Prisoners Defenders, in consortium with the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba (ASIC), San Isidro Movement, UNPACU, Instituto Patmos and Corriente Martiana, denounces in the United Nations the process of persecution of hundreds of cases for freedom of expression, in a new pattern of legislative normalization of the repression of freedom of expression. The regime has already carried out between 500 and 1,000 processes of threat and/or punishment of civilians, officials, self-employed, artists, journalists and civil society activists to curtail freedom of expression in Cuba in the field of the Internet, the only one that escaped in some small measure at its control. A sample of 33 cases have been reported.
MEP Vice-President of the EP, Dita Charanzová, MEP Vice-President of DCAM, Javier Nart, Spanish congressional representative Carlos Rojas and Executive Member of the General Council of Spanish Advocates, Blas Jesús Imbroda, in a Press Conference, together with Prisoners Defenders, presented the imperative need to take urgent action in this regard.
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The complete complaint can be downloaded here (Spanish):
PD detected that from the beginning of 2020 dozens of civilians were warned and threatened for publishing on social networks, calling them to be sanctioned with unpayable contraventions (fines), and therefore, in Cuba, a sanction which carries a penalty of 6 months in prison for each one of the fines. This pattern has occurred in work centres and in multiple sectors of the population.
In parallel, cases of notable journalists, artists and activists began to reach us. The alarm went off. We discovered, together with sources from the regime itself who have collaborated for a long time with us, that we are facing the creation of a process of legislative normalization and institutional legitimization of the repression of freedom of expression, to narrow the scope of action that was being somehow uncontrolled by the regime progressively since year 2000: the internet and electronic communications.
We have documented the dozens of cases to which we had access and who would dare to tell what was happening to them. Thus, we collected 33 cases that came to us, through interviews, transfer of supporting documentation, recordings, images and finally an online form that would typify certain aspects of the violations.
The complaint was filed on June 8, 2020, it has already been received by the United Nations High Commissioner, it is being worked on, and we expect a resolution in a period of less than 4 months.
MEP Vice-President of the EP, Dita Charanzová, MEP Vice-President of DCAM, Javier Nart, Spanish congressional representative Carlos Rojas and Executive Member of the General Council of Spanish Advocates, Blas Jesús Imbroda, in a Press Conference, together with Prisoners Defenders, presented the imperative need to take urgent action in this regard. The victims and their representatives were also present, such as José Daniel Ferrer (human rights activist), Camila Acosta (Cuban journalist), Amaury Pacheco (independent artistic movement Movimiento San Isidro), Iván Hernández Carrillo (Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba) and the Baptist minister Mario Félix Lleonart (Patmos Institute, for religious freedom and human rights).
How has such process been established?
Freedom of expression has not existed in Cuba since 1959. To achieve the mechanisms, Cuba has since launched a refined process of surveillance and control that can be summarized as follows:
Later, with the arrival of the Internet, the process of repressing freedom of expression in the new Internet medium was carried out in a dark and illegal, but effective way. Cuba did not enter the digital age, waiting to be forced into it and with the premise of doing so when the repression mechanisms were ready, as now:
The approval in April 2019 of the new Constitution, the use of the existing Penal Code, and the approval in July 2019 of Decree-Law 370, and other various decrees, gave way to the State Security:
- To have full powers without a judicial order to listen to any electronic communication from citizens (telephone, mobile, internet and data) and carry out follow-ups.
- To impose fines and therefore take to prison for any sentence, communication or post published or made in Cubans’ communications.
- The Cuban Penal Code, article 170.1, would do the rest: any unpaid fine is subject of imprisonment for 6 months. Two fines, 12 months, three fines, 18 months, and so on.
- Prisoners Defenders already has in its list of political prisoners 7 cases of human rights activists who have prison terms with an average period of 2 years and 9 months because of arbitrary fines.
The Cuban government intends to implant this capacity to threaten its citizens, already sufficiently intimidated by the repression it has exercised on freedom of expression for more than 61 years, imposing fines that entail imprisonment for exercising freedom of expression. This is the scheme:
The new Constitution, Decree-Law 370 and the Criminal Code as tools of control
Article 5 defines the goals of the Decree-Law:
- b) “Consolidate the use and development of ICT as an instrument for the defence of the Revolution“
- c) “promote and favour access and responsible use of ICTs by citizens”
- d) “consolidate the political defence” of the system/regime/revolution (you name it)
Article 60 defines the inspection and control:
“The Ministry of Communications … [Ministry of] Interior and Revolutionary Armed Forces designate the organizational units and entities that guarantee regulation, control and oversight”
Article 68 defines the offense:
“Disseminate, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to the social interest, morality, good customs and integrity of people”
- Article 70 defines the fine:
“It is imposed a fine of 3000 pesos”
3,000 pesos in Cuba are between 2.8 and 7.5 times the normal salary of an average Cuban. The fine, once imposed, becomes unpayable in 15 days.
Application of the Cuban Penal Code
This means that the fines are unpayable, which means that the Cuban Penal Code, whose article 170.1 defines that, for each fine (contravention):
“Whoever does not comply with the… contraventions, is deprived of liberty for one to six months”
How does the “new” 2019 Constitution protect political and conscientious opinions from being threatened, fined and imprisoned?
On the “social interest”, the “moral” and the “good customs”:
ARTICLE 4. The defence of the socialist homeland is the greatest honour and the supreme duty of each Cuban. Treason against the fatherland is the most serious of crime, whoever commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions. The socialist system that endorses this Constitution is irrevocable. Citizens have the right to fight by all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone who attempts to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution.
ARTICLE 229. In no case are the pronouncements on the irrevocability of the socialist system anyway amended or reformable.
ARTICLE 9. Strict compliance with socialist legality is everyone’s obligation.
10% of the political prisoners in Cuba are convicted pursuant to article 170.1 for non-payment of fines with more than 2 years and 9 months of conviction.
Effects of this new legislative standardization and institutional legitimation of the repression of freedom of expression
- Between 500 and 1,000 civilians have been threatened and/or sanctioned with 3,000 pesos (from 2.8 to 7.5 times the Cuban salary) in last 5 months
- More than 30 fines between opponents, dissidents, independent artists and journalists
- Dozens of threatened in this groups are already registered
Threatened: 10 cases presented at the UN
- Threats are carried out by State Security in police offices and they do not identify themselves. There were no ETECSA personnel in any case.
- The victims are lied to in order to get them go: “interview”, “telephone problem”, “interrogation”…
- 2 are nurses (1 of them expelled from her job), 2 are YouTuber internationally awarded, the rest are journalists and human rights activists
- The victims receive a threat every month and several arrests a year without criminal charges.
- Detentions are covert arrests of several hours
- Threatening to go to prison: they must leave social networks, their organization, their activism…
Fined: 23 cases presented at the UN
- They are carried out by State Security in police offices, and do not identify themselves.
- The victims do not receive resolution minutes (100% of the cases), therefore there is no possible legal defence
- In many cases, the victims are not indicated about the publications that were the problem. Those shown to them, as we have acknowledged, are not offensive or reprehensible. Others are even private (telephone conversations)
- The fines are imposed by arrest (51%) without an arrest warrant (95%)
- They are lied to go to police offices, or directly arrested
- They are journalists, human rights activists and artists
The 33 cases presented to the United Nations
Threatened and coerced:
|Pedro Ariel García Rodríguez (male nurse)||Iván Hernández Carrillo (trade unionist)|
|Indira Adela Pérez García (nurse)||Yoel Suárez Fernández (journalist)|
|Ruhama Fernández Ferrer (YouTuber)||Yander Jaime Serra Palomares (YouTuber)|
|Alexis Sabatela Ugarte (HR activist)||Héctor Luis Valdés Corcho (blogger)|
|Ramón Zamora Rodríguez (journalist)||Otoniel Cruz Suárez (HR activist)|
Sanctioned, with the possibility of going to prison:
|Camila Acosta Rodríguez (journalist)||Ovidio Martín Castellanos (HR activist)|
|Iliana Hernández Cardosa (journalist)||Nancy Alfaya Hernández (journalist)|
|Lázara Eumelia Ayllón Reyes (HR activist)||José Diaz Silva (HR activist)|
|Jiordan Marrero Huerta (HR activist)||Maykel Castillo Pérez (singer)|
|Boris González Arenas (filmmaker, journalist)||Enrique Díaz Rodríguez (journalist)|
|Mónica Baró Sánchez (journalist)||Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López (journalist)|
|Adrián Quesada Flores (HR activist)||Niober García Fournier (HR activist)|
|Yeris Curbelo Aguilera (HR activist)||Karelia Contreras Manzano (HR activist)|
|Diosvany Zalazar Rodríguez (self-employed civilian)||Henry Couto Guzmán (HR activist)|
|Ediyersi Santana Jouz (HR activist)||Ángel Mario Peña Aguilera (HR activist)|
|Juan Luis Bravo Rodríguez (HR activist)||José Luis Acosta Cortellán (HR activist)|
|Marisol Peña Cobas (HR activist)|
About Prisoners Defenders
Prisoners Defenders is an independent group of analysis, study and legal action, which has the collaboration of multiple opposition groups and families, professionals and officials in order to gather information and promote human rights in Cuba.
Cuban Prisoners Defenders is part of the Prisoners Defenders International Network, a legally registered Association based in Madrid, Spain, whose focus of action is the promotion and defence of human rights and democratic values, and whose Internet address is www.prisonersdefenders.org.
The works of Cuban Prisoners Defenders are adopted by numerous institutions and are sent, among others, to the United Nations Organization, Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch, Civil Rights Defenders. Freedom House, European Parliament, United States Congress and Senate FNCA, ASIC, UNPACU,
Government of Spain, Spanish Transition Foundation, International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, FANTU, Party for Democracy Pedro Luis Boitel, College of Pedagogues Independent of Cuba and the Citizen Movement Reflection and Reconciliation, among many other institutions and organizations of equal relevance.
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