What about abuses?
Amnesty International is an
organization that was founded in 1961, by a London lawyer, Peter Benenson. His
original campaign was called "Appeal For Amnesty." This was meant for
the release of all people imprisoned because of their peaceful expressions of belief,
politics, race, religion, color, or national origin. By the end of 1961 the campaign
spread to other countries and Amnesty International had been formed.
Amnesty International is funded by donations from its members and supporters.
Volunteers do most of the work. They write letters, organize demonstrations,
pass out information, staff tables at public events, and make letter writing groups to
help the cause.
Amnesty International is a supreme body of an international council of elected
delegates. These delegates come from various countries. Their objectives
consist of the release of prisoners who have not used or advocated violence, fair and
prompt trials for those who have been detained without, and to end torture and other cruel
treatments of prisoners, executions, and "disappearances." These actions,
and others, have been defined as direct violations of one's human rights in the United
Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amnesty International's goals in addressing human rights issues in Cuba are to educate
the public, to advocate for polital prisoners, and to help prevent human rights
abuses. The annual reports, cases, and updates on trials allows for others in the
world to know what is going on in Cuba through the eyes of Amnesty International. In
such reports Amnesty International more than often clearly states its support for the
human rights defender in question, and the organization of which he or she may claim to
belong. Amnesty International feels that by doing so, they influence governmental
decisions, prevent further violations, and ultimately strengthen the human rights movement
Amnesty International is concerned with the recent increase in the number of critics
of the Cuban Government (dissidents)
who have been brought to trial and imprisoned because of their criticism of their
government. Over the past two or three years, several members of unofficial groups,
including human rights defenders, 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. A
few have resorted to exile in the face of such pressures, but until mid-1997, with a few
notable exceptions, the threats made against those who had been released and remained in
the country had not been carried out. However, as the pressure of the U.S. embargo
has worsened conditions in Cuba, some people have spoken out. At least 24 government
critics have been imprisoned in the last two years.
Human Rights defenders who are arrested, brought to trial, or prosecuted
are often called prisoners of conscience by their supporters. Some of the
charges brought against these people consist of "propaganda enemiga",
"enemy propaganda", "desacato", "disrespect",
"difamacion", "defamation", "desobediencia",
"disobedience", or "reistencia", "resistance", or other
kinds of common law offenses. The reason the concern for these Prisoners of
Conscience is that it is reported that their trials in political cases generally fall
short of international fair trial standards, particularly with regard to access to defense
counsel. In cases of crimes against state security, which are tried in provincial
courts, the defendant can be held for several weeks or months with little or no access to
a lawyer. During this period, it is alleged by some critics of the government that
the detainee is often subjected to psychological pressures, including threats against his
own physical integrity or that of members of his family, and coerced into signing false
statements or agreeing to leave the country.
Havana, September 9, 1997 - Dissident doctor Dessy Mendoza Rivero
remains under arrest, accused of "enemy propaganda" for breaking the news of an
outbreak of dengue fever in the province of Santiago, said a family member. The
outbreak killed 10 people. Caridad Piñón Rodriguez, married to Dr. Mendoza, said she has
been renounced at home and that she is often harassed by insulting or threatening
telephone calls. She added that her husband had attempted to leave the island on a
raft during the massive 1994 exodus, but that he voluntarily returned after reaching the
Guantanamo Naval Base.
According to family sources, Mendoza, who heads the Independent Medical Association
and the Pacifist Pro-Human Rights Movement, neither of which are officially recognized,
has not been allowed to practice medicine since his return to Cuba. He has been
under arrest since last June. Caridad Piñón affirms that the information given by
her husband to foreign press reporters regarding the outbreak of dengue fever was
accurate. It was later confirmed by the Cuban government.
In August 1997, the majority of the 150 people who were arrested were warned that
charges would be brought against them in the future if they did not give up their
activities and some have been subjected to further short-term detention and harassment. A
few, including Aguileo Cancio Chong, president of the unofficial, National Action Party,
released in November 1997 and Alberto Perera Martínez, president of the unofficial Peace,
Progress and Liberty Committee, released in September 1997, were held for between three
and six months before being released.
At least one of those who had been detained - Héctor Peraza Linares, a journalist
working for the independent press agency Havana Press - was effectively forced into exile
after being held for three months, from 23 June until 23 September 1997, by State Security
in Pinar del Río. During that period he had no access to a lawyer. He was
only released after paying a fine and agreeing to leave the country under threat that if
he did not do so, he would be brought to trial on state security charges. On 15
December 1997 he left Cuba for Spain.
Daula Carpio Mata, the provincial delegate of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos
Humanos en Cuba (PPDHC), Party for Human Rights in Cuba, for Villa Clara Province was
first arrested on 7 August 1997 in Santa Clara on a charge of "atentado",
"assault", on the grounds that she had verbally intimidated a prison doctor at
the trial of fellow PPDHC member and prisoners of conscience in late July 1997. She
was released pending trial and told to remain at home.
On 9 October 1997 she was unexpectedly re-arrested and taken to Guamajal Womens
Prison, Villa Clara Province, to await trial. She was subsequently tried on 29
October and sentenced to 16 months "correctional work with
internment". Her sentence was ratified on appeal on 8 December 1997. Reports
indicate that the prison doctor, who was one of the prosecution witnesses, may have been
pressured by State Security to testify against her. Amnesty International believes that,
from the information available, there is no credible basis for the charge against her and
that is was brought solely to prevent her from carrying out her peaceful political and
human rights activities.
She was ordered to present herself at a work center on 12 December. She did not do so,
reportedly for health reasons (possibly due to her refusal to eat). She had been
suffering from sharp pains in her ears and a constant headache. On 16 December she
was taken from her home to Guamajal Womens Prison, despite showing the police a
doctors note recommending she take complete rest. As of early January 1998,
she was continuing her fast, reportedly consuming only coffee and water.
The Revolution and the People
Most Cubans take
pride and honor in Castro's Revolution, however a growing number have become restless due
to the economic situation imposed by the U.S. embargo. Some are tired of the hardships and
desire a change. These people are known as dissidents. They don't express their
feelings because of the consequences they might face in disagreeing with Castro's
Revolution. Some of the consequences are imprisonment and forced deportation. The
following was written by a well known dissident journalist, Miguel Fernandez Martinez:
July 16, 1997
From the Darkness of the Cave -
The Voices of Cuba's Independent Journalists
by Miguel Fernandez Martinez
For several days now I've been thinking about Hector Peraza, about Olance Nogueras, about
all the independent journalists who are struggling to exercise their profession here in
Cuba. And I keep remembering that one quote of Jose Marti, the Father of our
Republic, when he said that a single Truth uttered from the depths of the darkest cave is
more powerful than any army.
This turns my thoughts to the recent events on this troubled and isolated island.
Hector Peraza is being detained by the police in jail. I wonder what they'll charge
him of, some crime and take him to court, where the outcome often is to be a guilty
verdict and imprisonment. His crime being, like the others, daring to breach the
walls of State censorship.
In Santiago de Cuba the government has arrested Nicolas Rosario Rozabal. In
Cienfuegos they're taking aim against Olance Nogueras. Joaquin Torres, director of
Havana Press, was attacked and beaten in his own home by the defenders of the
Revolution, Socialism and the Fatherland. The mother of journalist/poet Raul Rivero
is continuously threatened by the political police - a pressure tactic intended to break
his commitment to his principles. Lazaro Lazo and Manuel David Orrio are arrested by
Now Lorenzo Paez Nuñez, a correspondent for the Cuban Independent Press Bureau in
Artemisa, has been condemned to prison by a quick trial where not even a minimal legal
defense was allowed to him.
These are only a few of the more recent events concerning journalists outside the
"official" boundaries. Many associate these occurrences with the up-coming
XIV World Youth and Students' Festival which will begin in Havana on 28 July. I
think that it's nothing more or less than the beginning of a campaign against the
growing underground press in Cuba.
Dear Brothers and
Sisters, today we are alive because your efforts and those of others saved us from the
gallows. Today I am out of prison because your efforts, and those of others, won me a bond
pending appeal. Today our reputations remain untarnished because you and other had the
courage to acknowledge our innocence and boldly call us prisoners of conscience. Letter
from released prisoner of conscience Koigi wa Wamwere.