Emergency Appeal to ALA from Havana
Walter Skold writes "The head of the Independent Libraries in Cuba has just made an emergency appeal to the International Relations Committee, under ALA's policy 58.3. Prisoners have been released this year because of international pressure and letters sent, but the situation is still critical in Cuba. For those who are members of the ALA this is an appeal to our elected leaders, please let them know how you feel. For others, your letters and solidarity will make a difference too. (See http://freadom.info/sending_letters_wher.html)The ALA has not yet responded to Ms. Delgado since she made an appeal before the Toronto meeting. By simply making this appeal she is risking her political freedoms, and her jailed husband may face worse conditions because she dares to speak out.(International Relations Committee board members http://www.ala.org/ala/iro/ircboardmembers.htm)Mr. John W. Berry Chair ALA International Relations Committee June 18, 2004Dear Mr. Berry:I am sending this urgent appeal to ask for the prompt assistance of the American Library Association with regard to the many independent librarians in Cuba who are suffering imprisonment under harsh conditions. As is well known by now, in March 2003 the Cuban government staged a crackdown against Cuba's independent library movement. Because of their opposition to censorship, many of my colleagues have been unjustly convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. For example, my husband Hector Palacios was arrested when the secret police raided the Dulce Maria Loynaz Library, of which I am the director. During these raids book collections in the libraries were seized and, in some cases, the books were ordered to be burned by the courts.Confidential library patron records were also seized by the secret police during the March 2003 raids.All of the imprisoned librarians have been declared Prisoners of Conscience by Amnesty International, which is seeking their release. Amnesty has just published a report ("Cuba: One Year Too Many: Prisoners of Conscience from the March 2003 Crackdown") documenting the harsh and inhumane conditions under which many Cuban prisoners of conscience, including librarians, are being held. The alarming details on the mistreatment of Cuba's jailed librarians, many of whom are suffering serious health problems, are contained in the Amnesty report.In accordance with the ALA's principled support for intellectual freedom and your members' concern for justice, I am asking for the ALA's compassionate assistance in protesting the harsh and inhumane conditions under which Cuba's jailed librarians are being detained, and in seeking their release from prison.Thank you for taking the time to consider this urgent appeal for action, and please be assured that the International Relations Commitee's prompt response to this request at the ALA's Orlando conference would be deeply appreciated.Sincerely, Gisela Delgado Sablon National DirectorCuban Independent Library Project(Message phoned to Ramon Colas from Havana.)xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx(My additions. WS) 58.3 Abridgment of the Rights of Freedom of Foreign NationalsThreats to the freedom of expression of any person become threats to the freedom of all; therefore ALA adopts as policy the principles of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The Association will address the grievances of foreign nationals where the infringement of their rights of free expression is clearly a matter in which all free people should show concern. Resolutions or other documents attesting to such grievances will be brought to the attention of the Executive Board and Council by the ALA International Relations Committee.ALA Policy 53.7 Intellectual Freedom- Destruction of Libraries:The American Library Association deplores the destruction of libraries, library collections and property, and the disruption of the educational process by that act, whether it be done by individuals or groups of individuals and whether it be in the name of honest dissent, the desire to control or limit thought or ideas, or for any other purpose.53.4 Governmental Intimidation. The American Library Association opposes any use of government prerogatives which leads to the intimidation of the individual or the citizenry from the exercise of free expression. ALA encourages resistance to such abuse of government power, and supports those against whom such governmental power has been employed."