Cuba: Government must release prisoners of conscience immediately

The prisoners were arrested during the March 2003 crackdown when scores of dissidents were detained in a series of targeted sweeps. Some were subsequently released, but many were subjected to hasty and manifestly unfair trials and sentenced to long prison terms.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK Director said:

'After a detailed review of the legal cases against them, it is clear that these 75 people are prisoners of conscience, detained for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.

'Amnesty International has heard reports that prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for long periods, receive inadequate access to medical care and that communications between prisoners and their families have been restricted. This kind of treatment is totally unacceptable.'

The new report, Cuba: One year too many: prisoners of conscience from the March 2003 crackdown reveals the conditions in which the detainees are being held. These prisoners face charges such as publishing articles critical of economic, social or human rights issues in Cuba; being involved in unofficial groups considered by the authorities to be counter-revolutionary or having contacts with individuals viewed as hostile to Cuba's interests.

Amnesty International has followed the situation of the 75 prisoners closely, and has received some allegations of ill treatment by prison guards or by other prisoners with the complicity of prison guards. In one case, Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona was reportedly taken from his cell and beaten by three prison guards on 31 December 2003.

In particular Amnesty International denounces the practice of deliberately incarcerating these prisoners of conscience at extreme distances from their homes and families. This practice contravenes United Nations principles and can be construed as an additional penalty imposed upon the prisoners and their families.

Kate Allen concluded, 'The Cuban authorities must release all prisoners of conscience immediately. We call upon the authorities to comply with the principles laid out in international human rights standards for the treatment of prisoners.'

Amnesty International has recorded a total of 88 prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

The report Cuba: One year too many: prisoners of conscience from the March 2003 crackdown is available from www.amnesty.org.

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