U.N. Human Rights Council Silences Cuban Dissident Condemning ‘Modern-Day Slavery’

View of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council of United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on 15 September 2017. Annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms. (Photo by Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Siavosh Hosseini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, a Cuban biologist and human rights activist, failed to complete a 90-second statement before the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday after member states Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and China interrupted him for nearly 13 minutes.

Urquiola, imprisoned in 2018 for “disrespect” to the regime after publishing academic evidence of the extensive environmental damage the communist regime has caused the tropical island, earned his speaking spot at the Human Rights Council by spending nearly a week on hunger strike before the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

When given the floor, however, the Human Rights Council allowed rogue states to repeatedly interrupt him, first by banging on their tables and, when given the floor despite the clearly unconstructive nature of their attempts to intervene, attempting to silence Urquiola through parliamentary procedure, proclaiming his words – a condemnation of human trafficking – not germane to the activities of the Human Rights Council. Only one member state of the international body, Australia, spoke up to defend Urquiola’s right to speak.

The scientist claims that, while imprisoned, Castro regime agents intentionally infected him with HIV and accuses the Cuban government of denying his sister and fellow dissident, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, the medicine she needs to treat her breast cancer. Following his release from prison after an international outcry, Ruiz was arrested once again in 2019 for participating in an “illegal” LGBT pride parade, grabbed by his ankles and dragged into a police station.

On Friday, Urquiola attempted to denounce the Castro regime for its well-known use of doctors as slaves, sent to friendly regimes around the world for profit and without pay. The Organization of American States (OAS) has denounced the Cuban slave doctor trade as “human trafficking.”

The Cuban communist regime is estimated to make $11 billion a year by selling slave doctors to allied nations.

Urquiola told the Human Rights Council that the slave doctor system violates the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and, in addition to hurting the doctors themselves, comes at a great cost to the Cuban people.

“The impact of this exploitation on the Cuban public health system has many victims, as the money earned does not go towards health or top-tier oncological treatments, or to high-resolution diagnostics,” Urquiola said, using the example of his sister.

“They stopped giving her immunotherapy, either because they ran out of medicine or to use placebos instead of active agents as a form of torture to subject her [to the regime],” Urquiola said, adding that his sister had also lost her job as a professor at the University of Havana while suffering from cancer.

Funds generated by Cuban doctor slave labor “are used to repress the average Cuban citizen, who is also under a modern-day slavery regime,” Urquiola said. He concluded by accusing the Castro regime of infecting with HIV “anyone who dissidents either in their college notebooks, in test tubes at the lab, or holding a farming hoe, by wanting to build a civil society … as in my case.”

The tyrannies who hold seats at the Human Rights Council barely allowed Urquiola to finish one sentence at a time, interrupting for various frivolous reasons.

The Cuban regime representative interrupted first, claiming that Urquiola’s accreditation to address the Council was illegitimate. The Council disagreed.

For the second interruption, the communist delegate attempted to argue that the issue of human trafficking was not a matter for the Human Rights Council. China and Venezuela also chimed in to agree, while Australia interjected in favor of Urquiola being allowed to speak.

The representative of Eritrea, another communist dictatorship, also interjected, but not before conspicuously removing his medical mask to speak into the microphone, potentially contaminating it for the next user. In a poorly-worded complaint, the Eritrean representative appeared to accuse Urquiola of violating the floor rules. North Korea’s envoy also chimed in to support Cuba but did not make any substantive argument.

The chairman of the session allowed Urquiola to continue but mildly scolded him to stay on topic. After about 13 minutes of interruptions, however, Urquiola’s 90 seconds had run out.

Urquiola recited his statement in full outside of the Council’s headquarters, revealing that the interruptions only prevented him from saying one sentence: “For how long will the Cuban government enjoy impunity for its crimes against humanity?”

Outside the building, Urquiola urged Cubans around the world to pressure every possible international body to act to help them save their island, once a republic.

“Despite the …  fear and the vulgarity, of the crushing … [the Cuban regime] demonstrated simply the great fear they have of the Cuban people,” Urquiola said. “I don’t think it will be able to silence the voices of all the Cuban people; the voices of the Cubans forced to emigrate; the voices of all the Cubans with dead, murdered loved ones, who cannot be among us now – and they are not few, there are thousands of Cubans murdered by the Cuban government since 1959.”

Urquiola urged Cubans to “rescue our dignity” and challenge the regime, avoiding “legalities, constitutions, wordplay.”

“Liberty or liberty,” he concluded, a play on the popular slogan, “liberty or death.”
Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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