May 30, 2001

Amnesty International 2001 Annual Report / Cuba

Amnesty International. 2001 Annual Report / Cuba

Covering events from January - December 2000


Republic of Cuba
Head of state and government: Fidel Castro Ruz
Capital: Havana
Population: 11.2 million
Official language: Spanish
Death penalty: retentionist
2000 treaty ratifications/signatures: Optional Protocol to the UN Children's Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict; Optional Protocol to the UN Women's Convention

Individuals and groups peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to face repression. Some conditional releases of prisoners of conscience gave rise to hopes that the attitude of the Cuban government towards dissidents might be thawing, but new sentences and a serious escalation in repression during the closing months of 2000 discouraged such optimism. Journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders were subjected to severe harassment. Several hundred people, at least 13 of whom were prisoners of conscience, remained imprisoned for political offences. The authorities continued to use short term detention, house arrest, threats and harassment to stifle and discourage political dissent. The courts continued to apply the death penalty.


In Cuba, repression of dissent is legitimized by the Constitution and the Penal Code. Some offences against state security, such as ''enemy propaganda'', as well as offences against authority, such as ''disrespect'', have been widely applied to silence critics. Others, like ''dangerousness'', are ill-defined and open to politically motivated misuse. At times, dissidents have been convicted of criminal offences believed to have been fabricated in order to discredit them or their organization or in retaliation for peaceful expression of their beliefs. Detained dissidents have on occasion been held for long periods without trial, or convicted after procedures that did not meet international standards for fair trial.

The US embargo against Cuba continued. The Cuban government has traditionally argued that it is justified in depriving dissidents of fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly in order to maintain the unity of the country against hostile forces abroad. Although AI's mandate does not permit it to take a position on the US embargo against Cuba or any other type of sanction, AI recognizes that the embargo has increased hardship within Cuba and has contributed, for example, to poor prison conditions. However, AI maintains that all states, irrespective of any external threat, are obliged to fulfil the duties laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the duty to respect fundamental freedoms.

Prisoners of conscience

At least 13 identified prisoners of conscience were held at the end of 2000. AI was also investigating the cases of numerous possible prisoners of conscience, including a further 13 individuals arrested during the escalation in repression at the end of the year.

Angel Moya Acosta and Julia Cecilia Delgado were convicted of ''disrespect'' and sentenced to a year's imprisonment each after being detained in mass arrests that took place in the days leading up to the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December (see below).

Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, a journalist, was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in January for collecting toys which he planned to give away to children. He was convicted of hoarding. His conviction appeared to be motivated by his work for the independent press agency Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes, Union of Cuban Independent Journalists and Writers, and his reported links with exile groups in Miami, USA, opposed to the government. His arrest in January took place during a period of clamp-down on dissidents, in the aftermath of the Ibero-American Summit in Havana. He was released in July after serving his sentence.

In July Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, president of the unofficial Movimiento de Jóvenes Cubanos por la Democracia, Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, was convicted of ''disrespect'', ''public disorder'', and ''damages''. Eddy Alfredo Mena y González, another member of the movement, stood trial with him on the same charges. Nestor Rodríguez was sentenced to six years and two months' imprisonment, while Eddy Alfredo Mena was sentenced to five years and one month.

Dr Oscar Elías Biscet González, president of the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, a humanitarian organization considered illegal by the Cuban authorities, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment on 25 February. He was initially arrested on 3 November 1999 and charged with ''insult to the symbols of the homeland'', which carries a maximum sentence of one year's imprisonment. The charge was reportedly brought against him because he hung a Cuban flag sideways on his balcony during a press conference at his home on 28 October 1999. The prosecutor's petition against him, issued in February 2000, included two further charges - ''public disorder'' and ''instigation to commit a crime''.


Several prisoners of conscience were conditionally released.

Marta Beatriz Roque, Felix Bonne Carcasés and René Gómez Manzano, three of the so-called ''Group of Four'', were conditionally released in May. The four members of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna para el Análisis de la Situación Socio-Económica Cubana, Internal Dissidents' Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, had been held in custody since July 1997. They were sentenced in 1999 to between three-and-a-half and five years' imprisonment on a charge of sedition, under state security legislation. The fourth member of the group, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, remained in prison.

Orestes Rodríguez Horruitiner, sentenced to four years' imprisonment in 1997 for ''enemy propaganda'' was conditionally released in April after serving part of his sentence. He was prosecuted after publications considered by the authorities to be counter-revolutionary were found at his home.

Dissidents detained without trial

A number of members and supporters of opposition groups were detained without trial. More than 100 were rounded up and held briefly in the days around 10 December.

Maritza Lugo Fernández, vice-president of the unauthorized Partido Democrático 30 de Noviembre ''Frank País'', ''Frank País'' 30 November Democratic Party, was arrested on 23 December 1999. She planned to participate in a religious procession to celebrate Christmas but was detained along with six others, all of whom were released within a few days. She went on hunger strike twice in protest against her arrest and continued detention without charge. She was eventually charged with ''public disorder'', but was not tried. She was released on 1 June, more than five months after her arrest. Maritza Lugo Fernández was rearrested on 15 December and remained in detention at the end of the year.

Angel Moya Acosta and brothers Guido and Ariel Sigler Amaya, all members of the illegal Movimiento Opción Alternativa, Alternative Option Movement, were detained on 15 December 1999 after participating in a peaceful demonstration five days earlier in Pedro Betancourt village, Matanzas province, to celebrate the 51st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although they were charged with ''resistance'', ''public disorder'', and ''instigation to commit a crime'', no trial ever took place. Guido Sigler Amaya was transferred from prison to house arrest in June, and was freed in July. Ariel Sigler Amaya and Angel Moya Acosta were freed on 7 August. Angel Moya Acosta was rearrested in December and sentenced to one year's imprisonment for ''disrespect'' (see above).

Death penalty

Cuba maintains the death penalty for a large number of offences. At least eight people were sentenced to death by firing squad in 2000, and at least 20 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year. Concern about the death penalty is exacerbated by the authorities' failure to uphold their own guarantees of fair trial, particularly the right to adequate defence. It is difficult for AI to monitor application of the death penalty in Cuba as sentences and executions are rarely made public.

Jorge Luis Rodríguez Mir, who has consistently maintained his innocence, was sentenced to death for the murder of a policeman in November 1999. Jorge Luis Rodríguez Mir reportedly suffers from schizophrenia and epilepsy and while in prison mutilated his own hands so badly that they had to be amputated. According to reports, although his medical condition was considered at trial, the authorities decided not to take this into account when giving their verdict, in contravention of international standards.

Osmany Brito Cartaya, Alberto Díaz Pérez, Julio Alberto Morales Montero, Morlaix Nodal Pozo, Reidel Rodríguez Reyes and Héctor Santana Vega were all tried and sentenced to death in February 2000, following a December 1999 escape attempt from the Ciego de Avila Provincial Prison during which five prison guards died. The six men exercised their automatic right of appeal to the People's Supreme Court, which upheld the convictions and the cases then went before the Cuban Council of State. The men were held in Cuba's most secure prison, the National Special Regime Prison in Camaguey province.

Edimir Torres Sifonte was sentenced to death on 25 January for the rape and murder of a young woman. He appealed in May against his conviction, which was reportedly upheld.

José Hassán Rojas was sentenced to death for murder in July. His appeal was before the People's Supreme Court at the end of the year.

Prison conditions

Prison conditions reportedly continued to be poor and in some cases constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Many prisoners were said to be in poor health as a result of insanitary conditions and inadequate medical attention.

AI country reports and visits


    • Cuba : Short term detention and harassment of dissidents (AI Index: AMR 25/004/2000)
    • Cuba: Prisoners of conscience - New convictions overshadow releases (AI Index: AMR 25/021/2000)


    AI last visited Cuba in 1988. Since then the government has not responded to the organization's requests to be allowed into the country.

    Link to the Amnesty International library of documents on Cuba

    © Copyright Amnesty International Publications 2001- ISBN: 0 86210 299 5 AI index: POL 10/001/2001
    Amnesty International, International Secretariat,1 Easton Street, WC1X 0DW, London, United Kingdom

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