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Cuban human rights defender Ivonne Malleza Galano short listed for 2012 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
Ivonne Malleza Galano was forcibly detained on 30th November 2011 following a peaceful protest in the Fraternidad Park in Havana where she was part of a group that displayed a white sheet that read: “Down with Hunger, Misery, and Poverty”. She was subjected to 51 days of cruel and degrading treatment in prison before she was released on January 20, 2012.
Ivonne Malleza had previously been harassed, beaten and detained for her participation in previous peaceful protests. Two days after her release in January she was back together with the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanca) participating in their regular Sunday march on 22nd January in the streets of Havana.
Human rights defenders, journalists, and other members of civil society who criticise the Cuban Government face severe restrictions and violations to their rights of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement. The authorities continue to legally and physically prohibit peaceful activities such as reporting on human rights violations and promoting democratic reforms. 2011 witnessed a severe crackdown on civil society throughout the island with weekly reports of threats, violent beatings, arrests and arbitrary detentions, house arrests, and the use of tear gas against peaceful gatherings. Cuban HRDs were also regularly victims of so called actos de repudio (acts of repudiation), when pro-government mobs acting as “Rapid Response Brigades” harassed, threatened, insulted and attacked them in particular as they carried out peaceful protest actions.
Ivonne Malleza Galano began her defense of human rights in 2002 as part of the groups: “Naturpaz”, the “Union Nacional de Opositores” and, in 2003, the “Partido Ortodoxo de Regla”. Since 2008 she has been a member of the “Ladies in White”, a women’s organisation of human rights defenders who publicly and peacefully advocate every Sunday, in the streets of the island, for the freedom of all Cuban political prisoners and the people of Cuba.
During 2011 Ivonne demanded fundamental freedoms through repeated acts of civil disobedience in crowded points in Havana to promote awareness of human rights amongst the Cuban public. This included handing out flyers in Havana’s Central Park demanding, “Milk for the Children”, “Food”, “End the Discrimination” and organising a protest at a busy market banging on pots and pans and crying out slogans. On 5th August 2011 Ivonne was arrested for 24 hours and prevented from participating in a peaceful protest. On 26th August she was arrested again and beaten by a government organised mob when she protested with the Ladies in White of the systematic repressive acts committed against their counterparts in the eastern province of Oriente.
In general, the lives of all human rights defenders in Cuba like Ivonne, are in danger. They are subjected to systematic repressive tactics to intimidate them and their families both physically and mentally. Her mother and young son are emotionally affected. She and her family have been threatened with imprisonment and further harassment if she doesn’t stop her human rights work. She’s been arrested arbitrarily for exercising her right to freedom of expression, she’s been dragged and beaten by the police and held under inhumane prison conditions without charge; she’s been denied medical assistance while in prison and she’s constantly watched and followed.
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