EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, co-chaired the EU-Cuba human rights dialogue in Cuba, on Thursday. Gilmore stated that the agenda “recognised the impact of the [US] embargo, and called for the release of July ’21 detainees.” He also told reporters that the US sanctions are “hurting the human rights situation” as it is impacting “ordinary Cuban citizens.”
The conference took place in accordance with the Accord for a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Cuba, which was signed in 2016. Gilmore says that the EU aims to target sanctions on “individuals and entities that abuse human rights, rather than at general populations” when commenting on the impact of US sanctions on the Cuban human rights situation. He said that the sanctions are preventing civilians from accessing necessities such as medicine and food and have harmed the economy.
The UN criticised the US sanctions in 2019, which had a similar view to Gilmore. An independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said that the sanctions violate human rights and the international code of conduct, as they are “coercive” and “unilateral.”
Gilmore also reiterated the EU’s call to release July ’21 detainees. Street protests broke out in July 2021, which were sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, poor standard of living and food crises and the embargo and sanctions, which were drastically exacerbating the impact of the pandemic on Cuban people. Cuban police allegedly used excessive force on peaceful protestors and detained and charged a large number of people with sedition, including several political activists and journalists. The EU condemns the arrests, calling the sentencing “disproportionate,” and continues to reiterate that the Cuban government has a duty to “respect the human rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, including freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression” and called for the release of political prisoners and protesters.
In anticipation of Gilmore’s visit, Amnesty International released an OP-ED by Camila Rodriguez, highlighting economic concerns and human rights abuses in Cuba, which she urges need to be addressed.