Department of State. Released by
the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. March 31,
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Arbitrary arrest and detention continued to be problems,
and they remained the Government's most effective tactics
for harassing opponents. The Law of Penal Procedures requires
police to file formal charges and either release a detainee
or bring the case before a prosecutor within 96 hours of arrest.
It also requires the authorities to provide suspects with
access to a lawyer within 7 days of arrest. However, the Constitution
states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be
denied to anyone who actively opposes the decision of the
Cuban people to build socialism. The authorities routinely
invoked this sweeping authority to deny due process to those
detained on purported state security grounds.
The authorities routinely engaged in arbitrary arrest and
detention of human rights advocates, subjecting them to interrogations,
threats, and degrading treatment and unsanitary conditions
for hours or days at a time. Police frequently lacked warrants
when carrying out arrests or issued warrants themselves at
the time of arrest. Authorities sometime employed false charges
of common crimes to arrest political opponents. Detainees
often were not informed of the charges against them. The CCHRNC
reported a significant increase in the number of detentions
in February and March. In May Amnesty International recognized
the increase of arrests and harassment of dissidents, including
organizers for the opposition Varela Project (see Section
3), and expressed concern about the increased use of violence
by security forces. The authorities continued to detain human
rights activists and independent journalists for short periods,
often to prevent them from attending or participating in events
related to human rights issues (see Sections 2.a. and 2.b.).
The authorities also placed such activists under house arrest
for short periods for similar reasons.
On January 28, police arrested Martha Beatriz Roque, director
of the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists, for refusing
to allow government employees to fumigate her residence against
mosquitoes. Roque refused because she had suffered allergic
reactions as a result of previous fumigations. State security
officials took Roque to a Ministry of Health office, where
she was strip searched, held for 4 hours, and released. Government
officials broke into Roque's house and fumigated it while
she was in detention.
On February 24, state security officials arrested independent
journalist Carlos Alberto Dominguez for participating in an
event commemorating the four pilots killed in February 1996
by military aircraft. He was released the same day but was
arrested again on February 28 and remained jailed on charges
of "contempt for authority and public disorder"
(see Section 2.a.). At year's end, his relatives reported
that Dominguez was in poor health and receiving inadequate
treatment for hypertension and severe migraine headaches.
In late February, police arrested at least 300 persons near
the Mexican Embassy after 21 asylum seekers used a bus to
break through the gates of the embassy. Many of those arrested
were reportedly bystanders not involved in the embassy intrusion.
RRBs summoned by the Government to the Mexican Embassy beat
some bystanders. Most bystanders were interrogated and released,
but on March 6, Fidel Castro indicated that 130 of them would
be tried on charges related to the embassy break-in. According
to relatives, approximately 60 remained jailed at year's end;
none had been tried.
On March 13, police arrested seven human rights activists
in Nueva Gerona, Isle of Youth, as they conducted a public
demonstration calling for democratic reforms and the release
of political prisoners (see Sections 2.a. and 2.b.).
On March 18, state security officials arrested four leaders
of the Brotherhood of Blind Cubans to prevent a demonstration
against police mistreatment of handicapped street vendors
and calling for the release of blind dissident Juan Carlos
Gonzalez Leyva (see Sections 1.c., 2.b., and 5). Police released
the four after citing them with "official warnings."
On April 17, police arrested Barbaro Vela Coego and Armando
Dominguez Gonzalez, president and vice president, respectively,
of the January 6 Civic Movement, to prevent their attendance
at a fast in honor of political prisoners. They were held
for 2 hours and released (see Section 2.b.).
On April 22, police arrested Milka Pena Martinez of the Cuban
Pro Human Rights Party for protesting a police search of her
home (see Section 1.f.). Police also arrested Luis Ferrer
Garcia of the Christian Liberation Movement, who was present
at the time, and Ramon Collazo Almaguer, who led a group of
dissidents to Pena Martinez' home to protest her arrest. Pena
Martinez was fined and all three were released.
On May 19, police arrested Nereida Cala Escalona and Evelio
Manteira Barban as they departed a meeting in Santiago de
Cuba organized by the Christian Liberation Movement. They
were interrogated, threatened with imprisonment, and released
on May 20.
On June 1, police arrested nine activists as they departed
a human rights course at the illegal NGO Culture and Democracy
Institute in Santiago de Cuba. They were interrogated and
released on June 2.
On June 7, police arrested three members of the 30th of November
Party in Santiago de Cuba. They were interrogated and released
on June 10.
On June 14, state security officials beat and arrested independent
journalist Carlos Serpa Maceira while he was covering a march
by human rights activists in the Isle of Youth (see Section
2.a.). He was briefly detained, fined $48 (1,200 pesos), and
On July 24, police arrested human rights activist Adolfo
Lazaro Bosq at a vigil for political prisoners on charges
of "resistance and contempt for the revolutionary process."
On August 2, a municipal court sentenced him to 1 year and
9 months' imprisonment (see Section 1.e.).
In July state security officials arrested independent journalist
Yoel Blanco Garcia and took him to a local firehouse where
he was interrogated. The state security officials warned Blanco
Garcia not to visit the home of Martha Beatriz Roque, director
of the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists.
On July 29, state security officials arrested Rogelio Menendez
Diaz, president of the Cuban Municipalities for Human Rights.
He was held for 35 days in Villa Marista prison, where guards
transferred him between chilled and heated cells. During interrogations,
Menendez Diaz was accused of organizing clandestine cells
on behalf of exile groups along with activists Angel Pablo
Polanco and Marcel Valenzuela Salt, who had also been detained.
Menendez Diaz was charged with "contempt against the
Commander in Chief" and warned to cease opposition activities.
He was released on September 2 but rearrested on December
10, apparently to prevent his participation in events commemorating
International Human Rights Day. At year's end, he had not
been tried and remained jailed.
On July 30, state security officials arrested independent
journalist Angel Pablo Polanco and held him for 4 days in
an unregistered house of detention. Polanco was 60 years old
and moved with the aid of a walker. During a search of his
home, state security agents removed a fax machine and a telephone
which Polanco had purchased from a state company, $1,200 in
cash, a tape recorder, books on Cuban history, and files related
to his work as a journalist. The officials did not provide
a receipt for the money or the items (see Section 2.a.). Polanco
was charged with inciting others to commit "contempt
of authority" and "insulting the symbols of the
State," apparently in connection with plans by opposition
groups to mark the August 5 anniversary of 1994 riots in Havana.
He was accused of organizing clandestine cells along with
activists Manuel Menendez Diaz and Marcel Valenzuela Salt,
who had been arrested on July 29. Polanco was granted conditional
release on August 3. At year's end, Polanco had not been tried.
On September 11, police arrested Luis Milan of the Christian
Liberation Movement for writing a letter to municipal officials
in Santiago de Cuba calling for improved prison conditions.
On December 6, police arrested Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a
political prisoner who had been released on October 31 after
serving 3 years for disrespect, creating a public disturbance,
and encouraging others to violate the law. The authorities
arrested Biscet and 16 others to prevent them from holding
a seminar on nonviolent civil disobedience. The authorities
later released 12 of the detainees, but charged Biscet, his
associate Raul Arencibia Fajardo, and 2 others with public
disorder, which carries a sentence of up to 1 year.
The Government often held persons without charges for months
and then released them, which avoided the spectacle of a trial.
Of the 36 political prisoners arrested during the year, 6
were released without charges, including several who had been
informally advised of charges but were never processed.
State security police used detentions and warnings to prevent
organizations around the island from performing any actions
in remembrance of the four pilots killed in February 1996
by military aircraft. As in previous years, on July 13, police
prevented activists from commemorating the 1994 sinking of
the "13th of March" tugboat (see Sections 1.d and
The authorities sometimes detained journalists in order to
question them about contacts with foreigners or to prevent
them from covering sensitive issues or criticizing the Government
(see Section 2.a.).
Time in detention before trial counted toward time served
if convicted. Bail was available and usually was low and more
equivalent to a fine.
The Penal Code includes the concept of "dangerousness,"
defined as the "special proclivity of a person to commit
crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest contradiction
of socialist norms." If the police decide that a person
exhibits signs of dangerousness, they may bring the offender
before a court or subject him to therapy or political reeducation.
Government authorities regularly threatened prosecution under
this provision. Both the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR)
and the IACHR criticized this tactic for its subjectivity,
the summary nature of the judicial proceedings employed, the
lack of legal safeguards, and the political considerations
behind its application. According to the IACHR, the so-called
special inclination to commit crimes referred to in the Penal
Code amounted to a subjective criterion used by the Government
to justify violations of individual freedoms and due process
for persons whose sole crime was to hold a view different
from the official view.
The Government also used exile as a tool for controlling
and eliminating internal opposition. In May Amnesty International
noted that the Government detained human rights activists
repeatedly for short periods and threatened them with imprisonment
unless they gave up their activities or left the country.
The Government used these incremental, aggressive tactics
to compel independent librarian Ramon Humberto Colas and Maritza
Lugo Fernandez, vice president of the Democratic November
30 Party, to leave the country in December 2001 and January,
The Government pressured imprisoned human rights activists
and political prisoners to apply for emigration and regularly
conditioned their release on acceptance of exile. Human Rights
Watch observed that the Government routinely invoked forced
exile as a condition for prisoner releases and also pressured
activists to leave the country to escape future prosecution.
Amnesty International expressed particular concern about the
Government's practice of threatening to charge, try, and imprison
human rights advocates and independent journalists prior to
arrest or sentencing if they did not leave the country. According
to Amnesty International, this practice "effectively
prevents those concerned from being able to act in public
life in their own country."
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for independent courts; however,
it explicitly subordinates the courts to the ANPP and the
Council of State, which is headed by President Castro. The
ANPP and its lower level counterparts choose all judges. The
subordination of the courts to the Communist Party, which
the Constitution designates as the superior directive force
of society and the State, further compromises the judiciary's
independence. The courts undermined the right to a fair trial
by restricting the right to a defense and often failed to
observe the few due process rights available to defendants.
Civilian courts existed at the municipal, provincial, and
supreme court levels. Panels composed of a mix of professionally
certified and lay judges presided over them. There was a right
to appeal, access to counsel, and charges were known to the
defendant. Defendants enjoyed a presumption of innocence,
but the authorities often ignored this right in practice.
Military tribunals assumed jurisdiction for certain counterrevolutionary
cases and were governed by a special law. The military tribunals
processed civilians if a member of the military was involved
with civilians in a crime. There was a right to appeal, access
to counsel, and the charges were known to the defendant.
The law and trial practices did not meet international standards
for fair public trials. Almost all cases were tried in less
than 1 day; there were no jury trials. While most trials were
public, trials were closed when there were alleged violations
of state security. Prosecutors may introduce testimony from
a CDR member about the revolutionary background of a defendant,
which may contribute to either a longer or shorter sentence.
The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal courts
but limits it in provincial courts to cases such as those
involving maximum prison terms or the death penalty. Appeals
in capital cases are automatic. The Council of State ultimately
must affirm capital punishment.
Criteria for presenting evidence, especially in cases involving
human rights advocates, were arbitrary and discriminatory.
Often the sole evidence provided, particularly in political
cases, was the defendant's confession, usually obtained under
duress and without the legal advice or knowledge of a defense
lawyer (see Section 1.c.). The authorities regularly denied
defendants access to their lawyers until the day of the trial.
Several dissidents who served prison terms reported that they
were tried and sentenced without counsel and were not allowed
to speak on their own behalf.
The law provides the accused with the right to an attorney,
but the control that the Government exerted over the livelihood
of members of the state-controlled lawyers' collectives compromised
their ability to represent clients, especially when they defended
persons accused of state security crimes. Attorneys reported
reluctance to defend those charged in political cases due
to fear of jeopardizing their own careers.
On January 30, the Havana Provincial Court sentenced activist
Carlos Oquendo Rodriguez to 2 years' imprisonment for "contempt
for authority" and "public disorder." The provincial
court confirmed the sentence levied against Oquendo Rodriguez
by a municipal court in 2001 and appealed by him to the provincial
court. Prior to sentencing, police officials offered to suspend
Oquendo Rodriguez' sentence if he recanted his political beliefs,
but Oquendo Rodriguez refused.
On August 2, a municipal court sentenced human rights activist
Adolfo Lazaro Bosq to 1 year and 9 months' imprisonment for
"resistance and contempt against the revolutionary process."
Bosq was arrested on July 24 at a candlelight vigil for political
prisoners (see Section 1.d.).
Vladimiro Roca Antunez of the Internal Dissident Working
Group was released on May 5, after serving most of his 5-year
sentence for a 1997 conviction for acts against the security
of the State in relation to the crime of sedition after the
group peacefully expressed their disagreement with the Government.
Three other members received conditional releases in 2000.
Human rights monitoring groups inside the country estimated
the number of political prisoners to be between 230 and 300
persons. At year's end, the CCHRNC reported that 36 political
prisoners had been arrested and that there were 248 political
prisoners in the country; at the end of 2001, the CCHRNC had
reported 240 political prisoners. The CCHRNC noted that since
the Government refused to publish the number of prisoners
in the country, its figures were based on information obtained
from family members of prisoners. A spokesperson for the CCHRNC
noted an end to a recent downward trend in the numbers of
political prisoners, with an increase in detentions in February
and March (see Section 1.d.). The authorities imprisoned persons
on charges such as disseminating enemy propaganda, illicit
association, contempt for the authorities (usually for criticizing
President Castro), clandestine printing, or the broad charge
of rebellion, which often was brought against advocates of
peaceful democratic change. The Government did not permit
access to political prisoners by human rights organizations.
It continued to deny access to prisoners by the ICRC.