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Cuban prisoner of conscience released

Roberto Quiñones Haces
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Cuba: Prisoner of conscience released

Roberto Quiñones Haces
© CubaNet 2019

Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, Cuban lawyer, independent journalist and prisoner of conscience, was released from prison on 4 September 2020, after serving his one-year sentence. Although it is good news that Roberto is finally home, his conviction and imprisonment for merely expressing his opinions, should have never happened. We will continue to monitor the situation after his release.





Opposition leader released from prison

Cuba Online Freedom
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Urgent Action outcome: Opposition leader released from prison

After being in detention since October 2019, José Daniel Ferrer García was sent to house arrest in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

3rd update on UA 134/19


Prisoner of conscience at risk of Covid-19

Cuban Human Rights Agenda
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According to information available to Amnesty International, Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, a lawyer an independent journalist at the news website Cubanet, was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison in August 2019 by the Municipal Court of Guantanamo for resistance and disobedience. He was arrested on 11 September 2019 and has been in prison ever since.

During his detention since September 2019, Roberto Quiñones Haces has been regularly reporting the prison conditions in which he is held. On March 31, he wrote in Cubanet that even though prison authorities had implemented certain measures regarding COVID-19, “the quality of the food is still deplorable. Despite reports of the vulnerability of older adults (prisoners over 60) to COVID-19, many of them are kept in cubicles where they live in overcrowded conditions with almost two dozen people.”

On March 5, he had already described the quality of food and water served in prison, as well as the medical attention available to prisoners. According to his family, he is allegedly held in a small cell with at least 17 other individuals, sharing beds and sanitary services in the same cell.  

International human rights standards regarding the rights of persons deprived of liberty or in detention are particularly relevant considering a global health crisis as COVID-19. In general, all prisoners must be granted protection and access to healthcare in the face of COVID-19, without discrimination. People who have no choice but to be in close proximity to each other face particular risk for COVID-19, based on the information currently available. 
In countries such as Cuba, activists, including political activists, and human rights defenders are regularly imprisoned solely for their consciously held beliefs. These people should not be in prison in the first place and should be immediately released. Therefore, our primary call under these circumstances is that Cuba should release all prisoners of conscience and those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their freedoms of expression and conscience. Roberto Quiñones Haces also has health affections that put him at increased risk, due to his age. Cuban authorities must release Roberto immediately and unconditionally, considering the risk that COVID-19 poses, besides his condition as a prisoner of conscience.

On 20 August, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Office of the Special Rapporteur condemned the prison sentence against journalist Roberto Quiñones and expressed concern about the persistence of criminalization and harassment against communicators and human rights defenders in Cuba. The Office of the Special Rapporteur in a recent report on Cuba, found that state agents are the “main source of threats and attacks against the press” and called on this practice to be “dismantled and sanctioned.”

Amnesty International has found that the disproportionate and arbitrary use of the criminal law, and campaigns of state-sponsored discrimination against those who dare to speak out, coupled with discriminatory dismissals from state-employment, and the lack of an independent judiciary to challenge this, has created a profound climate of fear in Cuba.

Cuba remains the only country in the Americas which Amnesty International is not permitted to enter for human rights monitoring work.

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Artist opposing censorship at risk

Illustrations for Cuban Human Rights Agenda
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Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has become a leading voice of opposition against Decree 349 in Cuba.

Under the Decree, all artists, including collectives, musicians and performers, are prohibited from operating in public or private spaces without prior approval by the Ministry of Culture. Individuals or businesses that hire artists without the authorization can be sanctioned, and artists that work without prior approval can have their materials confiscated or be substantially fined. Under the decree, the authorities also have the power to immediately suspend a performance and to propose the cancelation of the authorization granted to carry out the artistic activity.

Such decisions can only be appealed before the same Ministry of Culture (Article 10); the decree does not provide an effective remedy to appeal such a decision before an independent body, including through the courts.

The decree contains vague and overly broad restrictions on artistic expression. For example, it prohibits audiovisual materials that contain, among other things: “use of patriotic symbols that contravene current legislation” (Article 3a), “sexist, vulgar or obscene language” (Article 3d), and “any other (content) that violates the legal provisions that regulate the normal development of our society in cultural matters” (Article 3g). Furthermore, it makes it an offence to “commercialize books with content harmful to ethical and cultural values” (Article 4f).

International human rights law and standards require that any restriction to the right to freedom of expression, 
including through art, must be provided by law and formulated with sufficient precision to avoid overly broad or 
arbitrary interpretation or application, and in a manner that is accessible to the public and that clearly outlines what
conduct is or is not prohibited.

As signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Cuba is required to refrain from
acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty. Article 19 of the ICCPR specifically protects the right to
freedom of expression, which includes the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds…” including “in the form of art”.

Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that Decree 349 is likely to have a general chilling effect
on artists in Cuba, preventing them from carrying out their legitimate work for fear of reprisals.

Article 203 of the Penal Code, one of the provisions under which Luis Manuel appears to be charged, is inconsistent with international standards as its effect is to limit the right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International opposes laws prohibiting disrespect of heads of state or public figures, the military or other public institutions, or flags or symbols (such as lèse majesté and desacato laws).

Luis Manuel Otero was named a prisoner of conscience following his detention of 1 March. Although he was 
released on 14 March, the criminal procedure against him remains open, and he remains at risk of further detention. If Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is sent back to prison, he would revert to be a prisoner of conscience as all the charges against him stem solely from the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

His trial was originally scheduled for 11 March 2020 but was delayed until further notice.

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Opposition leader at risk of torture

A Cuban opposition leader has been held in detention for over 40 days without being informed of the charges against him.

First update on UA: 134/19

Opposition leader detained

Cuban opposition remember remains held in detention without charges, following 72 hours incommunicado detention.

First UA: 134/19

Urgent Action update: Cuban environmentalist conditionally released

Prisoner of conscience and environmental activist, Dr Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was released with conditions.

2nd update on UA 109/18 issued 11/07/2018

Children's Citizenship: Proposed Motion to Councils

Proposed motion on Children's Citizenship fees to be put to local councils.

Children's Citizenship: Proposed Motion to Councils
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