Cuban 'climate of fear' blasted
MADRID - THE communist government in Havana has created a 'climate of
fear' among Cuban dissidents and journalists through its 'repressive'
legal system, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
'The laws are so vague that almost any act of dissent can be deemed
criminal in some way, making it very difficult for activists to speak
out against the government,' said Kerrie Howard, deputy Americas
director at Amnesty International. 'There is an urgent need for reform
to make all human rights a reality for all Cubans.'
Amnesty, which is banned from Cuba since 1990, released a report in
Madrid charging that the legal system in the island is being used to
restrict information to the media and arrest hundreds of government
critics. 'Cuba's repressive legal system has created a climate of fear
among journalists, dissidents and activists, putting them at risk of
arbitrary arrest and harassment by the authorities,' Amnesty said in a
statement released along with the report.
In particular, it mentioned one Cuban independent journalist, Yosvani
Anzardo Hernandez, the director of the Candonga online newspaper, who
has 'arbitrarily arrested, interrogated and intimidated by the
authorities' last year, before being released without charge. 'We were
hoping that the government understood that what we were doing was
exercising a right, we didn't hurt anyone,' Mr Hernandez was quoted as
saying in the statement.
Although Cuban authorities deny the existence of political prisoners,
Amnesty said it knows of at least 53 prisoners of conscience who are
still incarcerated 'for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of
expression, association and assembly.' It said the Cuban government of
President Raul Castro 'has sought to justify its failure to protect
human rights by pointing to the negative effects of the embargo imposed
by the US. It is clear that the US embargo has had a negative impact on
the country but it is frankly a lame excuse for violating the rights of
the Cuban people,' said Mr Howard.
The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission - an
outlawed but tolerated group - says there are some 200 political
prisoners on the island. Cuban authorities consider them a threat to
national security and claim the prisoners are 'mercenaries' on
Washington's pay, out to smear the Cuban government. In early June they
started moving some political prisoners closer to their families after
talks with church representatives, according to dissident and family
sources. -- AFP