Cuba: Two years after crackdown, prisoners confined to tiny cells and beaten

Prison guards reportedly stamped on the neck of Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, causing him to pass out during a beating last November while he was handcuffed.

Another man, Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, was reportedly stripped and beaten by guards during an assault at the Youth Prison of Santa Clara last October. He is serving a sentence of 28 years.

The 71 men, aged 26 to 63, were arrested for “offences” such as publishing critical articles or communicating with human rights groups.

Amnesty International believes they were imprisoned for peacefully expressing their beliefs and opinions and calls on the Cuban government to immediately and unconditionally release all of them.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:

"Conditions for some of these prisoners are inhumane, confining them for months to tiny, filthy cells with no water or natural light. Some are not permitted to wear any clothes and are denied bedding.

"And yet all you have to do in Cuba to be imprisoned for months or even years is to disagree with the authorities.

"The Cuban government must release these prisoners immediately and unconditionally."

Normando Hernández González was held in a punishment cell for four months as a punitive measure after ending a 17-day hunger strike to protest against his transfer to Kilo 5 ½ Prison, where he was held with common criminals. During 2004, at least nine prisoners were reportedly held continuously in walled-in punishment cells.

Such cells are said to be very small (2 x 1 m) with no natural light and no furniture. The prisoners are not allowed out, to receive visitors or to exercise and sometimes are not permitted to wear any clothing nor given any bedding.

The conditions under which the nine Cuban prisoners are reported to have been held, amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Some prisoners of conscience and their relatives have also suffered the suspension of visits, correspondence and telephone communications for an undetermined period of time when prisoners’ relatives have made statements in the local or international press or to human rights organizations regarding the treatment of their relative in detention.

During 2004 and early 2005 a total of 19 prisoners of conscience were released, 14 of whom were granted “conditional release” permitting them to carry out the rest of their sentences outside prison for health reasons, in the knowledge they could be detained again.

Amnesty International reiterates its calls on the Cuban government to:

  • Order the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience
  • Ensure that an independent and impartial inquiry is held into allegations of ill-treatment by prison guards and, that the officials implicated in these allegations are immediately suspended from duty and those responsible brought to justice
  • Suspend Law 88 and other similar legislation that facilitates the imprisonment of Cuban citizens by unlawfully restricting the exercise of their fundamental freedoms
  • Comply with international human rights standards for the treatment of prisoners
  • Ratify both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Amnesty International believes that the unilateral US embargo against Cuba contributes to the undermining of key civil and political rights in the country.

On these grounds, Amnesty International calls for its immediate lifting. The organisation also calls on the Cuban government to stop using the embargo as a pretext to violate the human rights of the Cuban people.

Background

Most of the dissidents arrested during the 2003 crackdown were charged with offences carrying higher penalties under Article 91 of the Penal Code or Law 88.

Article 91 provides sentences of 10 to 20 years or death for anyone who “in the interest of a foreign state, carries out an act which has the objective of harming the independence of the Cuban state or its territorial integrity”.

Law 88, provides lengthy prison terms for those found guilty of supporting United States policy on Cuba aimed at "disrupting internal order, destabilizing the country and destroying the Socialist State and the independence of Cuba".

View the report Cuba: Prisoners of conscience; 71 longing for freedom

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