Human Rights Activists Behind Bars in Cuba

Today, at least twenty-one human rights activists are believed to be held, with or without charge, for infractions of Cuban law such as producing a human rights newsletter and attempting to form a political party. The crimes under which human rights monitors are charged are considered common crimes punishable by up to one year in prison and tried at the municipal court level. Under Cuban law, defense attorneys are "not indispensable" in a municipal trial and many of the human rights monitors recently convicted of "clandestine printing" or "illicit associations, gatherings and demonstrations" have not had legal representation. The recent highly-publicized trial of top military and intelligence officers on drug-trafficking and corruption charges has served to reinforce the atmosphere of increased repression in Cuba. General Arnaldo Ochoa S·nchez and three others were executed by firing squad on July 13, less than three weeks after Defense Minister Ra˙l Castro first demanded "exemplary punishment" in testimony to his military subordinates before the actual trial began. Americas Watch condemned the executions in light of the gross denials of due process during the trial. In particular, we objected to the participation of Ra˙l Castro as a prosecution witness as a violation of the rights of the defendants. Second only to his older brother, Ra˙l Castro is the embodiment of the Cuban government, and his participation in the military court of honor hearing amounted to a political demand by the Cuban government for the imposition of the death penalty. Yet there was no indication that he had direct evidence that any court should consider. It violates every principle of due process for the death sentence to be imposed in response to such political demands in the guise of courtroom testimony.

Legacy Link
As Cuba approaches the 36th anniversary of its revolution, it is engaged in an extended crackdown on independent peaceful activity and its human rights practices continue to be subject to the whim of the executive. Among the targets of this crackdown are newly-emerged human rights groups, whose establishment in recent years had given the appearance of greater openness in Cuba. Today, at least twenty-one human rights activists are believed to be held, with or without charge, for infractions of Cuban law such as producing a human rights newsletter and attempting to form a political party. The crimes under which human rights monitors are charged are considered common crimes punishable by up to one year in prison and tried at the municipal court level. Under Cuban law, defense attorneys are "not indispensable" in a municipal trial and many of the human rights monitors recently convicted of "clandestine printing" or "illicit associations, gatherings and demonstrations" have not had legal representation.
Region / Country
Topic