Senator Durbin leads group of Senators asking the IACHR to publish report on the murder of Oswaldo Payá 

Senador Durbin lidera grupo de senadores para solicitar a la CIDH que publique reporte sobre el asesinato de Oswaldo Payá
6 March, 2023

The bipartisan group composed of Dick Durbin (D-il), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R- TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to accelerate the progress of research on the murder of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero. The Payá family and the lawyers of the R.F. Kennedy Center filed the suit to the IACHR more than 9 years ago and have been updating to the Commission with all the evidence discovered during this time. Next, we share the official communication of Senator Dick Durbin and the full text of the letter.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With this summer marking the eleventh year since Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá’s suspicious death, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Mark Warner (D-VA), urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide an update on this case without further delay.  In 2013, Durbin sent his first letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza, urging the Commission to investigate Payá’s suspicious death.  Durbin continued pushing for answers with letters calling for more information sent in 2014, 2016, and 2021, all of which were resent to the Commission today in addition to Durbin’s new letter.

“Payá’s work, sustained threats against him, and key circumstances of the day he died are well-documented.  The Commission has proven from past investigations, such as the 2019 High-Level Commission on Nicaragua, that it can conduct its critical work even if the state in question is uncooperative.  Investigations such as the one into Payá’s death bring to light not only human rights issues of the past, but also help deter further acts of repression,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Tania Reneaum Panszi, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

“Members of the Organization of American States and the international community look to the Commission for protection, accountability, and justice.  As such, please provide us an update without delay on ongoing and future efforts on the Payá case,” the Senators continued.

In 2002, Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution.  Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.  

In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero.  The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.

Durbin has long sought justice for the death of Payá.  Last June, Durbin joined Senators Cruz, Rubio, Cardin, and Rick Scott (R-FL) to introduce bipartisan legislation to rename the street outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. “Oswaldo Payá Way,” to call out the oppression of the Cuban regime, and highlight the cause of Oswaldo Payá.  In 2012, he joined with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Menendez, Rubio, Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Richard Lugar (R-IN), and John Kerry (D-MA) in passing a resolution honoring the work of Payá and calling “on the Government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below: