Mistreatment of Political Prisoners In Cuba
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Cuba admits to holding many political prisoners in its jails. Over the years, several individuals and international organizations have accused the Cuban government of mistreating these political prisoners. This paper will examine the mistreatment of political prisoners in Cuba, including its background and charges of respect human rights violations made by groups and individuals. This discussion will demonstrate that although evidence is limited, there is reason to believe that political prisoners continued to be mistreated in Cuba.
Of the more than 20,000 prisoners in Cuba, a relatively small percent are political prisoners. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation report found that the number of political prisoners in Cuba rose from 210 in late 2001 to 230 during the summer of 2002, with 339 political prisoners held in 1999. The actual treatment of these prisoners is often difficult to determine because Cuba is "one of the few countries in the world" that does not allow "the International Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations access to its prison system". In addition, the Cuban government does not comply with United Nations norms for the treatment of prisoners, which implies mistreatment. Cuba has not yet signed the convention against torture, and hundreds of political prisoners remain in detention. Nevertheless, Cuba defends its record with political prisoners, claiming it offers its prisoners better conditions than any other Latin America country.
At the same time, others accuse Castro of a dismal record with regard to the rights of political prisoners. A 1979 report charged Cuba with subjecting political prisoners to mistreatment characterized by:
- Forced labor
- Absence of medical attention
- Lack of proper food
- Absence of due process
In a May 1991 speech, President George Bush asked Castro free political prisoners in Cuba and allow the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate possible human rights violations in Cuba. According to a 1995 Amnesty International report, hundreds of political prisoners were rotting in the "Cuban Gulag" . Perhaps most telling is the case of Cuban political prisoner, Jorge Luis García Perez, who began a hunger strike in February 2002, to draw attention to human rights abuses of political prisoners in Cuba . The specific goal of Perez's hunger strike was gain "medical attention, religious support, adequate nourishment, and the cessation of all forms of mistreatment and abuse to which those confined in the prisons and jails of this country are subjected".
As the above discussion demonstrates, there is evidence from organizations and individuals that political prisoners in Cuba are mistreated. Because the Cuban government does not allow investigators to observe the conditions of political prisoners, it is difficult to determine the extent of this mistreatment.