Act of Repudiation
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    Cuba: Amnesty International’s human rights concerns


    Media Briefing

    AI Index: AMR 25/003/2007 (Public)
    News Service No: 018
    29 January 2007

    Cuba: Amnesty International's human rights concerns
    For the past 40 years, Amnesty International (AI) has campaigned against
    human rights violations committed by the Cuban government, in
    particular, the imprisonment of political dissidents and journalists as
    a result of severe restrictions on the freedom of expression, freedom of
    association and assembly.

    AI has also expressed serious concern about the negative impact of the
    US economic embargo on the ability of Cubans to fully enjoy their human

    Freedom of expression and association
    Severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association affect
    thousands of people across Cuba.

    In Cuba, all print and broadcast media are under state control. Also,
    access to the internet is severely limited outside governmental offices
    and educational institutions.

    Dissidents and critics of the regime, including journalists are
    frequently arrested and detained, some of them on charges of
    "pre-criminal dangerousness".

    During 2006, there was a rise in the harassment and intimidation of
    independent journalists and librarians.

    From January to August 2006, Journalist Guillermo Fariñas staged an
    intermittent hunger strike to obtain access to the internet, without

    Armando Betancourt Reina, a freelance journalist was arrested on 23 May
    2006 as he took notes and photographs of evictions from a house in the
    city of Camagüey. He was charged with public disorder. Armando
    Betancourt was reportedly held incommunicado for a week at the police
    station before being transferred to Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey on
    6 June 2006.

    Prisoners of conscience
    At least 67 prisoners of conscience – people such as teachers,
    journalists and human rights defenders detained for their peaceful
    activities — are currently held in prisons across Cuba, following
    unfair trials that failed to uphold international standards.

    AI is currently reviewing the cases of dozens of other prisoners who
    could also be considered prisoners of conscience.

    13 men and women are serving their sentences outside prison because of
    health concerns.

    1 prisoner of conscience was released during 2006.

    Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a bricklayer and plumber, was arrested on 20
    March 2003 whilst taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús
    Yánez Pelletier in Havana to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and
    other political prisoners.

    He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in 2003 on charges of
    showing "contempt to the figure of Fidel Castro", "public disorder" and
    "resistance". In November 2005 he was sentenced to an additional 15
    years for "contempt" and "resistance" in prison. In May 2006, he was
    again tried on the same charges and sentenced to an additional
    seven-year term. He is now serving a prison sentence of 25 years and six

    Arbitrary arrests
    Amnesty International receives almost daily reports of political
    dissidents, independent journalists and critics being arrested for
    carrying out dissident activities or reporting on the human rights
    situation in Cuba and sent to prison where they await trial. In some
    cases they wait for months or even years while in others they are tried
    and sentenced within a few days.

    Prisoner of conscience, Julio César López Rodríguez, Vice President of
    the Frente Línea Dura and Director of an independent library, was
    arrested on 22 July 2005, whilst he tried to participate in a peaceful
    demonstration in front of the French Embassy. He has been campaigning
    for many years for political reform and the defence of human rights, and
    kept anti-totalitarian books in his library. He has been held without
    charge or trial.

    Detention without charge or trial
    Scores of people across Cuba are held without charge, and in some cases
    without trial, on suspicion of counter-revolutionary activities or on
    unclear charges.

    Prisoner of conscience Emilio Leyva Pérez, President of Hard Front Line,
    Frente Línea Dura and delegate of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society,
    Asamblea para promover la Sociedad Civil, was arrested on 13 July 2005
    whilst participating in a peaceful event in Havana, He has been held
    without charge or trial. He was declared a prisoner of conscience in the
    past after he was detained in February 2002. On that occasion, he was
    held without being tried until he was released in June 2004.

    Unfair sentences
    Political dissidents and critics are often sentenced for a crime known
    as "social dangerousness". This is a pre-emptive measure that is defined
    as the "proclivity to commit a crime" and targets any behaviour contrary
    to the "socialist morale" like "drunkenness", "drug addiction" and
    "anti-social behaviour" but it is applied to political dissidents,
    independent journalists and critics. People tried for "dangerousness"
    are sentenced for up to 4 years of prison while the law provides for
    "therapeutic treatment", "re-education" or "surveillance by the
    Revolutionary National Police."

    Alexander Santos Hernández, national coordinator for the Eastern
    Democratic Alliance (Alianza Democrática Oriental, ADO) was arrested on
    5 June 2006 and sentenced in a summary trial to 4 years for "social

    In November 2004, he previously served a six-month prison term on a
    conviction of "disobedience" for collecting signatures for the Varela
    Project which aimed at requesting a national referendum on democratic

    Harassment and intimidation of dissidents and critics
    During 2006, there was an increase in the public harassment and
    intimidation of critics and political dissidents by quasi-official
    groups in so-called acts of repudiation.

    Acts of repudiation or demonstrations staged by government supporters
    targeting political dissidents and critics are on the increase.
    According to them, the act of repudiation and demonstrations are
    organized with the collusion of the authorities. AI believes that acts
    of repudiation could amount to psychological torture given the strain
    they can cause on the victims and their relatives. Physical aggression
    has also been reported during some acts of repudiation.

    Juan Carlos González Leiva, President of the Cuban Foundation for Human
    Rights, was the target of several acts of repudiation at his home in the
    city of Ciego de Avila. He and his family were repeatedly threatened by
    demonstrators. He was arrested in March 2002 for "disrespect", "public
    disorder", "resistance" and "disobedience" and spent two years in prison
    without trial. In April 2004, he was sentenced to four years'
    imprisonment to be served at his home.

    Death penalty
    Cuba retains the death penalty for serious crimes, such as acts of
    terrorism. However, in recent years it has only rarely been applied.

    The last known execution took place in April 2003 when three young men
    were sentenced to death for hijacking a boat in order to flee the island.

    To AI's knowledge, there are currently around 40 people on death row
    across Cuba but the exact number is difficult to determine given the
    restricted access to court and official documents.

    Amnesty International considers that the death penalty is the ultimate
    form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and oppo
    its use in all circumstances.

    Impact of the US embargo
    Amnesty International has called for the US embargo against Cuba to be
    lifted, as it is highly detrimental to Cubans' enjoyment of a range of
    economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to food, health
    and sanitation – particularly affecting the weakest and most vulnerable
    members of the population.

    According to UNICEF, the availability of medicines and basic medical
    materials has decreased in Cuba as a consequence of the US embargo
    against the island (1).

    AI also believes that the US embargo has undermined freedom of movement
    between Cuba and the US and restricted family reunifications.

    (1) Report of the UN Secretary General to the UN General Assembly on
    Item 27 of the provisional agenda "NECESSITY OF ENDING THE ECONOMIC,
    AGAINST CUBA", 20 September 1995.

    Public Document
    For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in
    London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
    Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web:

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