(GENEVA) – PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), in collaboration with PEN International and the PEN Club of Cuban Writers in Exile, delivered a joint oral statement on March 26 on behalf of a coalition of civil society organizations responding to the Cuban State’s Universal Periodic Review during the 55th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In November 2023, ARC, PEN International, and a coalition of civil society organizations submitted a joint stakeholder submission on the situation of freedom of expression and artistic freedom in Cuba. This submission was cited in the “Summary of stakeholders’ information.”  

As documented by the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review published on December 20, 2023, this review made 361 recommendations for the Cuban State.  


About the Universal Periodic Review (UPR):

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. Convening at least three times a year, the UNHRC brings together UN officials, diplomatic representatives, and human rights organizations to review pressing human rights issues of global concern. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an important peer-review mechanism within the UNHCR, allowing key stakeholders, including civil society (often accompanied by witnesses and survivors of human rights violations), to provide research, evidence, and recommendations that Member States can choose to use in their review. 

The UPR also guarantees the regular monitoring and assessment of human rights in all 193 United Nations Member States, as each is subject to a turn as the State under Review (SuR) every four and a half years. During its UPR, the SuR receives recommendations from other Member States, reviews and provides its position on said recommendations, and commits to implement new supported recommendations going forward.


Full text of the joint oral statement presented to the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council by Julie Trébault at the Palais de la Paix in Geneva on March 26:

Thank you, Mr. Vice-President.

On behalf of PEN International, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), and the PEN Club of Cuban Writers in Exile, we are honored to address the Human Rights Council regarding the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Cuban State.

Since the previous UPR in 2018, Cuba has faced an exodus of people amid the deepening criminalization of freedom of expression, artistic expression, and social protest, including the adoption of legislation restricting such freedoms.

Two months after the July 11, 2021 protests in Cuba, PEN International, ARC, and partner organizations documented 39 arrests of artists, 55 artists, and writers arbitrarily detained, under house arrest, or investigations conducted under illegal judicial processes. The working group Justicia 11J has documented the detention of 68 artists or cultural professionals during peaceful demonstrations in 2021 and 2022. Subsequently, more than a dozen artists were forced into exile, and at least another dozen remain in detention.

We highlight the cases of artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel Castillo Pérez, and Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez, who, among others, were sentenced to prison in Cuba for exercising their free expression.

We urge the United Nations member states to demand the immediate release of artists and writers imprisoned in Cuba, an end to forced exile, and that Cuba heed the recommendations made by states and implement measures for the full exercise of human rights.

Thank you.

About ARC

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) is a project of PEN America dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the networks and organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an at-risk artist, please contact ARC.