The Reform Movement has a long history of supporting international human rights. In 1939, the URJ passed a resolution on Human Rights stating, "We maintain that every human being is entitled to live unmolested and to enjoy his inalienable rights in the land in which he was born or in which he has dwelt lawfully. In modern civilization no government has the right to exclude any of its people from life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by legal discriminations or by racial or religious persecutions." Above all, we seek to uphold Hillel's statement: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" (Pirkei Avot 1:14).
In March 2003, seventy-five dissidents were arrested and, with minimal due process, given jail sentences of up to twenty-eight years for "mercenary activities and other acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the Cuban state" ("Cuba Confirms Sentencing Dozens of Pro-Democracy Dissidents," The New York Times April 10, 2003, Sec. A, p. 9). Among those arrested were leaders of the Varela Project, who had obtained 11,000 signatures on a petition in support of democratic reform. Those imprisoned included librarians, economists, journalists, and other dissidents. Amnesty International has noted that "a review of the limited information contained in the available trial documents indicates that the conduct for which dissidents were prosecuted was not self-evidently criminal; it was nonviolent and seemed to fall within the parameters of the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms as guaranteed under international standards." Cuba's classification of these acts as crimes is emblematic of the government's disregard for precious individual freedoms.
The Cuban government contends that those arrested were conspiring against the state with the aid of the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher termed the arrests an "appalling act of intimidation against those who seek freedom and democratic change in Cuba." In response, the U.S. ordered the expulsion of fourteen Cuban diplomats from New York and Washington, DC, and Canada delivered a letter of protest to the Cuban ambassador.
This and other such actions taken by the Cuban government to repress the liberty of the Cuban people constitute ongoing violations of human rights.
THEREFORE, the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:
- Declare our opposition to the imprisonment of individuals by the Cuban government for exercising basic human rights; and
- Call upon the governments of the United States and Canada and religious organizations internationally to seek the immediate release of all persons imprisoned by the Cuban government simply for exercising basic human rights.