Cuba's deadly justice
Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in prison, one of scores of political
prisoners who are routinely mistreated in the country's jails.
March 1, 2010
Bricklayer Orlando Zapata Tamayo didn't commit murder. He didn't plot an
assassination or the violent overthrow of the government. He was
arrested on March 20, 2003, in Cuba, while taking part in a hunger
strike to demand the release of political prisoners, and was sentenced
to three years in prison on charges of showing contempt for Fidel Castro
as well as public disorder and disobedience, according to Amnesty
International. Over the next six years, he is believed to have had eight
more hearings and was convicted at least three more times, bringing his
total sentence to about 36 years — a figure his friends say may be
inexact because the proceedings were secret. Now Zapata is dead after
another hunger strike, this time for 85 days, to protest beatings and
other prison conditions.
President Raul Castro should be ashamed. Instead, he is dismissive,
asserting that Zapata's death was the fault, somehow, of the United
States — because in the Cuban government's view, all critics are
proxies for U.S. subversion. Zapata was neither tortured nor executed,
Castro reportedly said. "That happens at the Guantanamo base."
That's right, Mr. President, serious human rights abuses were committed
against terrorism suspects held by the United States at the Guantanamo
Bay detention center in Cuba, and they were vociferously denounced by
people in this country who felt betrayed and dishonored by our
government. But who in Cuba will be allowed to protest Zapata's death?
Who will be permitted to examine Cuban jails or challenge your assertion
that torture does not take place there?
Amnesty International had counted 55 "prisoners of conscience" in Cuban
jails — make that 54 now. A Human Rights Watch report on Cuban
prisoners last year documented how those who criticize the government or
report violations are subjected to extended periods of solitary
confinement and beatings and denied medical treatment, family visits and
telephone calls. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of cases in which
prison officials physically abused and humiliated political prisoners.
Prison authorities routinely subjected them to solitary confinement in
cells described as cramped, squalid, without bedding — some in total
darkness, others with permanent bright lights — and provided rotting,
inadequate food at irregular intervals.
That sounds like torture to us. And although Zapata may not have faced
an executioner, he is dead for dissenting.
Cuba's deadly justice – latimes.com (1 March 2010)