International, November 6, 2002.
Amnesty International has
been closely following the situation of a number of activists
detained in a wave of arrests in February and March 2002 in
Cuba. Some of these individuals, detained in various prisons
throughout Cuba, recently took part in a hunger strike to
protest six months of detention without trial.
them, Amnesty International believes that Leonardo Miguel
Bruzón Avila and Carlos Alberto Domínguez González,
both detained without trial in Cuba since 23 February 2002,
are prisoners of conscience detained for the non-violent exercise
of their rights to freedom of expression and association.
Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional
International further believes that a several of the other
detainees may possibly be prisoners of conscience, and is
seeking more information on their cases. Among these are Emilio
Leyva Pérez and Lázaro Miguel Rodríguez
Capote of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos Humanos de Cuba,
the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party, who were arrested together
on 22 February. The two also recently took part in a hunger
strike to protest their ongoing detention without trial.
of Conscience Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Avila and Carlos
Alberto Domínguez González
Miguel Bruzón Avila, president of the unofficial Movimiento
Pro Derechos Humanos 24 de Febrero, 24 February Human Rights
Movement, was arrested on 23 February 2002. The arrest was
apparently carried out in order to prevent Leonardo Bruzón
from taking part in the next day's activities to commemorate
the anniversary of a date in 1996 on which two planes belonging
to a Cuban exile group were shot down by the Cuban airforce.
Cuban authorities claim that this was an act of self defence
prompted by violation of its airspace, while supporters of
the exile group maintain that it was an act of aggression
committed over international waters. Amnesty International
has noted with concern that dissidents' efforts to commemorate
the anniversary are often repressed by security forces.
his arrest, Leonardo Bruzón was taken to the Departamento
Técnico de Investigaciones in the capital and reportedly
held in a punishment cell. At end March 2002 he was said to
have been transferred to Melena Dos prison in the province
of La Habana; he is currently held in Quivicán prison,
also in La Habana province. Six months after his arrest, in
late August, Leonardo Bruzón joined a number of detainees
in prisons around Cuba on a hunger strike to protest at their
continued detention without trial. He reportedly ended his
hunger strike on 10 October. This provoked serious concerns
for his already precarious state of health. Family members
are reportedly greatly concerned by his serious weight loss,
which they claim has been accompanied by fever and other symptoms.
They have urgently requested that he receive specialist medical
care in addition to that provided by the health service within
members were reportedly told unofficially that Leonardo Bruzón
had been charged with 'desacato' disrespect, and 'propaganda
enemiga,', enemy propaganda.(1) However, no trial date was
set. On 1 April, an attorney filed a habeas corpus petition
on his behalf since, although the attorney had been permitted
to see Bruzón, he had not been given access to the
case file, including information on motives for his arrest,
charges against him and the circumstances of his detention.
The petition was rejected on 4 April by the provincial court,
the Tribunal Popular Provincial, of Havana. Prosecutors have
reportedly since indicated that the charges against him may
include 'desorden público,' public disorder, and 'incitación
a delinquir,' incitement to commit a crime. On 3 May Amnesty
International wrote to the Cuban authorities respectfully
requesting information about his legal status, but has not
received a reply. As at this writing, however, there is no
formal information available on charges or trial date.
Bruzón has been repeatedly detained and harassed. In
one incident in December 2000, he and other dissidents were
detained to prevent them taking part in a demonstration to
celebrate Human Rights Day. On that occasion he was detained
for two months before being released. In another example,
reports indicate that on 5 September 2001 he was arrested,
and his family threatened with eviction from their home, after
having set up an independent video library for children in
Havana; he was released several days later.(2) He was again
reportedly arrested in December 2001.
Alberto Domínguez González, an independent journalist
with the unofficial Cuba-Verdad agency, was also arrested
on 23 February 2002. He was arrested by members of State Security,
Seguridad del Estado, in his home. The motives for his arrest
are not clear, though in the days preceding his arrest he
had reportedly attended several Catholic masses on behalf
of political prisoners in Cuba.
Alberto Domínguez is being held in the Valle Grande
prison. There are unofficial indications that he is accused
of public disorder, and disrespect. On 21 May Amnesty International
wrote to the Cuban authorities respectfully requesting information
about his legal status, but has not received a reply. Like
the other detainees mentioned here, to date there has been
no formal confirmation of any charges against them.
International is also concerned about the state of his health,
as he is reported to suffer from hypertension and migraine
and to have deteriorated since his incarceration. Again like
Leonardo Bruzón, Carlos Alberto Domínguez took
part in the hunger strike which began in late August to protest
his and other detainees' long pre-trial detention, and it
is feared that this may have contributed to further worsening
of his health. He is no longer on hunger strike.
Prisoners of Conscience Emilio Leyva Pérez and Lázaro
Miguel Rodríguez Capote
Leyva Pérez and Lázaro Miguel Rodríguez
Capote are leaders of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos
Humanos de Cuba, the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party. The two
were reportedly arrested on 22 February 2002. Like several
others, it was believed that they were taken into custody
to prevent them from participating in activities to commemorate
the 24 February 1996 downing of two planes belonging to a
Cuban exile group by the Cuban airforce.
members have been told unofficially that charges may include
'resistencia,' resistance; 'desacato,' disrespect; and 'desorden
público,' public disorder. However they apparently
have yet to be officially charged, and Amnesty International
is not aware that any trial date has been set.
August, both men joined a hunger strike of other detainees
to protest at six months' detention without trial, Emilio
Leyva in Quivicán prison with Leonardo Bruzón
and Lázaro Rodríguez in Valle Grande prison
with Carlos Alberto Domínguez. Family members and friends
of both men have reportedly expressed grave concern at the
state of their health. Both have reportedly ended their hunger
other activities, over the last year Emilio Leyva and Lázaro
Rodríguez were reported to be active members of the
Proyecto Varela campaign for a referendum on constitutional
human rights reforms in Cuba. Numerous activists involved
in the petition drive have been harassed and detained.(3)
Both men were reportedly held in custody for several hours
in early February following a prayer service on behalf of
political prisoners, in which Leonardo Bruzón was also
said to have taken part.
International is concerned about the ongoing detention and
harassment of critics of the Cuban government in response
to their peaceful attempts to exercise their rights to freedom
of expression, association and assembly. Over the past years
dozens of members of unofficial groups, including human rights
defenders and journalists, have been detained for short periods
and threatened with being brought to trial if they do not
give up their activities or go into exile. Some have remained
in prolonged pre-trial detention, while in other cases trials
have taken place and sentences issued. 'Desacato' disrespect,
'propaganda enemiga,', enemy propaganda, 'desorden público,'
public disorder, 'incitación a delinquir,' incitement
to commit a crime, and 'resistencia,' resistance, are commonly
used charges within the Criminal Code for punishing behaviour
that is seen as critical of the state. Trials in political
cases often fall short of international fair trial standards.
The Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, AI Index AMR 25/002/2002,
Amnesty International Urgent Actions AI Index 25/007/01 of
12 September 2001, and AMR 25/015/2001 of 13 September 2001.
CUBA: The Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, AI Index AMR
25/002/2002, May 2002.