Sunday, August 5, 2012

Amnesty International calls on Castro regime to end harassment of human rights defenders

Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action for José Daniel Ferrer García on August 1, 2012 following his detention on July 30, 2012. He was released a day later on August 2nd. Below is Amnesty's analysis of what is taking place and demand for change.

Cuba must stop ‘cat-and-mouse game’ with political activists

José Daniel Ferrer García has been detained on  numerous 
occasions for his peaceful activism in Cuba. © UNPACU
 by Amnesty International

 The Cuban authorities must end their ongoing harassment of political and human rights activists, Amnesty International said today after a former prisoner of conscience was released following his latest arrest and detention in a police station for 36 hours.

José Daniel Ferrer García, coordinator of the organization Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), was set free on Wednesday, two days after police arrested him in the eastern province of Holguín.

He was not charged with any crime. His family had no idea of his whereabouts until he was returned home by the authorities on Wednesday afternoon.

Ferrer’s latest arrest follows three days he spent in detention after being arrested in Havana in February 2012 and a 27-day detention for “public disorder” in Santiago de Cuba two months later. These repeated, short detentions are in line with a pattern of harassment by the Cuban authorities against UNPACU members and other political dissidents.

“The latest arrest and short-term detention of José Daniel Ferrer García continues the Cuban authorities’ cat-and-mouse game with political dissidents and human rights activists,” said James Burke, Campaigner on the Caribbean at Amnesty International.

“This practice – used as a form of harassment and intimidation to repress legitimate, peaceful activism and freedom of expression – must come to a halt.”

UNPACU was formed in mid-2011 as an umbrella group of Cuban dissident organizations in and around the province of Santiago de Cuba who seek democratic change by non-violent means.

Since its creation, the Cuban authorities have used arbitrary detention and other measures to harass and intimidate its members. One member, Wilman Villar Mendoza – whom Amnesty International named a prisoner of conscience – died last January on a hunger strike to protest his four-year prison sentence after a summary trial.

UNPACU coordinator Ferrer García served eight years of a 25-year jail sentence for his political activism before being granted conditional release in March 2011.

He was among 75 Cuban dissidents arrested during the so-called “Black Spring” crackdown in March 2003. Amnesty International adopted all 75 as prisoners of conscience after they were jailed for the peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government.

Ferrer García was among those targeted in part for his participation in the Varela Project, which called for a national referendum on democratic reforms in Cuba.

Following his conditional release last year, police in Santiago de Cuba re-arrested Ferrer García on 2 April 2012 along with 42 other activists – most of them UNPACU members.

All the rest were set free, but police held Ferrer García on a “public disorder” charge for a further 27 days, before releasing him on the condition that he renounce his political activism.

Following his release, José Daniel Ferrer García told Amnesty International that the authorities had arrested him to prevent him from travelling to the capital, Havana where he had planned to hold meetings with other government critics who are peacefully seeking greater respect for civil and political rights in Cuba.

He said the ongoing campaign of harassment would not deter him or his colleagues from continuing with their activism: “Our goal in Cuba is to establish true rule of law in Cuba where freedom of expression, freedom of association – all fundamental freedoms – are respected, and until we do so, we will continue our peaceful struggle.”

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