Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Cuba

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 14 April 2004
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Cuba, 14 April 2004, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Human rights defenders jailed109

On 7th April 2003, 33 of the 79 people arrested between 18th and 23rd March 2003, including several human rights defenders, were sentenced to long jail terms, ranging from 15 to 25 years. They are: Mrs. Marta Beatriz Roque, a member of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society and the Institute of Independent Economists, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment; Mr. Héctor Palacio Ruíz, Director of the Centre for Social Studies, 25 years' imprisonment; Mr. Marcelo López and Mr. Marcelo Cano Rodríguez, respectively the spokesperson and a member of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, sentenced to 18 and 15 years' imprisonment; Mr. Ricardo Gonzáles, a representative of Reporters Without Borders in Cuba, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, and the independent journalists Mr. Raúl Rivero, Mr. Oscar Espinosa Chepe and Mr. Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez. The detainees also include many dissidents involved in the Varela Project, which consists in circulating a petition calling for a referendum on electoral and political reform. The project has already been signed by 11,000 Cubans.

All the persons mentioned were prosecuted for "conspiring" with the representative of the United States in Cuba, on the basis of Law 88 on the "Protection of National and Economic Independence". To protest against the sentences meted out to journalists and to demand their release, a group of activists from Reporters Without Borders gathered outside the Cuban Embassy in France on 24th April 2003. The demonstrators were dispersed violently by embassy employees and security staff. A woman, two photographers and an activist from Reporters Without Borders were injured.

On 9th May 2003, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion considering that their detention was arbitrary and asked for their immediate release.

In early December 2003, the persons sentenced were still in jail in conditions that fall far short of international standards.110 Furthermore, between ten and twenty of the detainees have very serious health problems.

Human rights defenders and journalists arbitrarily detained111

The majority of the human rights defenders and journalists detained in 2002 are still in jail, although at end-December 2003, no trial had yet been held. They are Mr. Leonardo Miguel Bruzón Avila, president of the Human Rights Movement, arrested on 22nd February 2002, and Mr. Juan Carlos González Leiva, president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, arrested on 4th March 2002 together with eight other activists and two independent journalists.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website ( was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

109. See Urgent Appeal CUB 001/0403/OBS 018 and press release of 30th April 2003.

110. See Letter to Fidel Castro Ruiz of 23rd May 2003.

111. See Annual Report 2002.

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