AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: URGENT ACTION
Detained graffiti artist resumes hunger strike
Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (‘El Sexto’) re-started his hunger strike on 16 October after the authorities failed to uphold their promise to release him by 15 October. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Danilo Maldonado Machado, known by his artistic name ‘El Sexto’, resumed his hunger strike on 16 October, according to his family, to protest the failure of the authorities to release him on 15 October as previously promised. He is being held at the Valle Grande prison on the outskirts of Havana, the capital.
On 8 September Danilo Maldonado Machado initiated a hunger strike to protest his detention without trial in Cuba since December 2014. He ended it on 1 October 2015 after officials promised that he would be released unconditionally in 15 days if he stopped the strike.
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
- Calling on the authorities to release Danilo Maldonado Machado (‘El Sexto’) immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- Calling on them to repeal all legislation which unduly limits freedom of expression, assembly and association;
- Urging them to ensure that, pending his release, he is provided with any medical care which he may require during his hunger strike; not tortured or otherwise ill-treated; and that he is granted regular access to family and lawyers of his choosing.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 30 NOVEMBER 2015 TO:
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella
La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
And solidarity letters to:
Danilo Maldonado Machado’s mother María Victoria
Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the third update of UA 214/15. Further information: www.amnesty.org/en/documents/
Local activists believe Danilo Maldonado Machado’s continuous detention without trial seeks to sanction him for his activism and send a message to other activists and dissidents. In recent months, his lawyer has requested a modification of the precautionary measures seeking the release of Danilo Maldonado Machado during the judicial proceeding, but it was denied by the prosecutor. A new demand was presented in late September and is awaiting a new decision from the office of the public prosecutor.
Article 144 of the Cuban Penal Code defines the crime of contempt (desacato), making all forms of disrespect of state officials an offence and providing for longer prison terms where the disrespect is directed against government members or other top state officials.
Article 144 states: “1. Anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults, harms or in any way outrages or offends, orally or in writing, the dignity or honour of an authority, public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions or on the occasion of or because of them will incur a penalty of between three months and one year's loss of liberty or a fine… or both. 2. If the deed established in the previous paragraph is directed against the President of the Council of State, the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the members of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers or the deputies at the National Assembly of Popular Power, the penalty will be between one and three years' loss of liberty.”
Danilo Maldonado Machado is believed to be accused of “aggravated contempt” as the outrage was understood to be directed against Raúl and Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and of Ministers of the Republic, and Deputy at the National Assembly of Popular Power, respectively. This provision, which is often used to silence dissent and to shield public officials from legitimate criticism, constitutes an illegitimate restriction on freedom of expression. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR): “[a] law that targets speech that is considered critical of the public administration by virtue of the individual who is the object of the expression, strikes at the very essence and content of freedom of expression” and “may affect not only those directly silenced, but society as a whole”.
Amnesty International believes that public officials should tolerate more criticism than private individuals. The use of defamation laws with the purpose or effect of inhibiting legitimate criticism of government or public officials violates the right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International opposes laws prohibiting insult or disrespect of heads of state or public figures, the military or other public institutions or flags or symbols (such as lèse majesté and desacato laws). Amnesty International also opposes laws criminalizing defamation, whether of public figures or private individuals, which should be treated as a matter for civil litigation. Public officials should not receive state assistance or support in bringing civil actions for defamation.
Name: Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as ‘El Sexto’
Gender m/f: m