Programs: Science and Policy
AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
AAAS Human Rights Action Network
|Date:||8 April 2003|
|Case Numbers:||cu931; cu9811_bis|
|Victims:||Oscar Elias Biscet; Maria Beatriz Roque Cabello|
|Subject:||Marta Roque Sentenced and Oscar Biscet Awaiting Verdict|
|Issues:||Freedom of association and assembly; Freedom of opinion and expression; Right to a fair and impartial trial|
|Type of alert:||Update|
|Related alerts:||14 April 1998; 5 October 1998; 20 October 1998; 24 May 2000; 24 March 2003 31 August 1998 27 September 1999 18 November 1999 2 November 2001 23 January 2003|
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The Cuban government recently imposed harsh prison sentences on pro-democracy activists in a series of ongoing trials. The sentences range from twelve to twenty-five years. About 80 activists and professionals were arrested in a massive crackdown of prominent dissidents that began in mid-March 2003. All of the detainees are being tried under Cuban government laws that criminalize nonviolent opposition to the government and its policies.
Among those sentenced is Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, an economist and leader of a national association of civic groups on the island. Roque has been a strong advocate of socio-economic reform in Cuba. She was recently released after spending three-and-a-half years in prison for co-writing a pro-democracy document entitled, “The Homeland Belongs to All.”
Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a medical doctor and human rights advocate, is being tried for “subversive activities.” The charges are related to a peaceful protest Dr. Biscet organized. He was arrested in December 2002, only one month after he was released from a three-year prison term for protesting government policies. According to reports, prosecutors are demanding a life sentence for Dr. Biscet.
The Americas Division of Human Rights Watch is protesting the harsh prison sentences as “totally unjustified” and “draconian.” The organization also expressed concern about the fairness of the trials citing the courts’ lack of independence. All of the detainees are being tried under so-called “facilitated procedures” in the Cuban criminal code. However, according to the code, the expedited trials are only to be used in “exceptional circumstances.”
During this time of harsh repression against civil society actors, including independent journalists and librarians, in Cuba, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is currently holding its annual six-week meeting in Geneva. Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay have drafted a resolution concerning the human rights situation in Cuba. The U.N. Commission has passed ten resolutions in the past eleven years that criticize Cuba for violating human rights. This language in this year’s resolution is considerably weaker than in past years.
International human rights groups believe that the timing of the wave of repression against activists is intentionally related to the war in Iraq. There is belief that the government is taking advantage of the world’s inattention to crush domestic dissent.
(Source of information for this case is the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch.)
RELEVANT HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Article 12: (1): The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. (2): The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for: (c) The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases; (d) The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his [or her] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him [or her].
- Article 20(1): Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Please send faxes, letters, or emails to Cuban government officials:
- Expressing your concern about the recent arrest and sentencing of more than 80 dissidents, including Marta Roque Cabello and Oscar Elias Biscet; and
- Requesting that the Cuban government honor provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that provide for freedom of expression and immediately and unconditionally release all individuals held solely because of their peaceful exercise of their internationally recognized human rights.
Please send faxes, letters, or emails to the UN Commission on Human Rights:
- Expressing your concern about the harsh sentences that the Cuban government has imposed on dissidents;
- Expressing your concern that the Cuban government may be using the world’s attention on the war on Iraq to crush domestic dissent; and
- Requesting that the Committee strongly and unequivocally condemn the Cuban government for its repressive tactics and clear human rights violations.
APPEAL AND INQUIRY MESSAGES SHOULD BE SENT TO:
Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz
Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 011 (53) 7 333085
Salutation: Your Excellency:
Sr. Felipe Perez Roque
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Calzada No. 360
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 011(53) 7333085
Salutation: Dear Minister
UN Commission on Human Rights
Support Services Branch
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: 011 41 22 917 9011
Salutation: Dear Commissioners
COPIES SENT TO:
Cuban Interests Section
c/o Embassy of Switzerland
2630 16 Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Fax: (202) 986-7283
Please send copies of your appeals, and any responses you may receive, or direct any questions you may have to Victoria Baxter, AAAS Science and Human Rights Program, 1200 New York Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20005; tel. 202-326-6797; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or fax 202-289-4950.
The keys to effective appeals are to be courteous and respectful, accurate and precise, impartial in approach, and as specific as possible regarding the alleged violation and the international human rights standards and instruments that apply to the situation. Reference to your scientific organization and professional affiliation is always helpful.
To ensure that appeals are current and credible, please do not continue to write appeals on this case after 90 days from the date of the posting unless an update has been issued.