The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced on Monday the human rights violations after the anti-government protests of July 11 of last year, such as the incommunicado detention of detainees or “abusive” criminal proceedings.
For a year, the NGO investigated more than 155 cases in which it denounced, for example, that “judges and prosecutors, who in Cuba lack independence from the government, facilitated abusive criminal proceedings and participated in them.”
“In most of the documented cases, detainees were kept incommunicado for days, weeks, or even months, unable to make phone calls or receive visits from family members or lawyers,” added HRW.
The 41-page report notes that “the majority of detainees said they were kept in overcrowded and unsanitary cells, with limited or no access to food, medicine, clean water, or protection to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
It adds that “the “rapid response brigades”, the name by which groups of civilians organized by the government are known, were involved in several beatings.”
“We found that officials repeatedly detained peaceful protesters and arrested critics on their way to demonstrations or barred them from leaving their homes for days or even weeks,” HRW reported.
The document details the cases of opponent José Daniel Ferrer and artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, among others.
HRW also calls on Latin American governments, the US, the European Union and others “to unequivocally condemn the repression against protesters and critics in Cuba and to urge the Cuban government to release all those detained.” In this sense, the report highlights that “many Latin American governments – including, recently, Mexico and Argentina – have been reluctant to criticize the abuses in Cuba and have even praised the Cuban government, despite its disastrous human rights record.”
A year ago, the largest anti-government protests in decades took place in Cuba, demonstrations whose main cause was the serious economic crisis that the country is going through.
According to the Cuban Attorney General’s Office, a total of 790 people have been prosecuted for the July 11 protests, of which 55 are between 16 and 17 years old. The minimum criminal age in Cuba is 16. In addition, “the established legal procedure” was applied to 27 children under 16 years of age.
The NGO Prisoners Defenders, for its part, points out that at least 1,046 people were in prison on the island as of May for political reasons, mostly for the events of July 11.
The US and the European Union, as well as Cuban and international NGOs, have denounced irregularities in the trials and criticized the long prison sentences, which have sometimes reached 30 years.