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    Five years after ‘Black Spring’, WiPC calls for release of 28 imprisoned writers, journalists and librarians following Cuba’s signature of key human rights treaties

    CUBA: Five years after 'Black Spring', WiPC calls for release of 28
    imprisoned writers, journalists and librarians following Cuba's
    signature of key human rights treaties

    Author(s): Tamsin Mitchell – PEN WiPC Africa/Americas Researcher
    Date: 13th March, 2008

    RAN 15/08

    The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN applauds
    Cuba's 28 February signature of two key international human rights
    conventions which explicitly guarantee the right to freedom of
    expression, health, and freedom from torture and ill treatment, among
    others. The WiPC calls on the Cuban authorities to honour these
    commitments by immediately and unconditionally releasing the 28 writers,
    journalists and librarians imprisoned in violation of these rights.
    Twenty-one of these were arrested during Cuba's 2003 'Black Spring'
    crackdown on dissidents and will have been held for five years this
    month. The WiPC also urges the government to ratify the treaties without
    reservations and to introduce all legislative and judicial reforms
    necessary for implementation.

    On 28 February 2008, Cuba's Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, signed
    the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the
    International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
    at the United Nations (UN) in New York, making good his promise of
    December 2007. The two conventions, which expand on and codify the UN
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are legally binding and commit
    the country to respect and promote a full spectrum of rights. These
    include the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to earn a living
    by the profession of one's choosing, the right to health and freedom
    from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

    The signature of these conventions marks a significant change in Cuba's
    attitude to the UN: for years the country had refused all calls to sign
    the treaties and to allow a visit by the now defunct Special Rapporteur
    on human rights in Cuba. The development follows hard on the heels of
    Fidel Castro's resignation from office and the surprise release of two
    journalists and a librarian serving lengthy prison sentences in February
    2008. On 16 February, journalists Alejandro González Raga and José
    Gabriel Ramón Castillo and librarian Omar Pernet Hernández were released
    from prison and flown to Spain with their families (see RAN 10/08 of 21
    February 2008). The three men were arrested and sentenced as part of a
    crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on 18 March 2003, together
    with a number of other writers, journalists and librarians who were part
    of the so-called 'Group of 75'.

    Despite these developments, 28 other writers, journalists and librarians
    remain imprisoned in Cuba in flagrant violation of their right to
    freedom of expression, and other rights guaranteed by the two freshly
    signed treaties. Twenty-one of these have been imprisoned since the
    March 2003 crackdown; the other seven were detained subsequently. All
    are serving lengthy prison sentences – up to 27 years in some cases – on
    anti-state or 'social dangerousness' charges. The majority of them are
    suffering from health complaints caused or exacerbated by the harsh
    conditions and treatment they are exposed to in prison. Despite their
    deteriorating health, access to adequate medical treatment is often limited.

    Background information:

    The full text of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political
    Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
    Rights can been viewed at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm
    and http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm respectively

    For a list of the names of the 28 writers, journalists and librarians
    imprisoned in Cuba, please email Tamsin Mitchell at
    tamsin.mitchell@internationalpen.org.uk

    For further details on the April 2003 crackdown trials and individual
    cases, see the latest published case list of International PEN's Writers
    in Prison Committee (July to December 2008) at:
    http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/index.php?pid=33&aid=747&type=current

    Please send appeals:

    Welcoming Cuba's signature of the 1966 UN International Covenant on
    Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the 1966 UN International
    Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

    Calling on the country to demonstrate its commitment to these treaties
    by immediately releasing the 28 journalists, writers and librarians
    imprisoned on the island in violation of their right to freedom of
    expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the ICCPR, and other rights
    contained in the ICCPR and ICESCR, such as the right to earn a living by
    the profession of one's choosing freedom, the right to health, and
    freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and
    punishment

    Urging the authorities to ratify both the ICCPR and the ICESCR without
    reservations, and to introduce the necessary legislative and judicial
    reforms to guarantee freedom of expression and all other rights
    contained in the treaties

    Appeals to:

    Head of State and GovernmentRaúl Castro Ruiz, Presidente La Habana,
    CubaFax: +53 7 8333085 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)/

    +1 2127791697 (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

    Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)Salutation: Su Excelencia/
    Your Excellency

    Minister of Foreign AffairsSr. Felipe Pérez Roque, Ministro de
    Relaciones Exteriores Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Calzada No.
    360, Vedado, La Habana, CubaFax: +53 7 8333 085E-mail:
    cubaminrex@minrex.gov.cuSalutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister

    Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your
    country.

    ***Please send appeals immediately. Check with the WiPC if sending
    appeals after 13 April 2008.***

    For further details contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison
    Committee London Office: Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V
    6ER UK Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail:
    tamsin.mitchell@internationalpen.org.uk

    http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/index.php?pid=33&aid=760&type=current

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