualquier actividad artística tendrá que ser aprobado por adelantado por el Ministerio de Cultura. Inmediatamente, muchos ciudadanos cubanos expresaron preocupaciones por que la ley esencialmente apagaría la libertad de expresión en Cuba, si solamente se permitiera la existencia del arte que haya sido aprobado por el gobierno. En el mismo año un grupo de artistas, periodistas y académicos se unieron para formar el Movimiento San Isidro para protestar de manera pacífica y creativa ante la censura oficial de la expresión artística en la isla.

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Tearing down Cuba’s ‘wall of fear’

No single fundamental human right exists in isolation. There is a significant overlap and interlinking of all rights, exemplified in the relationship between freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. These three rights sit side by side in Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Over the past year, and especially in recent months, these related rights have increasingly come under attack in Cuba, as members of independent civil society including artists and journalists, some of whom identify with a particular religion or belief, have maintained calls for legal and political reform, in particular coalescing around protests of Legal Decree 370 and Legal Decree 349.

Legal Decree 349 came into force in 2018 and gave the government extensive control over all artistic expression on the island, including mandating that any artistic activity had to be approved in advance by the Ministry of Culture. At the time, many Cubans expressed concern that the law would essentially stamp out freedom of expression in Cuba by only permitting the existence of government approved ‘art’. The same year a group of Cuban artists, journalists and academics came together and formed the San Isidro Movement to peacefully and creatively protest official censorship of artistic expression on the island.

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Long read: The forgotten faces and hidden history of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

The criminalisation of blasphemy has become synonymous with Pakistan.

No case highlights the fervour and frustration associated with blasphemy more than that of Asia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi), the Pakistani Christian woman who was falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 2010.

Throughout Bibi’s protracted legal case, the worst instincts of certain sections of Pakistani society were brought to the fore and played out in national and international media as Islamist groups staged violent demonstrations calling for her execution on multiple occasions, even after her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018. Following a nine-year ordeal, Asia Bibi and her family were eventually taken to Canada to start a new life, but for many other victims their fate is less hopeful, and they are left languishing under long jail sentences, prolonged when cases are adjourned without  hearing.

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Nepal’s criminalisation of conversion seems to protect Hinduism at the expense of other religions.

Three years on from the date that Nepal adopted its new constitution, there are concerns about its ‘anti-conversion’ clause, which seemed designed to specifically protect Hinduism at the expense of other religions.

The clause, in Article 26 (3) of the constitution, states:

“No person shall, in the exercise of the right conferred by this Article, do, or cause to be done, any act which may be contrary to public health, decency and morality or breach public peace, or convert another person from one religion to another or any act or conduct that may jeopardize other’s religion and such act shall be punishable by law.”

These provisions were strengthened in the Penal Code 2017 which came into force in August 2018. Section 158 states that “No person shall convert any one from one religion to another or make attempt to or abet such conversion”  and carries a punishment of up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to fifty thousand rupees.

The criminalisation of conversion is a direct infringement on freedom of religion or belief as it robs individuals of the right to change their religion. These provisions also threaten the right to freedom of expression as they could be used to prohibit a range of legitimate expressions of religion or belief such as charitable activities or speaking about one’s faith.

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Warning Signs Unheeded: The Kandhamal Tragedy

Kandhamal district is among the poorest and most marginalised in Odisha (formerly Orissa) state, India. On 25 August 2008, it was the epi-centre of communal attacks against the Christian community in India. Local monitoring groups have estimated that over 90 people were killed with at least 54,000 displaced and over 300 churches destroyed by groups belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that espouses the Hindutva ideology.

Ten years on, attacks on religious minorities and on freedom of expression by groups belonging to the RSS continue. The lack of official condemnation towards acts of intimidation and violence has further empowered these groups. As with recent attacks against religious minorities in India, the carnage that unfolded in Kandhamal was not a one-off isolated incident devoid of a historical narrative.

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