HRW Reflects Sad Reality of Human Rights in Cuba

The “Cuba chapter” of the 32nd edition of the 2022 report

Por Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – The 32nd edition of the World Report 2022 by international organization Humans Rights Watch examined human rights practices in almost 100 countries, including Cuba. The chapter on Cuba reflects that “the Cuban government continues to repress and punish virtually all forms of dissent and public criticism.”

It clearly explains that “the government employs arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate critics, independent activists, political opponents, and others. Security officers rarely present arrest warrants to justify detaining critics. In some cases, detainees are released after receiving official warnings, which prosecutors may use in subsequent criminal trials.”

“Over 1,000 people, mostly peaceful demonstrators or bystanders, were detained during the July protests, Cuban rights groups reported.”

They also explain that “officers prevented people from protesting or reporting on the protests, arresting critics and journalists as they headed to demonstrations or limiting their ability to leave their homes. Many were held incommunicado for days or weeks, violently arrested or beaten, and subjected to abuse during detention.”

Human Rights Watch is one of the most important independent human rights organizations (NGO) in the entire world. It’s headquarters is in New York and its work is broad in scope, widely-recognized and has great credibility ever since it was founded, with a prominent impact on the defense of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The report compiles work from many NGOS, including Prisoners Defenders in particular, a human rights organization based in Madrid, which stated that “as of September, Cuba was holding 251 people who met the definition of political prisoners, as well as 38 others for their political beliefs. As well as another 92 who had been convicted for political beliefs were under house arrest or on conditional release.”

It says that “Cubans who criticize the government risk criminal prosecution. They do not benefit from due process guarantees, such as the right to fair and public hearings by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal. In practice, courts are subordinate to the executive branch. (…) Protesters were often tried for vaguely defined crimes, such as “public disorder” and “contempt.”

Regarding conditions at detention facilities, it said that “prisons in the country are often overcrowded.” It added that “detainees have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress for abuses. The government continues to deny international human rights groups and independent Cuban organizations access to its prisons.”

The report also mentions specific cases such as that of student Gabriela Zequeira Hernandez, who was arrested in San Miguel del Padron on July 11th just because a group of protestors passed her by on the street, she wasn’t even taking part. Disgraced by officers and without the right to communicate with her lawyer normally or due process, she was sentenced to eight months in prison, but “she was allowed to serve her sentence under house arrest,” the document reads.

Jose Daniel Ferrer was arrested on July 11th when he tried to join the protest. While he didn’t have time to actively take part, the Attorney-General’s Office ordered he be sent to pre-trial detention on the charge of “public disorder”. The report also mentions human rights activist Laritza Diversent, who directs CUBALEX from the US, and was “threatened with prosecution and her extradition to Cuba will be sought” by “two officers who appeared at her mother’s home” in Havana.

The report also talked about the repression of artists linked to the song “Patria y Vida”, saying that “several artists, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo, both of whom performed in the music video for “Motherland and Life,” remained in pretrial detention, facing arbitrary prosecution.”

In addition to the practice of regulating the freedom of movement of “bothersome” Cubans to the regime, that is, preventing them from leaving or entering the country as a political punishment. 

In summary, it’s a loyal depiction of what’s happening today in Cuba in terms of human rights. It couldn’t be anything else really because these reports aren’t meant to praise a government for something they eventually do well, but to point our and criticize what is being done poorly or not at all.

Last year, in 2021, we have seen an increase in human rights violations. Sadly, this is the path the Communist Party government has chosen to evade the change Cuba desperately needs and is imposing “continuity” of its socio-political system. Which doesn’t work or stir trust in the Cuban people. If only they’d listen!

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