IACHR Expresses Concern Over Ongoing Detention and Prosecution of People Who Took Part in Protests in Cuba

February 16, 2022

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Washington, D.C. — Seven months after the mass protests in Cuba, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over the ongoing deprivation of freedom and prosecution of individuals who took part in theses demonstrations, including adolescents.

As of February 7, more than 700 people remain imprisoned in Cuba because they took part in the July 2021 protests, according to information from civil society. The conditions in which these people are being held include high levels of overcrowding, lack of access to drinking water and adequate food, substandard medical care, and the use of isolation measures.

In reference to the legal proceedings that resulted from the protests of July 11, the Attorney General's Office acknowledged that a total of 790 people are accused of "acts of vandalism, which constituted a crime against the authorities, people, and property, as well as serious disturbances of public order," according to official information released on January 24. It also pointed out that the sanctions to be imposed—prison sentences of up to 30 years—befit the seriousness of the events in question.

According to the information available, most of these detainees are reportedly being held in pretrial detention, which runs counter to the international principles for how this should be applied. Furthermore, the individuals in question are allegedly being tried for unspecified crimes and on unfounded and disproportionate criminal charges. Similarly, information has been provided on violations of due process, such as the restriction of access to criminal records or copies of sentences and the absence of appropriate technical defense and contact with legal representatives.

On the specific matter of the adolescents being held, the Cuban Attorney General's Office reported that 55 of the detainees are between 16 and 18 years old and were accused of criminal activity during the protests. Of these, 28 are being help in pretrial detention, while 18 have had the severity of their sentences reduced. In response, civil society organizations reported that these adolescents have been deprived of their freedom and subjected to judicial proceedings without respect for the standards governing the juvenile criminal justice system, especially with regard to the presence of their parents during the process. They have also noted that the adolescents are facing criminal charges that include severe sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The IACHR received complaints about ongoing acts of intimidation, harassment, and violence by State security forces and government supporters targeting the relatives of the accused, journalists, and activists. This harassment is allegedly a response to their demonstrating against the trials and the severe sentences that are being handed down to those to took part in the protests. On this point, the IACHR noted with concern the report concerning 11 persons who were detained on January 31 outside the Diez de Octubre Municipal Court in Havana for protesting against the prosecution of July 11 demonstrators.

The IACHR urged the Cuban Stateto release all people being deprived of their freedom for participating in the protests, including both adolescents and adults, and to cease the practice of harassment and arrests in response to social protest or other related rights. Likewise, it noted that the State must guarantee due process for all people who are detained and accused of criminal activity, as per inter-American standards.

Finally, the IACHR reiterated that adolescents should only be detained in exceptional circumstances as a measure of last resort, and for the shortest possible period. Consequently, the State must adopt the necessary measures to minimize their contact with the criminal justice systems.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 031/22

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