Cuba Now Has 1,077 Political Prisoners

Prisoners Defenders verifies 37 new political prisoners in January

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba has at least 1,077 political prisoners, as verified by Prisoners Defenders as of January 31, 2023. All of them face tortures, as demonstrated by the detailed study of 101 random cases denounced by Prisoners.

Prisoners Defenders presented their study to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT). The public reproaches subsequently made by the CAT, detailed last May in its report on the situation of torture in Cuba.

This past June, the report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, also confirmed that dozens of minors continue to receive harsh sentences for exercising their freedom of demonstration and “association”, accusing them of sedition, among other atrocities.

The lack of due process and effective defense have facilitated the generalized repression of the population, who flee as victims of repression with a lack of opportunities, while the stringency of the current Penal Code provides for an endless range of grounds for persecution for the exercise of any of the fundamental rights protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Prisoners Defenders identifies the following patterns which allow license to repress, or, in essence, an extensive carte blanche for repression at the hands of the military regime:

1- Absence of judicial protection for the precautionary deprivation of liberty, as protected by the Law of Criminal Procedure in Cuba, which, in a mockery of the normative procedural definition, calls a State Security police officer a “Criminal Instructor”, who may keep the defendant in provisional detention until the prosecutor’s ruling, without any judicial intervention being required.

2- There are no independent defense attorneys in Cuba who, being all of them by normative definition organically, hierarchically, and economically dependent on the State, join the work of the prosecutor’s office and act as “soft” prosecutors in the processes of political persecution.

3- The hierarchy and judges which form the penal system are absolutely and organically dependent upon the political power, as protected by the “Constitution” and the Laws. This attribution comes to rise from the single party that the “Constitution” of 2019 defines as “the superior leading force of society and the State”, which has been in the hands of a family since the beginning of the “revolution”.

4- Criminal proceedings in which all accusations, without exception, are supported solely by “witnesses” dependent on the Communist Party and by fraudulent “expert” evidence which only the Ministry of the Interior, the accusing party, is allowed to present. This results in convictions based exclusively, for example, on the alleged interpretation of the sense of smell of animals (dogs), without in any case even allowing the accused to present alternative expert evidence.

5- Criminal proceedings against an endless range of fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, demonstration, and association, leaving or entering the country, privacy and many other rights that make the normal development of society possible, and a justified state of psychosis and permanent panic of its citizens, who are severely criminalized and systematically and openly persecuted.

6- Use of the criminal types from the Penal Code which, due to their nature, breadth, severity and normative indeterminacy, allow the unlimited criminalization of any conduct that the regime wishes to penalize, and which have already been declared invalid by different organizations of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, such as Public Disorder, Disobedience, Disrespect, Assault, Resistance, Sedition, Instigation to commit a crime, Pre-criminal social dangerousness, or Propagation of an Epidemic.

7- Widespread use of summary and abbreviated criminal procedures that violate, to the point of basing their the absence of defense, the right to cross examen or the mere informing of the accusation to the victims. Likewise, any hint of equality of legal recourse of the parties, such as the summary procedure by Direct Attestation, among others, and that allow for final convictions with deprivation of liberty in just a matter of a few dozen hours.

Young Cubans are often the victims of arbitrary arrests. Photo: Juan Suarez

In light of all these procedural characteristics, with closing data as of January 31, 2023, the Prisoners Defenders list of political prisoners in Cuba contains a total of 1,077 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience suffering judicial sentences or provisions limiting their freedom by prosecutors without any judicial supervision or legal defense, in flagrant violation of international law that protects due process and effective defense.

Every month the group publishes and distributes this list among political, diplomatic and human rights defense spheres. In the last 12 months alone we have confirmed and added to our list 388 new political prisoners.

In addition, there are around 11,000 currently serving sentences of 1 to 4 years for pre-criminal social dangerousness, that is, without any crime committed or attempted, in a mechanism of prevention of an alleged “proclivity” to commit crimes in the future.

This January, 37 new cases of political prisoners have entered our list, mainly due to the protests taking place throughout the country, but also due to the persecution of their opinions in social networks, positions disaffected with the so-called “revolution” and defense of human rights against the criminal regime in Havana.

Seventeen political prisoners have been removed from our list this month, the vast majority after serving their full sentence. Also common are those who are expelled from the country during the prosecution or the completion of the sentence, as part of a cleansing method that has similar purposes and nature to the persecution of Jews in Hitler’s National Socialist Germany, articulated in Cuba by acts of repudiation, expulsions from work, social cornering, measures of accusation and criminal securing, which in all cases includes torture and, in the best of cases, ending with massive forced expatriation, as verified by the United Nations, a technique that Cuba has been able to export through the dictator Ortega in Nicaragua and the dictator Maduro in Venezuela.

Prisoners Defenders has been able to verify a list of 1,077 political prisoners as of 01/31/2023

• 783 Convicts of Conscience

• 263 Condemned of Conscience

• 31 cases of Other Political Prisoners

Among the political prisoners:

▪ There are still 31 boys and 5 girls on the list, a total of 36 minors, who are still serving sentences (30 of them) or are being criminally prosecuted (6 of them). It should be noted, however, that this high figure does not include many other children who have already left the list because they have served their sentences in full. Many of the minors are in prisons supposedly for minors, which are penitentiary centers euphemistically called “Integral Training Schools.” As already denounced by the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations on June 9, 2022 in its Report of Conclusions, a minimum of 150 children under 16 years of age each year in Cuba are detained in these centers, in cells.

The same Committee also pointed out that around 260 children between 16 and 17 years of age are deprived of their liberty in conventional prisons each year in Cuba. Therefore, 410 minors are imprisoned every year in Cuba, as confirmed by the United Nations itself.

▪ 17 of the aforementioned minors are being prosecuted or have already been convicted of “Sedition”. The average sentence of these minors convicted of sedition is 5 years of deprivation of liberty, a punishment on average higher than that suffered, before #11J, by adults in political prison.

▪ Of our current list, 209 protesters have been charged with sedition and at least 207 have been sentenced to an average of 10 years imprisonment each.

▪ At least 125 women (including several transgender women) are still under political and conscience convictions and sentences. All trans women in prison of conscience have been and are incarcerated among men, suffering indescribable situations for their sexual condition. It should be said that the new Family Code eliminated the parental authority of fathers and mothers and replaced it with “parental responsibility”, which implies responsibility, but not inalienable power, and thus allows the suspension of “parental responsibility” in a totally arbitrary way for those who “observe vicious, corrupt or criminal conduct that is incompatible”. The words “observe” and “conduct” are key. The act does not indicate that they must even have a criminal case. It indicates that they should “observe a conduct”, a subjective evaluative action of the observer, the Cuban authorities, whose object of observation is behavioral and not criminal: “vicious, corrupt or criminal conduct”. The purpose is clear: currently mothers and fathers in prison and their families are threatened with having their children taken away from them for exercising their freedom of expression, based on the new Family Code.

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