Amnesty International says Cuba needs reform

Amnesty International says Cuba needs reform

The London-based rights group criticized the Cuban government for putting its opponents behind bars for years for “the peaceful exercise of their rights”.

“Cuba desperately needs political and legal reform to bring the country in line with basic international human rights standards,” said Kerrie Howard, the organisation’s deputy director for the Americas, in a statement.

“Cuban laws impose unacceptable limits on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” she said.

Amnesty International issued its statement to mark the 7th anniversary of the so-called “Black Spring”, a March 18, 2003 crackdown in which 75 Cuban dissidents were jailed.

Cuba’s “Ladies in White”, wives and mothers of the prisoners, were shouted down and harassed by government supporters yesterday as they marched through Havana in a protest ahead of tomorrow’s anniversary.

The Cuban government has been criticised internationally following the February 23 death of prisoner Orlando Zapata after an 85-day hunger strike protest over prison conditions.

It is also under fire for its handling of a second hunger striker, dissident Guillermo Farinas, who stopped eating and drinking three weeks ago and is in a hospital after collapsing last week.

Farinas wants Havana to release 26 ailing political prisoners, but the government has said it will not be “blackmailed” by him.

“The long imprisonment of individuals solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights is not only a tragedy in itself but also constitutes a stumbling block to other reforms,” said Howard.

She said it was an obstacle to dialogue needed with the United States to be able to obtain the lifting of the longstanding US trade embargo against Cuba.

Amnesty International urged Cuban President Raul Castro to allow monitoring of the country’s human rights situation by the United Nations and other rights groups.

Cuba has vowed to resist international pressure over human rights. — Reuters

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