Cuban Government Must Release All Political Prisoners
While the release of seven Cuban political prisoners this week is a welcome action, more needs to be done to demonstrate a genuine shift in the Cuban government’s treatment of political dissent, Freedom House said today. The organization urged the international community to continue to pressure the Cuban government to release all political prisoners in detention.
“While Freedom House views the early release of any prisoners as a positive development, history has indicated that there is little reason to believe that this action will herald greater tolerance of dissent or the passage of meaningful reforms in Cuba,” said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. “Those governments and nongovernmental organizations that claim to support human rights must remain vigilant in urging the Cuban government to release all political prisoners.”
Rather than representing a change in the Cuban government’s posture towards the dissident movement, past incidences of early releases of individual political prisoners have consistently proven them to be isolated events. Additionally, the prisoners who were recently released had already served most--and in some cases all--of their sentences.
The actions of the Cuban government are belied by the fact that a human rights advocate and a journalist were recently arrested, summarily tried, and imprisoned for political crimes, including “disclosing state security secrets” and alleged “social dangerousness.” Dissident lawyer Rolando Jiménez Posada and independent journalist Oscar Sanchez received respective sentences of twelve and four years in jail.
“The arrest and sentencing of Mr. Posada and Mr. Sanchez, legitimate civil society actors who have been struggling to expand freedom in Cuba, sends a sign that the government intends to continue its repression of political dissent in Cuba,” said Jennifer Windsor. “Those countries that are in dialogue with the Cuban government must insist that the treatment of political prisoners be on the agenda during any discussions.”
The Cuban government did not provide a formal explanation for the releases, but observers have attributed the action to a diplomatic rapprochement with Spain. The releases come at a time when the Spanish government is facing criticism over a recent visit to Cuba by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, which did not include a meeting with political dissidents nor a discussion of Cuba’s political prisoners.
According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, there still are an estimated 270 to 280 political prisoners in detention on politically motivated charges, and countless democracy and human rights advocates who are routinely subjected to indiscriminate interrogations and detention by the Cuban government.
Cuba is consistently ranked as Not Free in Freedom House’s annual survey, Freedom in the World, and is considered to be among the “worst of the worst” in terms of the level of civil and political freedoms enjoyed by the population.
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Cuba since 1972.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.