ISHR: New arrests and repressions against civil rights activists and independent journalists after the announced release of 52 political prisoners

Frankfurt am Main (23 August 2010) – One month after the announced release of 52 political prisoners new violations against civil rights activists and independent journalists minimize the hope that the Castro regime could move in the direction of respect for human rights and more democracy. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Frankfurt, Germany, today criticized that the releases go on very slowly and in tiny rates. Until August 23 just 23 political prisoners who could or were forced to leave the Castro state had been released. Most of them would have rather stayed on the island to continue their commitment for a free and civil society. In the light of this fact the EU-Cuba NGO Network appeals to the European Union.

In Germany, this NGO Network is represented by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Frankfurt am Main. The coalition’s aim is to convince the European Union to maintain on its Common Position on Cuba and not to negotiate a bilateral agreement on its fall revision.

The political prisoners who had been released into Spanish exile also ask the EU to maintain on its Cuban human rights policy and to support democracy and human rights on Cuba. Further on the NGO Network calls for the review of the developments in Cuba every six months and for not rescheduling the reviews as it happened in June 2010.

Despite some positive developments it is necessary to add that Cuba is still far away from democracy and constitutional legality. The released Cubans were inevitably forced to leave the country and, thus, their families and had to go into exile in Spain – a part of the agreement with the Cuban authorities. Thus, the Cuban government could legally ditch many human rights and political activists. In this way the democracy movement in Cuba lost many of its most active characters.

ISHR: Arrests and intimidation of democracy movement continue

According to the ISHR, the human rights situation on Cuba is unimproved: repressions against human rights activists go on. Several members of the Cuban democracy movement have been arrested in the last weeks, others have been exposed to aggressive assaults and have been harassed psychological. One example is Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger, the mother of the political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died on 23 February 2010 after an 86 days lasting hunger strike. Lately she was bashed by Security Guards, authorities do not allow her attending the mass in church or visiting her son’s grave.

On 16 August 2010, the author, journalist and blogger Luis Felipe Rojas was detained by the Cuban police in his house in the town of Holguín in the East of Cuba. The officials refused a reason for the arrest. It is assumed that the employee of the independent newspaper "Diario de Cuba" (Diary of Cuba) was arrested because of a report about human rights abuses in the East of the island. He was allowed to leave the police station after a questioning which lasted 19 hours.

On 15 August 2010, three supporters of Ms Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger have been arrested by the Cuban State Security. On 16 August 2010, five Cuban students were detained by police while holding a demonstration in front of Havana University. They called their fellow students to campaign for human rights on Cuba.

The ISHR demands from the Cuban government to release the more than 170 political prisoners who are still in prison, to release the recently arrested students and civil rights activists immediately and to stop the policy of intimidation against civil rights activists and journalists. “As long as these people are still in Cuban prisons, the European Union needs to maintain on its Common Position on Cuba and may not engage in a bilateral agreement“, the spokesman of the ISHR, Martin Lessenthin, declared.


August, 2010

The Europe-Cuba NGO Network welcomes the recent steps by the Cuban government which show some progress in the area of human rights and democracy. We also appreciate that the Cuban government has acknowledged the existence of political prisoners on the island by releasing a significant number of them. The international community, however, should make sure that the release of these prisoners is unconditional, their exile only optional, and their living and working conditions are adequate. In relation to this, we call on the Cuban government to immediately release Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and other prisoners who have expressed their desire to stay in Cuba.

In September, the European Union will decide on the future of its Common Position on Cuba, as the revision was postponed in June until the autumn months. In light of the efforts of Spanish government to replace the Common Position with a bilateral agreement, we call on the EU to maintain its Common Position as a sign of support for democracy and human rights in Cuba. It is important to stress here that the maintaining of the Common Position was recently officially supported by the released political prisoners exiled in Spain.

As a document, the Common Position does not represent an obstacle to progress in EU-Cuba relations. In paragraph 4, the Common Position states that the European Union will support progress towards democracy in Cuba by, apart from other means, intensification of political dialog and economic cooperation. In this light, the EU can apply additional interim measures that will reflect recent developments on the island - such as fostering of people to people dialog through diplomatic and academic visits, and the deepening of dialog with the Cuban authorities. It is also necessary to reinforce, to extend and to intensify at an institutional level the dialog with the democratic opposition and independent civil society.

If the Cuban government continues and reinforces respect for human rights and democracy with further positive steps, the EU should consider official lifting of the diplomatic measures introduced in 2003.

However, if taking any steps that would lead to closer cooperation between the EU and Cuba, the EU must set criteria which reflect overall progress in the area of human rights and democracy. These criteria might include patterns of documented harassment and acts of repression against political prisoners, political dissidents and independent civil society in general, as well as ratification and implementation of the ICCPR and ICESCR, etc.

Progress should then be revised in the current semiannual cycle, without using additional instruments, as was the case in June, when the EU decided to provide extra three-month period before reviewing the Common Position on Cuba.

The Europe-Cuba NGO Network would hereby like to express its hope that these steps of the Cuban government mark the beginning of its opening a dialog on human rights and democracy, becoming thus a partner for the EU and its members.

(Source: The International Society for Human Rights.)

for the freedom of all cuban political prisoners
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