Respect for rights no better under Raul: Cuban dissidents

February 3rd, 2009 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Havana, Feb 3 (IANS) The banned Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation has said that the February 2008 elevation of Raul Castro to the presidency brought no “significant improvements” on the island, EFE reported.”The worst scene in all of Ibero-Americo continues to prevail in the matter of civil, political and economic rights, due to the fact that the Cuban government tramples on each and every one of those said rights,” the group says in its latest report.

A list of 205 political prisoners, down from 234 a year ago, is included in the document.

But while acknowledging that the ranks of Cuba’s political prisoners are no longer growing, the document points to last year’s 1,500 instances of government opponents’ being arbitrarily detained for up to a day.

The commission also says that the four political detainees released on medical grounds in February 2008 and immediately flown to Spain were forced to “exchange… the punishment of prison for that of exile.”

Raul Castro, who officially succeeded ailing older brother Fidel last February, has offered to send all of the political prisoners to the US in exchange for five Cuban intelligence agents now serving time in US prisons, a proposal indignantly rejected by Washington and some dissidents.

Cuban prisons, according to the human rights commission, suffer from overcrowding and deteriorating sanitation and are the scene of “suicides and deaths due to negligence or inaction of the military commanders and to criminal violence”.

“We have confirmed 54 deaths of inmates during the year 2008, but we estimate that the (number) of prisoners who died under the circumstances described above surpasses 100,” the rights commission said.

Prison authorities also continue “using violent common criminals to harass political prisoners,” the report said.

On Castro government’s invitation to the UN rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, the commission predicted that Cuban officials would make it impossible for the visitor to meet privately with dissidents in or out of prison.

But Nowak said last week that he plans to make “unannounced” visits to all kinds of detention facilities while in Cuba and to spend time with every type of detainee, including those being held for political reasons.

In a related matter, Cuba Monday presented to the UN the instruments of Havana’s ratification of the international convention against forced disappearances.

Cuban diplomat Abelardo Moreno said in a brief ceremony at UN headquarters in New York that the current regime in Havana has never resorted to forced disappearance, extrajudicial execution or torture.

Yet the Cuba Archive, a US-based organisation, says there have been 1,231 summary executions and 200 “disappearances” on the island since the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in January 1959.

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