Cuba: New report charts 'unprecendented' clampdown and calls for release of scores of dissidents

In a new 60-page report, 'Essential measures'? Human rights crackdown in the name of security, Amnesty International charts a pattern of arrests, summary and unfair trials, and long prison terms of up to 28 years. Those imprisoned have included journalists, engineers, economists, farmers, doctors, poets, teachers and human rights activists, with both established dissidents and those without a history of opposition activities arrested.

The crackdown, which began in mid-March 2003, has included the use by the Cuban authorities of harsh, previously unused legislation against individuals peacefully exercising their legitimate right to free expression.

In addition, Cuba has allowed the execution of three men by firing squad after a summary trial following the hijacking of a ferry in April. These were the first executions in Cuba for three years and Amnesty International is now concerned that these killings could signal a lifting of a de facto moratorium on the death penalty leading to executions of some of the 52 prisoners currently on death row in Cuba.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The 75 dissidents are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released, as should the country's 15 other prisoners of conscience.

'The Cuban authorities have punished individuals for giving interviews to US-based media or sending information to organisations like Amnesty International. The legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and association should not lead to imprisonment.

'We call on the Cuban government to reverse this alarming crackdown, release prisoners and suspend repressive legislation that has been used against peaceful Cuban citizens. It should also guarantee not to execute further prisoners following its sudden - and disturbing - return to the death penalty.'

Prisoners being held under the current crackdown include:

  • Juan Roberto de Miranda Hernandez, aged 57, head of an unofficial teachers college, sentenced to 20 years' for criticisms of Cuban education policy and taking part in demonstrations; has heart problems and, according to reports, high blood pressure and kidney ailments
  • Raul Rivero, aged 57, poet and journalist, sentenced to 20 years' for 'subversive activities, aimed at affecting the territorial independence and integrity of Cuba', including paid correspondence work for Agence France Press
  • Marcelo Manuel Lopez Banobre, aged 39, tugboat captain and human rights activist, sentenced to 15 years' for human rights work including 'sending information to international organisms like Amnesty International and Human Race [sic]'
  • Regis Iglesias Ramirez, aged 33, member of the Christian Liberation Movement in Havana, sentenced to 18 years' for involvement in a petition drive for legal reform (Proyecto Varela); several of the 75 were involved in this organisation's signature-collection campaign

Amnesty International has reviewed the legal documents of more than two-thirds of the 75 dissidents' cases and rejects the Cuban government's claims that those arrested were 'foreign agents' whose activities endangered Cuban independence and security. The organisation calls on the Cuban authorities to suspend repressive legislation, specifically Law 88, which counters the USA's economic embargo against Cuba with sweeping and vague provisions.

The 'Essential measures' report recognises the negative effect of the US embargo on the full range of human rights in Cuba and calls for the US to revise its policy with a view to ending its trade embargo.

A full copy of the report is available at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR250172003?open&of=ENG-CUB

Relevant information

Amnesty International Annual Report 2003 (for events of 2002) - country entry on Cuba: http://web.amnesty.org/report2003/Cub-summary-eng /p>

View latest press releases