Torture in Cuba's Prisons
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“I send you this drawing so you can see it and so that you distribute it to all of the international press accredited in Cuba and so that via their channels the world-wide the public opinion shall see it.”
Ángel García Rivero
Below you will find some testimonies and reports of mental and physical torture in Cuba.
Human Rights Watch Reports:
The conditions in Cuba's prisons are inhuman, and political prisoners suffer additional degrading treatment and torture.
The punitive and intimidatory measures against political prisoners that caused severe pain and suffering violated Cuba's obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it ratified in 1995. Once again, in the past year the
government forbade access to its prisons by international human rights monitors and humanitarian groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
This report shows that Cuba's treatment of political prisoners in some cases rises to the level of torture, violating Cuba's obligations under the Convention against Torture and under the Universal Declaration.7 The convention bars torture and "acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" and the Universal Declaration states that "no one shall be subjected to torture." 8 Cuba's imposition of prolonged periods of incommunicado pretrial and post-conviction detention, beatings, and
prosecutions of previously-tried political prisoners-where those practices result in severe physical or psychological pain orsuffering-constitute torture under the convention.9 Cuba also has failed to comply with its obligations under the convention to "take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction" and to "ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law."10
Cuba confines its sizable prison population in substandard and unhealthy conditions, where prisoners face isolation and physical and sexual abuse.
Prison guards also commit abuses against prisoners that rise to the level of torture. Cuba's practices fail to comply with numerous provisions of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including the rules governing food, health care, internal prison security, punitive measures, and prison work programs.12 Short-term detainees usually are held in degrading and inhuman conditions in policestations. Cuba's integration of political prisoners into its prison labor programs violates a prohibition on forced labor performed by detainees held for their political opinion. This practice is banned under the International Labor Organization's Convention 105, regarding the Abolition of Forced Labor, a treaty ratified by Cuba.
Cuba's Repressive Machinery details how Cuba's laws deny basic rights such as freedom of expression, association, and movement, and describes the plight of dozens of individuals prosecuted under those laws. The 263-page report also details ill-treatment rising to the level of torture in Cuban prisons.
At its fifty-seventh session in April, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution expressing concern about continuing human rights violations in Cuba, the ninth such resolution passed since 1991, and urged the government to invite the U.N. special rapporteurs on torture and on freedom of expression to visit the country.
In the resolution, the Commission noted that Cuba had made "no satisfactory improvements" in the area of human rights. It expressed particular concern at the "continued repression of members of the political opposition," as well as about the "detention of dissidents and all other persons detained or imprisoned for peacefully expressing their political, religious and social views and for exercising their right to full and equal participation in public affairs." An early draft of the resolution criticized the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, but that language was omitted from the final version.
The resolution, which was sponsored by the Czech Republic, passed by a 22-20 vote, with a number of abstentions.
Cuba: Two years after crackdown, prisoners confined to tiny cells and beaten
Cuban prisoners of conscience, arrested in the crackdown two years ago today (18 March) have been beaten by guards while handcuffed and kept in tiny "punishment cells" infested with rats and cockroaches, according to a new report launched by Amnesty International today in Madrid.
Prison guards reportedly stamped on the neck of Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, causing him to pass out during a beating last November while he was handcuffed.
Another man, Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, was reportedly stripped and beaten by guards during an assault at the Youth Prison of Santa Clara last October. He is serving a sentence of 28 years.
The 71 men, aged 26 to 63, were arrested for ?offences? such as publishing critical articles or communicating with human rights groups.
Amnesty International believes they were imprisoned for peacefully expressing their beliefs and opinions and calls on the Cuban government to immediately and unconditionally release all of them.
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Stephen Bowen said:
"Conditions for some of these prisoners are inhumane, confining them for months to tiny, filthy cells with no water or natural light. Some are not permitted to wear any clothes and are denied bedding.
"And yet all you have to do in Cuba to be imprisoned for months or even years is to disagree with the authorities.
"The Cuban government must release these prisoners immediately and unconditionally."
Normando Hernandez Gonzalez was held in a punishment cell for four months as a punitive measure after ending a 17-day hunger strike to protest against his transfer to Kilo 5 ½ Prison, where he was held with common criminals. During 2004, at least nine prisoners were reportedly held continuously in walled-in punishment cells.
Such cells are said to be very small (2 x 1 m) with no natural light and no furniture. The prisoners are not allowed out, to receive visitors or to exercise and sometimes are not permitted to wear any clothing nor given any bedding.
The conditions under which the nine Cuban prisoners are reported to have been held, amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Some prisoners of conscience and their relatives have also suffered the suspension of visits, correspondence and telephone communications for an undetermined period of time when prisoners? relatives have made statements in the local or international press or to human rights organizations regarding the treatment of their relative in detention.
During 2004 and early 2005 a total of 19 prisoners of conscience were released, 14 of whom were granted ?conditional release? permitting them to carry out the rest of their sentences outside prison for health reasons, in the knowledge they could be detained again.
Amnesty International reiterates its calls on the Cuban government to:
- Order the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience
- Ensure that an independent and impartial inquiry is held into allegations of ill-treatment by prison guards and, that the officials implicated in these allegations are immediately suspended from duty and those responsible brought to justice
- Suspend Law 88 and other similar legislation that facilitates the imprisonment of Cuban citizens by unlawfully restricting the exercise of their fundamental freedoms
- Comply with international human rights standards for the treatment of prisoners
- Ratify both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Amnesty International believes that the unilateral US embargo against Cuba contributes to the undermining of key civil and political rights in the country.
On these grounds, Amnesty International calls for its immediate lifting. The organisation also calls on the Cuban government to stop using the embargo as a pretext to violate the human rights of the Cuban people.
Most of the dissidents arrested during the 2003 crackdown were charged with offences carrying higher penalties under Article 91 of the Penal Code or Law 88.
Article 91 provides sentences of 10 to 20 years or death for anyone who ?in the interest of a foreign state, carries out an act which has the objective of harming the independence of the Cuban state or its territorial integrity?.
Law 88, provides lengthy prison terms for those found guilty of supporting United States policy on Cuba aimed at "disrupting internal order, destabilizing the country and destroying the Socialist State and the independence of Cuba".
Cuba: Fear for safety / Fear of torture / Intimidation / Harassment
AI Index: AMR 25/002/2006
According to reports, days before Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia's arrest, he, his family and several dissidents who were gathered at his house were subjected to so-called "acts of repudiation" ("acto de repudio"), demonstrations of government supporters outside the homes of dissidents and activists, which are
often orchestrated by the authorities. Amnesty International believes that these "acts of repudiation" could amount to psychological torture.
The screams of tormented women
"Day and night, the screams of tormented women in panic and desperation who cry for God's mercy fall upon the deaf ears of prison authorities. They are confined to narrow cells with no sunlight called "drawers" that have cement beds, a hole on the ground for their bodily needs, and are infested with a multitude of rodents, roaches, and other insects.
These female prisoners lack all sort of necessary personal possessions and almost always have no water, even for bathing, often drinking this precious liquid full of insects. The food distributed to them is terrible, smells rotten, and is stored in receptacles lacking in hygiene. Even prison officials have complained of the small quantities served.
In these "drawers" the women remain weeks and months. When they scream in terror due to the darkness (blackouts are common) and the heat, they are injected sedatives that keep them half-drugged."
Journalist suspended by his hair by prison guards.
Frankfurt/M. - 27 May 2004. In protest against the continuing torture of the journalist Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, whose tortures included being suspended by his hair by prison guards, three fellow prisoners and Herández himself went on a hunger strike. The prisoners are members of the organisation "Christian Liberation Movement". Herández has been imprisoned in "Kilo 51/2" in Pinar del Rio since September 2003. Since he went on a hunger strike in autumn 2003 to protest against the inhumane prison conditions, Herández has become victim of continuous violent attacks.
They kept me in a punishment cell, naked, with several fractures on one leg.
Mr. Chairman, today I want to speak about torture, about what it means for a human being to be tortured, to be humiliated, or what may be even worse, to watch a friend, a companion, or a relative being tortured.
As many of you know, I spent twenty-two years in prison for political reasons. Perhaps, I am the only delegate in this Commission who has spent such a long time in prison, although there are several persons here who have known in their own flesh the meaning of torture. I do not care about their political ideology, and I offer to you my embrace of solidarity, from tortured to tortured.
I had many friends in prison. One of them, Roberto López Chávez, was just a kid. He went on a hunger strike to protest the abuses. The guards denied him water, Roberto lay on the floor of his punishment cell, agonizing, deliriously asking for water. water? The soldiers came in and asked him: "Do you want water?"? The they took out their members and urinated in his mouth, on his face? He died the following day. We were cellmates; when he died I felt something wither inside me.
I recall when they kept me in a punishment cell, naked, with several fractures on one leg which never received medical care; today, those bones remain jammed up together and displaced. One of the regular drills among the guards was to stand on the steel mesh ceiling and throw at my face buckets full of urine and excrement.
Mr. Chairman, I know the taste of the urine and the excrement of other men? that practice does not leave marks; marks are left by beatings with steel rods and by bayonet thrusts. My head is still covered with scars and you can feel the cracks.
But, what can inflict more damage to human dignity, the urine and excrements thrown all over your face or a bayonet's blow? Which is the appropriate article for the discussion of this subject? Under which technical point does it fall? Under what batch of papers, numbers, lines and bars should we include this trampling of human dignity?
For me, and for innumerable other human beings around the world. The violation of human rights was not a matter of reports, of negotiated resolutions, of elegant and diplomatic rhetoric, for us was a daily suffering.
For me (it meant) eight thousand days of hunger, of systematic beatings, of hard labor, of solitary confinement, of cells with steel-planked windows and doors, of solitude.
Mental torture and disease
are to break Cuba's best-known civil rights activist
Dr. Biscet is terrorised in the high security prison "Kilo 8"
Havana/Frankfurt/M. - 14 January 2004. The International Society for Human rights reports that Cuba's best-known political prisoner, the civil rights activist Dr Oscar Elias Biscet, is systematically terrorised in the high security prison "Kilo 8". Biscet was transferred to the high security prison near Havana in mid-November. He had to live through a three-week special punishment in a subterranean dark cell under inhuman conditions.
UNHCR Report 1997.
Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture : Cuba. 21/11/97.
A/53/44,paras.101-118. (Concluding Observations/Comments)
118. The Committee recommends that the following actions be taken by the State Party:
(a) The criminalization of torture, as defined in the Convention, by the creation of a specific crime or crimes giving effect to every aspect of it;
(b) The establishment of a transparent permanent procedure for receiving complaints about torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, the prompt examination of such complaints and bringing to justice those responsible;
(c) The incorporation into the law of the right of the suspect or detainee to silence at all stages of investigation;
(d) The establishment of a system of recurrent review of prisons as required by article 11 of the Convention with a view to improving conditions in prisons;
(e) Revision of the rules to the organization of the judicial system in accordance with international instruments on the subject, namely the United Nations guidelines on the independence of the judiciary;
(f) The setting up of a comprehensive programme, which should be kept under constant review, for educating and training law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, public officials and all those involved in the interrogation, custody or treatment of any person arrested, detained or imprisoned;
(g) The establishment of a central register containing adequate statistical data about complaints of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, investigation of such complaints, the time within which the investigation is conducted and any prosecution mounted thereafter and its outcome;
(h) The establishment of a compensation fund for the compensation of the victims of torture and other prohibited treatment;
(i) Allowing into the country human rights NGOs and cooperating with them in the identification of cases of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment;
(j) Urgently addressing complaints about torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment raised in NGO reports and the reports of the Special Rapporteurs; taking such action as the obligations of the State party under the Convention warrant; and reporting to the Committee the outcome of such investigations and any action taken in the next periodic report.