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    Laritza Diversent Reports from Geneva

    Laritza Diversent Reports from Geneva / Laritza Diversent
    Posted on July 15, 2013

    Introduction by Tania Quintero

    On December 10, 2010, without resources, publicity, or fanfare, attorney
    and freelance journalist Laritza Diversent founded a modest office in
    her home to provide free, independent advice to Cubans and foreigners on
    national and international legal issues and human rights. She
    established the Cubalex Legal Information Center. Over time she was
    joined by other lawyers, such as Yaremis Flores and her husband Veizant
    Boloy. These three young people are of Afro-Cuban origin and humble
    backgrounds. Cubalex also investigates and reports to international and
    regional organizations regarding individual complaints of human-rights
    violations on the island. It is located at the corner of 169 Lindero and
    Angeles, El Calvario, Havana, Cuba 13900. Telephone: (0053) 5-241 5948
    (Laritza’s cell). Email: Any help is welcome.

    On Cubanet you can read the two reports presented by Cubalex in Geneva,
    at the 55th meeting of the Committee for the Elimination of
    Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which on July 8 and 9 was
    dedicated to analyzing the situation of Cuban women. The following is
    the report of Laritza Diversent.

    Report from Laritza Diversent

    Cubalex presented a “shadow” (alternative) report to CEDAW. Yaremis
    Flores and I, representing the Cubalex office, participated in the
    meeting of the experts with NGOs from the countries that were studied at
    the 55th session, including Cuba.

    On Saturday, July 6, we traveled to Switzerland, coincidentally sharing
    the flight with some members of the official Cuban delegation that
    participated in the examination. Upon arrival at the airport in Geneva,
    there were other members of the delegation. One of them, after talking
    on the phone and looking at us repeatedly while we were waiting for our
    luggage, came over and took our photo without our permission.

    He said it was “so we would look beautiful in the press” and
    sarcastically welcomed us to Geneva. We told him we were prepared to be
    photographed by State Security. Then he said he was from the Ministry of
    Foreign Affairs, that he had studied at the Law School, had graduated in
    2004, and knew us both. A pity that we didn’t remember him. If he
    publishes our photo, we will post his, when giving messages to the
    members of the Cuban delegation.

    On Monday the 8th we turned up early at the United Nations headquarters
    for the process of accreditation; we had previously requested this and
    had received confirmation that we were accredited. Yet strangely, our
    registration did not appear in the database. We had to wait two hours
    for the confirmation of our accreditation.

    After verifying the location of the private meeting with the Committee
    on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), we made sure
    to contact the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), an NGO
    that organizes the private meetings between the Committee and NGOs from
    the countries that are being examined, to confirm our presence.

    Representatives of this organization were surprised that an NGO based in
    the island presented a report critical of the situation of Cuban women,
    because the rest of the national organizations, including the National
    Union of Jurists, and the Cuban Association for Animal Production,
    supported the state report.

    Earlier that morning, NGOs recognized by the Cuban government had
    presented themselves there to confirm their participation. Strangely,
    they asked if there would be other participants. Until then, IWRAW was
    not aware of our presence in Geneva.

    We returned to the room where the meeting would take place and found the
    supposed lawyer for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We then learned
    that our presence had caused problems in the Permanent Mission of Cuba
    in Geneva. They thought we were going to pull out posters and yell
    anti-government slogans.

    As a precaution, we stayed in the meeting place and waited until it
    started, to head off any manipulation or government action. After the
    presentations, the NGOs recognized by the regime, instead of speaking
    privately with the Committee about the problems of Cuban women, devoted
    their efforts to discrediting us.

    They claimed that Cubalex consisted of only five members, who responded
    to the interests of the United States, a country which for more than 50
    years had imposed a “blockade,” the main cause of violence and
    discrimination against women in Cuba. They also said that our report
    lacked objectivity, had little technical rigor, and manipulated the

    Among other insults, they categorized us as amateurs. They questioned
    the financing of our trip, claiming that they had to seek help from UN
    agencies. The Committee had to ask them to stop their attacks and
    concentrate on the problems of Cuban women.

    But they were unable to answer direct questions from the Committee about
    prostitution, civil unions, and whether a woman who was a victim of
    violence could be represented by a lawyer. They sowed confusion and
    wasted time on political speeches, preventing the Committee from
    clearing up its doubts on these subjects.

    For our part, we raised these issues, which we consider the most
    alarming about the situation of women in Cuba. We warned about recent
    amendments to the Criminal Code and how it might affect women as victims.

    The strategy of these government NGOs, both in the private meeting and
    at the meeting of the Committee with the NGOs from the countries to be
    examined, was to consume the time allotted to the country, to prevent us
    from speaking. They repeated everything that was in their reports,
    supporting the government. A position that was also requested by the

    At the meeting with NGOs in the countries to be considered at the 55th
    session (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Serbia, Bosnia and
    Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Ireland,
    and the United Kingdom), one of the experts directed a question to
    Cubalex, and members of the official Cuban NGOs consumed all the time,
    and we could not answer. That position was requested by the Committee
    Chair, who asked us to present additional information in writing, which
    we did the following day.

    Our perception is that the quasi-state NGOs and the Permanent Mission of
    Cuba in Geneva were nervous and undiplomatic in the face of our
    unexpected presence. The person who said he was from the Foreign
    Ministry accosted us at our arrival and tried to intimidate us,
    hostilely taking our photos without our permission. The NGO officials
    showed a lack of education and respect.

    As independent lawyers based in Havana, we are pleased with our first
    experience at the United Nations. We were able to take the opportunity
    to criticize the Cuban government in a setting where it had never been
    confronted by an NGO that it does not recognize.

    Despite the pressures and provocations, we maintained our equanimity,
    always respecting the place (Palace of the Nations, the main UN
    headquarters in Geneva), and the honorable members of the Committee on
    the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

    Before, it was very comfortable for the so-called Cuban NGOs to beguile
    with many words, without saying anything and without fear of
    contradiction. The Members of the Committee members felt uncomfortable
    about the hostility and lack of diplomacy that the Cuban delegation
    showed toward us.

    Translated by: Tomás A.

    11 July 2013

    Source: “Laritza Diversent Reports from Geneva / Laritza Diversent |
    Translating Cuba” –

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