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CUBA: Five years after 'Black Spring', WiPC calls for release of 28
imprisoned writers, journalists and librarians following Cuba's
signature of key human rights treaties

Author(s): Tamsin Mitchell – PEN WiPC Africa/Americas Researcher
Date: 13th March, 2008

RAN 15/08

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN applauds
Cuba's 28 February signature of two key international human rights
conventions which explicitly guarantee the right to freedom of
expression, health, and freedom from torture and ill treatment, among
others. The WiPC calls on the Cuban authorities to honour these
commitments by immediately and unconditionally releasing the 28 writers,
journalists and librarians imprisoned in violation of these rights.
Twenty-one of these were arrested during Cuba's 2003 'Black Spring'
crackdown on dissidents and will have been held for five years this
month. The WiPC also urges the government to ratify the treaties without
reservations and to introduce all legislative and judicial reforms
necessary for implementation.

On 28 February 2008, Cuba's Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, signed
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
at the United Nations (UN) in New York, making good his promise of
December 2007. The two conventions, which expand on and codify the UN
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are legally binding and commit
the country to respect and promote a full spectrum of rights. These
include the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to earn a living
by the profession of one's choosing, the right to health and freedom
from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

The signature of these conventions marks a significant change in Cuba's
attitude to the UN: for years the country had refused all calls to sign
the treaties and to allow a visit by the now defunct Special Rapporteur
on human rights in Cuba. The development follows hard on the heels of
Fidel Castro's resignation from office and the surprise release of two
journalists and a librarian serving lengthy prison sentences in February
2008. On 16 February, journalists Alejandro González Raga and José
Gabriel Ramón Castillo and librarian Omar Pernet Hernández were released
from prison and flown to Spain with their families (see RAN 10/08 of 21
February 2008). The three men were arrested and sentenced as part of a
crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on 18 March 2003, together
with a number of other writers, journalists and librarians who were part
of the so-called 'Group of 75'.

Despite these developments, 28 other writers, journalists and librarians
remain imprisoned in Cuba in flagrant violation of their right to
freedom of expression, and other rights guaranteed by the two freshly
signed treaties. Twenty-one of these have been imprisoned since the
March 2003 crackdown; the other seven were detained subsequently. All
are serving lengthy prison sentences – up to 27 years in some cases – on
anti-state or 'social dangerousness' charges. The majority of them are
suffering from health complaints caused or exacerbated by the harsh
conditions and treatment they are exposed to in prison. Despite their
deteriorating health, access to adequate medical treatment is often limited.

Background information:

The full text of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights can been viewed at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm
and http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm respectively

For a list of the names of the 28 writers, journalists and librarians
imprisoned in Cuba, please email Tamsin Mitchell at
tamsin.mitchell@internationalpen.org.uk

For further details on the April 2003 crackdown trials and individual
cases, see the latest published case list of International PEN's Writers
in Prison Committee (July to December 2008) at:
http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/index.php?pid=33&aid=747&type=current

Please send appeals:

Welcoming Cuba's signature of the 1966 UN International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 1966 UN International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

Calling on the country to demonstrate its commitment to these treaties
by immediately releasing the 28 journalists, writers and librarians
imprisoned on the island in violation of their right to freedom of
expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the ICCPR, and other rights
contained in the ICCPR and ICESCR, such as the right to earn a living by
the profession of one's choosing freedom, the right to health, and
freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and
punishment

Urging the authorities to ratify both the ICCPR and the ICESCR without
reservations, and to introduce the necessary legislative and judicial
reforms to guarantee freedom of expression and all other rights
contained in the treaties

Appeals to:

Head of State and GovernmentRaúl Castro Ruiz, Presidente La Habana,
CubaFax: +53 7 8333085 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)/

+1 2127791697 (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)Salutation: Su Excelencia/
Your Excellency

Minister of Foreign AffairsSr. Felipe Pérez Roque, Ministro de
Relaciones Exteriores Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Calzada No.
360, Vedado, La Habana, CubaFax: +53 7 8333 085E-mail:
cubaminrex@minrex.gov.cuSalutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your
country.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with the WiPC if sending
appeals after 13 April 2008.***

For further details contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison
Committee London Office: Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V
6ER UK Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail:
tamsin.mitchell@internationalpen.org.uk

http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/index.php?pid=33&aid=760&type=current

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