1,167 political prisoners in Cuba in 12 months

1,007 imprisoned in February alone

AFP/YAMIL LAGE  -   A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on July 11, 2021.

In the last 12 months 1,167 verified political prisoners have been on the list of Prisoners Defenders in Cuba. March 2021 started with 135. From then until the end of February 2022, in addition to these 135, another 1,032 new political prisoners have been added during these 12 months, making 1,007 political prisoners in Cuba verified by Prisoners Defenders at the moment.

This is only a fraction, between 60 and 70% of the real numbers, whose total verification is simply unattainable by any organisation except, of course, the island's regime.

AFP/YAMIL LAGE - Thousands of Cubans took part in rare protests against communist government

Of the 1,007, 869 political prisoners of 11J have been documented, in addition to the dozens of them released with fines - of exorbitant amounts for Cuba - in recent months. It is surprising to read the press release issued by Cuba, which indicates fewer cases ("790 people charged for acts of vandalism") than the names made public by NGOs. It is already clear that the Cuban government is hiding the truth and thus only gives the figures for the "most significant" cases, according to Prisoners Defenders.

Prisoners Defenders has maintained since the beginning of this 'raid' that more than 5,000 people were detained and more than 1,500 prosecuted. The reality and the constant work of its activists on the island, as well as that of all the NGOs, the families of those affected and the whole of civil society, are highlighting the murky reality of Cuba at the moment.

AFP/EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI - Demonstrators against the Cuban government
 There are 1,007 political prisoners: children prisoners, families held hostage.

Prisoners Defenders, from among the 1,500 to 2,000 cases of measures limiting the liberty of the demonstrators arrested in their thousands since 11 June, has been able to establish a list of 1,007 cases of political prisoners in February.
Of these 1,007 cases:

- At least 869 cases analysed belong to the repression stemming from 11J in Cuba, a figure that is a fraction of less than 70% compared to the total generated by the repressive wave, as it is quite impossible to know the cases among the population.

- There are 33 minors, 29 boys and 4 girls on the list: 13 years old, one; 15 years old, three; 16 years old, nine; and 17 years old, twenty; according to the age documented in the detention. Twenty are sentenced to an average of 7.3 years of deprivation of liberty, of which eight of them have been subsidised by forced labour without confinement or limitation of liberty.

AFP/EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI - Demonstrators against the Cuban government

- At least 50%, 16 children have been charged with sedition.

- In total, 168 verified political prisoners have been prosecuted on Sedition charges.

- At least 629 prisoners have already been sentenced, 257 of them with sentences of more than 10 years, 41%.

- At least 130 women are political prisoners of the Cuban regime.

- All this taking into account that this month Prisoners Defenders has taken off the list 41 cases that have been released from criminal charges between this month and last month.

These figures are shocking, terrifying, and only part of the real numbers, as stated. Now let's look at the ordeal of repression that the mothers are also suffering.

 The mothers of 11J

All the mothers of those prosecuted for the 11J demonstrations, without exception, are being regularly threatened with imprisonment by State Security, according to Prisoners Defenders. We already have one case. The aim is to stop them from reporting the cases.

This is Yudinela Caridad Castro Pérez, mother of Rowland Jesús Castillo Castro, a young man sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for sedition, who was arrested on 24 February at 9:00am at her home by two State Security agents. She has just been imprisoned and has been held incommunicado for days.

AFP/YAMIL LAGE - View of Havana's Capitol during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, 11 July 2021.

She is accused of "contempt of court", an illegal offence under international law. Prisoners Defenders has followed the complaints and actions of this mother, who has done nothing but defend her son with far more respect than the authorities in Cuba have earned for her. The fabricated accusation is part of the harassment and constant threats of prosecution and police summons, such as the one on 23 December, that Yudinela has been receiving for months.

The aim was to prevent her from defending her son's innocence of the fabricated criminal offence of sedition, which he never committed. Yudinela has been forceful, precise and correct in all the appearances and accusations she has made. Nothing is going to stop a mother from telling the truth and defending her son.

In addition to having a fractured foot in bad condition, we raise the alarm because Yudinela is in danger of death as she is undergoing a delicate treatment for cancer, which in prison cannot be followed up by a doctor, something that is common in Cuban prisons, where the government allows prisoners, especially those of conscience, to suffer aggravation of their illnesses without contemplation, if only by releasing them weeks before their imminent death, and not in all cases, with the sole purpose of not counting their death in prison.

Rowland Jesús, Yudinela's son, participated in the 11J demonstrations and witnessed how the police violently abused a group of women, whom he tried to defend as best he could in a heroic and not criminal act, as it was the police who were the aggressors without measure or justification.

It is imperative that the UN and the European Commission speak out immediately.

If the democratic world cannot tolerate the abuse of power over other defenceless peoples, what are we doing in silence in the face of the defencelessness of civilians, mothers and minors annihilated alive in this way by their own state?

We need to reflect seriously and realise that, if we do not do so, the only thing that could be relevant are the disqualifications for the leaders in charge of these issues in both institutions who do not speak out and take action in the face of this reality. Let us recall a now famous and apt phrase uttered in recent days in the European Parliament, which should guide the reflection of the speaker and of all democrats and defenders of human rights:

AFP/YAMIL LAGE - Police cars overturned in the street as part of a demonstration against Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, 11 July 2021.

"When a powerful aggressor unjustifiably assaults a much weaker neighbour, no one can invoke the peaceful resolution of conflicts. No one can put the aggressor and the aggressed on an equal footing. We will remember those who are not at our side at this solemn moment".
Josep Borrell Fontelles, 1 March 2022 / [2022/2564(RSP)])

Change the word "neighbour" to "children", "neighbour" to "women", "neighbour" to "mothers", and we will better understand the terrible political schizophrenia that for decades has allowed us to go to war for some, while ignoring all the rest. Only comprehensive, constant and tenacious congruence in demanding international law can bring peace to the world.

A total of 13,000 political prisoners and convicts

Prisoners Defenders recognises, for the month of February 2022, 1,007 political prisoners, but they also recognise, as they do every month, the 11,000 other young civilians who do not belong to opposition organisations, 8,400 of them convicted and 2,538 sentenced, with average sentences of 2 years and 10 months in prison, through "pre-criminal" sentences, i.e. without having committed any crime (as the Penal Code states in article 76. 1 for these 11,000 convictions), as the Penal Code considers them to be people who are likely to commit crimes in the future "due to the conduct they observe in manifest contradiction to the norms of socialist morality" (Art. 72 of the Penal Code). Thus, they are sentenced to 1 to 4 years in prison without any crime being investigated or committed, as Francisco Franco did with homosexuals and the "Ley de vagos y maleantes", which was passed in Manuel Azaña's Republic in 1933, but also profusely exploited by the Franco regime afterwards.

AFP/ADALBERTO ROQUE - A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, 11 July 2021.

The 1,007 political prisoners verified for their exercise of their fundamental rights are divided into Convicts of Conscience, Condemned of Conscience and Other Political Prisoners. The classification of these prisoners is as follows:

- 696 Convicts of Conscience, who are prisoners deprived of their liberty solely for reasons of conscience, i.e. the strict exercise of their most fundamental human rights, on charges that are either completely and demonstrably false and fabricated, or of a non-criminal nature and absolutely related to thought.

- 198 Condemned Prisoners of Conscience, who are subject to indictments or sentences of forced labour at home, measures limiting their freedom, probation under threat, and other limitations to freedom, including those under final sentence without execution, and which the regime, moreover, is used to revoke and place in prison if the activist does not cease his pro-democratic activity, as we have seen month after month for years.

- 113 Other Political Prisoners, not included in the previous categories, but identified as political prisoners behind bars. Those on this list cannot be defended as Convicts of Conscience in the strict sense, although most of them are peaceful activists. It is common in this group to find prisoners who have, in the course of or because of their political persecution, committed punishable offences. There are also quite a few cases in which it is not possible for us to fully verify the fabrication of their alleged offence.

However, in all of them the political overtones, the lack of access to an effective defence, and the excessive harshness of the sentences, clearly motivated by political animosity and with the aim of political repression, make these cases political and defensible, in some cases to adapt the sentences to the offences, and in most of them for the right to access an effective defence that could possibly free them of all charges, as Prisoners Defenders points out.