Tuesday, October 23, 2007


October 22, 2007

Raul Castro Ruiz
Interim President of Cuba
c/o Cuba Interests Section
Embassy of Switzerland
2630 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

Your Excellency:

Human Rights First, an independent non-governmental human rights organization, is writing to you to express its disappointment that René Gómez Manzano, a Cuban citizen and human rights lawyer, was prohibited from traveling to Brussels, Belgium this past week to receive the 2007 Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize. According to Mr. Gómez Manzano, after being repeatedly told the Cuban Immigration office had no response to his application for permission to travel, he was formally denied permission on Monday, October 15, 2007. The award ceremony was held on Friday, October 19, 2007; a representative of Mr. Gómez Manzano accepted the award on his behalf.

Mr. Gómez Manzano is a lawyer working to strengthen the rule of law in Cuba. He was the founder of the Corriente Agramontista, a collective of independent lawyers dedicated to defending cases involving those whose human rights have been violated. Mr. Gómez Manzano has been repeatedly jailed for his legitimate, non-violent human rights activities. Most recently, he was held for 19 months without being charged for protesting peacefully in front of the French Embassy in Havana in July 2005. Human Rights First heralded his release in February 2007.

The Ludovic Trarieux Prize is awarded annually by a group of leading European bar associations to a lawyer who has worked to advance human rights and the rule of law. It is considered one of the most prestigious international awards a lawyer can receive; Nelson Mandela is a past winner.

Freedom of movement is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by everyone. Under this principle, all Cubans should have the right to freely leave and return to Cuba. As Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

We urge you to respect the provisions of the UDHR, which form the basis of international human rights law. René Gómez Manzano , and other lawyers and human rights activists in Cuba, should be free to travel to and from Cuba.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.


Neil Hicks
Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program

His Excellency Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz
Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations

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