Cuba: Join HRF and DDC for "20 minutes of silence for 20 years of impunity"

Human Rights Foundation
( NEW YORK (July 8, 2014)—Directorio Democrático Cubano (DDC) and the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) invite you to join in a symbolic act of peaceful protest in honor of the 20-year anniversary of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat killings. On July 13, 1994, the Cuban government murdered 37 Cuban citizens as they attempted to escape the island aboard the tugboat 13 de Marzo. The gathering will take place Thursday, July 10, at 12:00pm EST, outside the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations, located at 315 Lexington Avenue in New York. Human rights activists, civil society representatives, and members of the Cuban exile community will gather in front of the mission to observe 20 minutes of silence for the 20 years that this crime has gone unpunished.

“The anniversary of the 13 de Marzo tragedy is a harsh reminder of the cruel and ruthless nature of the military dictatorship that has ruled Cuba for the last 55 years,” said Janisset Rivero, national secretary assistant of DDC. Likewise, Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF stated: “The innocent victims of these barbaric acts, the men, women, and children who were murdered by agents of the Cuban dictatorship, are a vivid example that there is nothing—no matter how heinous, violent, or immoral—that tyrants aren’t willing to do to prevent people from breaking free of their rule.”

On July 13, 1994, Cuban coast guard vessels were deployed in pursuit of the 13 de Marzo tugboat after state security forces learned of the massive attempt to escape the island. Acting on direct orders from the government, state agents chased and intercepted the boat, which carried 72 men, women, and children, seven miles from the Havana harbor. The Cuban agents had no intention of returning the boat to land; instead, they first used high-pressure water hoses to sweep the boat’s occupants off the deck, and then rammed the boat repeatedly until it collapsed and sank. 37 Cuban citizens, mostly women and children, drowned as a result. As the result of a decision made by the Cuban government, no attempt was made to recover the bodies.
Twenty years after the 13 de Marzo tugboat killings, the perpetrators of this heinous crime have yet to be brought to justice. Meanwhile, the 30 survivors of the attack have been denied any moral or financial compensation, despite comprehensive and conclusive reports, issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other international organizations, which find the Cuban government responsible for the slaughter.
“The refusal to investigate, prosecute, and convict those responsible for serious human rights violations in Latin American military dictatorships, coupled with a lack of judicial independence, has led to the establishment of a ‘right to the truth’ to which victims and their relatives are entitled,” said HRF legal associate Roberto González. “In the case of the tugboat 13 de Marzo, the Cuban military dictatorship, like the anticommunist dictatorships of the seventies, not only refused to compensate the victims, but they publicly refused to perform any investigative procedure aimed at uncovering the truth of what happened. On the contrary, a few days after the 37 deaths, president Fidel Castro actually praised the acts committed by the Cuban agents as ‘truly patriotic efforts,’ stressing that their behavior was ‘exemplary,’” concluded González.
DDC and HRF invite all human rights activists, international civil society members, and Cuban exiles in the New York area to honor the victims of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat killings and express outrage for the continued impunity enjoyed by the Cuban government. Please join us on July 10 at 12 p.m. EST outside the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations, located at 315 Lexington Avenue in New York.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.


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