Amnesty International Annual Report 2000
Republic of Cuba
Head of state and government: Fidel Castro Ruz
Population: 11.2 million
Official language: Spanish
Death penalty: retentionist
Dissidents, who included journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders, suffered severe harassment during the year. Several hundred people remained imprisoned for political offences, some of whom were recognized by AI as prisoners of conscience. Some trials of prisoners of
conscience took place which did not conform to international standards. New legislation was introduced to combat dissent and widen the use of the death penalty. At least 13 people were executed and at least nine people remained under sentence of death. There were some reports of ill-treatment.
Prisoners were sometimes subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
President Fidel Castro continued as head of state, 40 years after coming to power. His party, the Partido Comunista de Cuba, Cuban Communist Party, remained the only legal political party. In April the UN Commission on Human Rights censured Cuba for human rights abuses, calling on the government
to respect fundamental freedoms. In November the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly demanded an end to the US embargo against Cuba, for the eighth consecutive year. The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Cuba, which expired in April 1998 without his ever having been granted access to the
country, was not renewed.
Tough new legislation aimed at combating political dissent and protecting the Cuban economy was approved in February and became effective in March. Law 88, the Law for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba, provided a penalty of up to 20 years' imprisonment for a series
of offences. These include providing information to the US government; owning, distributing or reproducing material produced by the US government or any other foreign entity; and collaborating, by any means, with foreign radio, television, press or other foreign media, with the purpose of
destabilizing the country and destroying the socialist state.
Restrictions on human rights monitoring
Research into human rights violations in Cuba was hampered by restrictions imposed by the government, such as the reported monitoring of telephone calls and mail, the illegality of human rights groups, the absence of any official data on the prison population, and the difficulties imposed by the
authorities on access to the country for independent human rights monitoring.
Prisoners of conscience
Several hundred political prisoners, including a number of prisoners of conscience, were believed to be held in Cuba, most of whom were convicted after unfair trials. By the end of 1999, AI was working on behalf of 19 prisoners of conscience. The absence of official data and the severe
restrictions on human rights monitoring made it difficult to confirm information on other possible prisoners of conscience.
Several new prisoners of conscience were convicted and sentenced during 1999.
* Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández, executive director of the independent press agency Cooperativa Avileñ¤a de Periodistas Independientes, Cooperative of Independent Journalists of Ciego de Avila, was detained on 18 January, tried the following day and sentenced to four
years' imprisonment for "dangerousness". Jesús Díaz' trial reportedly did not conform to international standards of fairness, particularly since his lawyer had inadequate time to prepare his defence.
* In March Félix A. Bonne Carcasés, René Gómez Manzano, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez and Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, all 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, were tried and convicted of "other acts against State security", in relation to a crime of "sedition". They were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from three and a half to five years. All
four had been detained in July 1997 after issuing a critique of a document disseminated for the Fifth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party.
* In May the trial took place of Manuel Antonio González Castellanos, a reporter for the independent press agency Cuba Press, and three others, Yoanis Caridad Varona González, Leonardo Varona González and Roberto Rodríguez Rodríguez. All four defendants were
convicted of "disrespect". Three received prison sentences ranging from 16 to 31 months, and Yoanis Varona was sentenced to 18 months' restricted freedom.
There were some releases of prisoners of conscience. In March Reinaldo Alfaro García, vice-president of the unofficial Asociación de Lucha Frente a la Injusticia, Association for Struggle against Injustice, was released on condition that he left the country. Reinaldo Alfaro, who
reportedly remained in Cuba, had completed more than half his three-year sentence for "spreading false news".
All the remaining imprisoned members of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos Humanos en Cuba, Party for Human Rights in Cuba, in Santa Clara, who had been detained in October 1997, were released. They were Daula Carpio Mata, José Antonio Alvarado Almeida, Iván Lema Romero, José
Manuel Llera Benítez, Lilian Meneses Martínez and Ileana Peñ¤alver Duque.
Lorenzo Páez Nuñ¤ez, president of the unofficial Centro No Gubernamental para los Derechos Humanos "José de la Luz y Caballero", "José de la Luz y Caballero" Non-Governmental Centre for Human Rights, and correspondent for the independent press
agency Libertad (Freedom) was released in January. He had served an 18-month sentence imposed for "disrespect" and "defamation".
Short-term detentions and harassment
Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely limited in law and in practice. Those who attempted to organize meetings, express views or form organizations that conflicted with government policy were subjected to punitive measures and harassment. These included
short-term detention, interrogation, threats, intimidation, eviction, loss of employment, restrictions on travel, house searches, house arrests, phone bugging and physical and verbal acts of aggression carried out by government supporters.
Short-term detentions were frequent, and there were several incidents of mass detentions. For example, on 14 January about a dozen people were reportedly detained, allegedly to stop them from participating in a march to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of US civil rights activist Martin
Between 22 and 27 January at least a dozen dissidents were detained after members of the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, Lawton Human Rights Foundation, reportedly held a public meeting calling on people to join their peaceful struggle. A pilgrimage was also due to take place on 25
January, to mark the anniversary of a mass that took place on Pope John
Paul II's last day in Cuba in 1998, and on 28 January a peaceful human rights demonstration was due to take place in celebration of the birth of Cuban national hero José Martí. All detainees were subsequently released.
In August some two dozen dissidents were temporarily detained to prevent them attending two anti-government protests, one of which was called by the ecological group Naturpaz and was to take place in Lenin Park, Havana. The other was to take place in Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas province. One of
the detainees, Oscar Elías Biscet González, claimed that he was threatened with imprisonment if he did not leave the country.
In September, seven opposition activists were arrested in Butari Park, Havana, where they were holding an informal class on civil disobedience. The detainees were all taken to a police station and then to the Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones (DTI), Technical Investigations
Department, in Havana. Five of the detainees were released shortly afterwards, but Marcel Valenzuela Salt and Marlon Cabrera remained in detention for two weeks. Marcel Valenzuela was reportedly hit in the face by a plainclothes policeman when he was arrested.
In October at least a dozen people were detained after congregating at the house of Maritza Lugo Fernández for a meeting called by the Foro Tercer Milenio, the Third Millennium Forum, a group of non-governmental organizations who had written to Ibero-American presidents calling for human
rights and democracy in Cuba.
In November and December some 260 dissidents were detained around the time of the Ibero-American Summit in Havana. Many more were placed under house arrest. At the end of 1999, 11 of these people remained in detention, including Oscar Elías Biscet González, president of the Fundación
Lawton de Derechos Humanos, who was detained on 3 November and charged with "insult to the symbols of the homeland". No date had been set for a trial. He was considered to be a prisoner of conscience.
Eviction was another method of repression used by the authorities to suppress dissidence.
* In August, as well as being temporarily detained, opposition activist Ramón Humberto Colás Castillo, was evicted from his home in Las Tunas province, along with his wife, Berta Mexidor Vázquez, and their two children. Ramón Colás and Berta Mexidor, who were
both founders of the first independent library in Cuba, had lived in their home for 13 years before being told they were illegal occupants. Other independent librarians were also subjected to threats, short-term detentions and the confiscation of their books.
Restrictions on movement
Some people had restrictions imposed on their movement by the authorities.
* The Reverend Santos Osmani Domínguez Borja was sent to Holguín province, more than 700 kilometres from his home. He and the Reverend Lázaro William Urbina Dupont had both been temporarily detained after formally requesting permission from the government to hold an act of
Many people were threatened with imprisonment in order to intimidate them.
* In August Venancio Roberto Rodríguez Martínez of the Hermanos Fraternales por la Dignidad, Fraternal Brothers for Dignity, was threatened with imprisonment for being a counter-revolutionary.
Many dissidents were threatened with being tried under the new Law 88. They included Lázaro Estanislao Ramos González of the Movimiento Cívico Máximo Gómez, Máximo Gómez Civic Movement, Raúl Rivero and Hirán González González,
both independent journalists of Cuba Press, and Oswaldo Paya Sardiñ¤as of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, Christian Liberation Movement. Several people who took part in a 40-day fast starting in June were also threatened.
* Leonel Morejón Almagro of Naturpaz left the country in October because of the continual harassment and threats to which he was subjected.
There were numerous cases of people suspected of anti-government activities being summoned for questioning before local authorities. During interrogation, which sometimes lasted a few hours, many were threatened with imprisonment.
Loss of employment
Several government opponents and their relatives were dismissed from their jobs, reportedly for political reasons.
* Former prisoner of conscience Eduardo Blanco Tolosa was dismissed from his job and then threatened with being returned to prison and charged with "dangerousness" if he did not find new employment.
There was an increase in the use of the death penalty, particularly after the introduction in March of new legislation imposing the death penalty for serious cases of drug trafficking, corruption of minors and armed robbery. At least 13 people were executed and at least nine people reportedly
remained on death row.
There were several reports of political prisoners being beaten by prison guards and a few reports of beatings of non-prisoners.
* On 14 August human rights activist Oscar Elías Biscet González was arrested in a park where he was to give a talk on civic resistance. On arrest, he was reportedly beaten about the face and neck and his elbow was burned with a cigarette by policemen. He was then reportedly put in
a cell, forced to strip naked, beaten and kicked. He was subsequently transferred to the DTI in Havana, where he claimed he was interrogated and threatened with imprisonment if he organized any other dissident activity. He was released on 16 August.
Prison conditions continued to be poor and in some cases, especially in punishment cells, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Punitive measures reportedly included the withholding of food or medical attention, detention for months at a time in cells with no light or bedding,
threats, discrimination, verbal abuse and beatings. Many prisoners reported being ill because of poor nutrition and poor hygiene. The effects of the US embargo on the availability of medicines and equipment contributed to the problem.
AI country reports
Cuba: Some releases but repression and imprisonment continue (AI Index: AMR 25/005/99)
Cuba: Prisoners of conscience Manuel Antonio González Castellanos, Leonardo Varona González and Roberto Rodríguez Rodríguez (AI Index: AMR
Cuba: A worrying increase in the use of the death penalty (AI Index: AMR 25/029/99)
Cuba: Current prisoners of conscience must be released (AI Index: AMR 25/036/99)
Amnesty International, International Secretariat,
1 Easton Street, WC1X 0DW, London, United Kingdom
ISBN: 0 86210 290 1
AI index: POL 10/001/00
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