Human rights situations in Cuba that require the Council’s attention

United Nations Human Rights Council
Human rights situations in Cuba that require the Council’s attention By Online Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Statement delivered at the General Assembly by Freedom House, represented by Maria C. Werlau, regarding the situation of prisoners in Cuba.

On behalf of Freedom House, I thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to speak at this Council.

Cuba has more than 200 political prisoners, 55 whom have been designated prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International – nearly half of those 55 are journalists.

As we meet today, former political prisoner Guillermo Fariñas is in critical condition from a hunger strike. Cuba’s prisoners of conscience

Cuba’s prisoners of conscience have historically resorted to hunger strikes to protest abhorrent prison conditions, beatings, malnourishment, denial of medical care, forced labor, unfair punishments, extrajudicial killings by guards, and other abuses. Moreover, in the last 40 years, twelve individuals have died in Cuban prisons during hunger strikes, including, most recently, Orlando Zapata.

Currently, there are two dozen political prisoners throughout the island who are extremely ill and in danger of dying, including 46 year-old Ariel Sigler.

Countless men and women are also confined for pre-criminal “dangerousness” – an allegation by the government that they will engage in “dangerous” activities such as distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or discussing issues related to human rights.

Prisons are rampant with disease. Inhumane conditions lead to acts of self-mutilation, psychological disorders, and extreme suffering. From 2007 to 2009, there were 99 reported deaths from forced or alleged suicides, medical negligence, and extrajudicial killings; these reports came from just 40 of several hundred prisons.

Mr. President, we recommend, with utmost urgency, that the Council ask:

(1) for Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur for Torture, and the International Red Cross be allowed to visit Cuba’s prisons immediately;

(2) that all political prisoners be unconditionally released, including those held for “dangerousness.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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