Cuba: Government should commit to human rights by ending harassment of dissidents

Amnesty International has welcomed the announcement made by Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs that the country will soon ratify key human rights treaties. But it added that this move will only be meaningful if matched by change in Cuba’s policies of intimidation and arbitrary arrests of political dissidents.

Kerrie Howard, Deputy Director at Amnesty International’s Americas Programme said:

“The Cuban government must signal its true commitment to human rights treaties by acting to release all those detained solely for their peaceful political activities and ensuring that all human rights are respected and promoted across the country.

The Cuban government’s announcement coincided with an increasing crackdown against dissidents between 21 November and 10 December – UN Human Rights Day – when many political dissidents were arbitrarily arrested because of their involvement in peaceful protests.

According to local reports, the detentions lasted for short periods of time and were aimed at discouraging demonstrations against the government, particularly on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

At least three people remained detained and were transferred to maximum-security prison: Juan Bermudez Toranzo, Manuel Perez Soria and Vladimir Alejo Miranda.

On 21 November, Juan Bermudez Toranzo, vice-president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, was arrested at his house with four other people where they held a collective fast to demand the release of political prisoners in Cuba. Manuel Perez Soria was detained on 27 November, while he was on hunger strike to demand the Cuban Government the access to an identity card. This is not the first time that he is arrested for exercising his right to freedom of expression. On 24 April 2007 he was released after spending almost two years in prison after he was arrested during a peaceful demonstration in Havana to commemorate the 13 de Marzo tugboat incident of 1994.

The recent detentions add to the at least 62 journalists, members of unofficial political groups and political dissidents held in prisons across Cuba because of their peaceful political activities – all adopted by Amnesty International as “prisoners of conscience”.

“Every time someone in Cuba is arrested or imprisoned solely for their human rights work or their opinions, it sends a strong message to all human rights organizations that their work will not be tolerated,” said Kerrie Howard.

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