The human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday denounced in a report the “brutal strategy of repression” implemented by the Cuban dictatorship after the protests of July 11, which resulted in at least 130 cases of arbitrary detention, bad. -treatments and false judgments.
Juan Pappier, HRW researcher for the Americas, highlighted that this strategy aims to “instill fear” and lamented that Cubans have been “systematically detained, held incommunicado, subjected to abuse in appalling prison conditions and tried in cases that are a real farce “.
José Miguel Vivanco, director of HRW for the Americas, said in a statement that the New York-based humanitarian organization based its report on court documents and more than 150 interviews with victims and relatives, activists and journalists carried out between July and October.
“The consistent and repeated patterns of abuses committed by various security forces in various parts of Cuba strongly suggest a plan by the Cuban authorities to repress and quell the demonstrations,” the organization said.
The reports are of ill-treatment and abusive criminal procedures by the State security, the military forces, the national police and the “black berets”, details the report.
Of the 130 documented cases, Cuban authorities have accused only a few of the detainees of acts of violence, most often for throwing stones during protests. In most of these cases, detainees or their families denied having committed violent acts. “In all of them, the criminal proceedings were marked by serious violations of due process and the sentences requested or applied by the Cuban authorities seem excessive.”
The document stresses that the “rapid response brigades”, which are government-organized civilian groups, “were involved in several beatings”.
Furthermore, he details that “judges and prosecutors, who in Cuba do not have independence from the government, facilitated and participated in abusive criminal proceedings.”
Many of the detainees “were routinely subjected to brutal abuse, including gender-based violence,” HRW said in a statement. Dozens of them have been prosecuted in trials without basic due process guarantees, and hundreds remain in prison or under house arrest.
When the demonstrations began, Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel called on the country’s security forces to respond to the protests with violence. “We call on all revolutionaries to take to the streets to defend the revolution. The order to fight is given,” he said.
At least one protester died during the protests. Singer Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, died on July 12 during a demonstration in La Güinera, on the outskirts of Havana. The Cuban Human Rights Observatory claims that he was shot in the back by a police officer, and that no one was held responsible for that death.
On July 11, thousands of people spontaneously took to the streets in the biggest protests against Cuba’s dictatorship in six decades, which resulted in hundreds of arrests (more than a thousand, according to activists) and prison sentences.
The NGO’s investigation indicates that the protests were “overwhelmingly peaceful”. Protesters clamored for freedom, tired of the restriction of free expression, the scarcity of food and medicine, blackouts, high inflation, increase in Covid-19 cases and constant cuts in internet access.
HRW reported that, in most cases, detainees were held incommunicado, violently imprisoned and, in some cases, mistreated and forced to do “naked squats”, deprived of sleep, locked in cells without natural light or threatened with reprisals against relatives .
“Authorities systematically violated detainees’ right to a fair trial,” the report said.
The organization, which details the case of each of the victims, highlights José Daniel Ferrer, president of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), who was arrested alongside his son on July 11th.
He adds that the opposition leader, accused of “public disorder”, “is in preventive detention and has been denied the possibility of making phone calls since his arrest.”
In August, Ferrer’s family received a court document indicating that he would serve “a sentence of 4 years and 14 days in prison for an earlier incident unrelated to his current detention,” the report indicates. This 2020 conviction was deemed arbitrary by the UN’s arbitrary detention committee.
According to HRW, on Aug. 19, Cuban authorities reported that 67 people had been convicted over the protests, most of them between 10 months and a year in prison, although some were sent to house arrest on appeal or were released. after payment of a fine.
The human rights organization also notes that “several protesters appear to have contracted Covid-19 in prison.”
“Many detainees have been placed in dark, overcrowded and unsanitary cells, with little access to clean water or masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” the report said.
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