By Sarah Kerr and Madeleine Bair
This week on The Human Rights Channel, citizen video captures testimony of the mass arrest of Cuban pro-democracy activists last Sunday. Also, we follow up on human rights violations in Fiji and South Africa that were documented on video. And finally, a media advocacy project shares stories of daily life in West Papua.
Pro-Democracy Activists Arrested in Cuba
On February 15, 69 activists from the pro-democracy groups Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU) and Ciudadanas por la Democracia (CxD) were arrested while attempting to attend a Catholic mass outside the city of Santiago de Cuba. According to UNPACU, three activists were beaten, two of whom required medical attention. In the video below, activists describe treatment by police. Several women testify that they suffered sexual harassment, such as being forced to remove their clothes.
The church, dedicated to the country’s patron saint, Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, has become an important protest site for Cuban activists. In 2013, pro-democracy groups held a large anti-Castro rally on its steps. According to UNPACU, activists have organized regularly to attend mass together, only to be arrested and harassed by police en route. For more recent videos by Cuban activists, see this playlist and blog post.
Two Years Later, Internal Investigation into Torture Video Complete
Nearly two years after a YouTube video exposed torture by Fijian police officers, government officials say they have completed their internal investigation. The graphic footage, released in February of 2013, documents police beating and sexually abusing two escaped prisoners. Public outrage and international pressure brought widespread attention to the case, with neighboring countries condemning the Fijian government for their poor response. The Fijian Prime Minister and police officials remained opaque regarding their internal investigations, repeatedly reaffirming their faith in security officers. Last week, Fiji’s police commissioner told the media that the internal investigation has been completed and submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). It is unclear if and when a final report will be released to the public. While all accused officers were fired following the incident, no charges have been brought against them.
Videos Showcase Life in West Papua
Since the end of Dutch colonial administration of Indonesia in the early 1960s, the indigenous people of West Papua have been engaged in a struggle for independence. While the voices of West Papuans have been widely repressed and marginalized, Papuan Voices seeks to change that. The project includes an online collection of videos focusing on issues such as education, the economy, equality and other aspects of daily life. This video, for example, is a window into the life of a rural doctor and spiritual leader as he visits communities decimated by a mysterious disease.
Victims of Forced Eviction in Cape Town Remain Homeless
Last June, hundreds of residents were evicted from their houses in Lwandle, a community on the southern edge of Cape Town. It was the largest of a series of forced evictions in Cape Town, many of which were documented on video. The violent and abrupt nature of the demolitions led to an investigation around the legality of the evictions. While the city of Cape Town has re-housed hundreds of affected families, GroundUp reports that more than six months later, at least 230 people originally slated to be re-housed remain in crowded temporary shelters.
And for resources on citizen video verification and curation, visit the Human Rights Channel’s website.