At least 500 prisoners of conscience were believed to be serving prison terms. Scores of non-violent government opponents were arrested and harassed. Detention and trial procedures in all political cases fell far short of international standards. Reports were received that prisoners were subjected to ill-treatment, on occasion amounting to torture, leading to at least two deaths in custody. Four people died in circumstances suggesting they may have been victims of extrajudicial executions. At least one man may have been executed and at least six others were known to be appealing against death sentences. The government of President Fidel Castro was faced with serious economic problems resulting from the political changes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, formerly its principal trading partners, compounded by the US trade embargo in place since 1962. It initiated economic reforms but resisted pressure, mainly from abroad, to alter its political system. In February the first direct elections for representatives of the country's parliament, the Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular, National Assembly of People's Power, took place. The Partido Comunista de Cuba, Communist Party of Cuba, continued to be the only legal party, although non-party members were permitted to stand for election as individuals. In August the authorities blamed "counter-revolutionaries" for a wave of vandalism and anti-government protests during prolonged electricity black-outs, particularly in Havana, the capital, and vowed to crack down heavily on those found guilty of serious economic and terrorist offences. The government insisted that limitations on civil liberties had to be maintained as long as the US Government continued its hostile policy and Cuba remained the target of armed opposition groups. In November the mainly US-based armed opposition group, Alpha 66, threatened to kidnap foreigners visiting Cuba. Independent human rights monitoring was again severely limited. No independent human rights monitors were known to have been allowed to visit the country officially. The government continued to refuse to cooperate in any way with the UN Special Rapporteur on Cuba, arguing that Cuba had been unfairly singled out for scrutiny by the UN Commission on Human Rights as the result of a US-led campaign against it. It was therefore difficult to estimate the number of prisoners held either as prisoners of conscience or for other offences of a political nature. However, at least 500 prisoners of conscience were believed to be held, some serving sentences as long as 13, or in one case 15, years' imprisonment. Most prisoners were members of unofficial political, trade union or human rights groups although scores, possibly hundreds, of others were believed to be held for trying to leave the country illegally. Peaceful political and human rights activists were frequently subjected to intimidation by the security forces and sometimes also by members of the Destacamentos Populares de Respuesta Rápida, People's Rapid Response Detachments, set up in 1991 to counter signs of dissent (see Amnesty International Reports 1992 and 1993). Dozens of people reported being regularly taken in for questioning about their activities and warned that if they did not desist or leave the country, they would be arrested. In September Rolando Roque Malherbe and Félix Bonne Carcacés of the unofficial Corriente Cívica Cubana, Cuban Civic Current, were detained for several days in connection with a party organized by the group at Rolando Roque's house to which foreign diplomats and dissidents were invited. Officials and pro-government crowds gathered outside to try to prevent the event from taking place. Arrests of prisoners of conscience took place throughout the year. They included Joel Mesa Morales, Vice-President of the unofficial Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos "José Martí", "José Martí" National Human Rights Commission, who was arrested in January. He was brought to trial in September, together with the group's president, Amador Blanco Hern ndez, who had been arrested on 10 December 1992, on a charge of "enemy propaganda". They were accused of "carrying out a propaganda campaign to discredit the Cuban Revolution by compiling numerous false reports" that were sent abroad to be transmitted back to Cuba by "subversive" US-based radio stations. They were convicted: Amador Blanco was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment and Joel Mesa to seven years. Prisoner of conscience Rafael Gutiérrez Santos, president of the unofficial Unión Sindical de Trabajadores de Cuba (USTC), Workers' Trade Union of Cuba, was arrested in Havana in February and held at the headquarters of the Departamento de Seguridad del Estado (DSE), Department of State Security, without access to a lawyer. He was released in August, apparently for health reasons, but still faced trial on charges of "acts against state security". No further action had been taken against him by the end of the year. In August teacher Domiciano Torres Roca, vice-president of the unofficial Partido Cívico Democrático, Civic Democratic Party, was assaulted by police on a Havana street and arrested. His family were later informed that he was to be transferred to prison to await trial for "enemy propaganda". Reports were subsequently received that, before being sent to El Pitirre Prison, he had been transferred to the Havana Psychiatric Hospital. Between August and November, apparently in response to a crime wave, particularly in Havana, some 2,500 people were reportedly imprisoned for "dangerousness" ("peligrosidad"). Defendants were sentenced after summary hearings to prison terms of up to four years if they were considered to have behaved in an anti-social fashion or it was feared that they had a "special proclivity" to commit crime. Such "anti-social behaviour" ranged from refusing to work to being drunk or getting involved in fights. It was feared that in some cases this procedure was being used as a pretext for imprisoning political opponents of the government, with at least six political activists reportedly imprisoned under it. Luis Felipe Lorens, president of the unofficial Organización Juvenil Martiana, Martí Youth Organization, was reportedly arrested in September after going to a Havana police station to inquire about his brother who had been detained for "dangerousness". He himself was tried two days later for "dangerousness" and sentenced to four years' imprisonment, apparently for not working. Hundreds of people tried to leave the country illegally by sea. While some had been unable to leave the country legally because they had been unable to obtain visas to enter other countries, others had been refused exit visas by the Cuban authorities. Some 3,600 reached the USA by sea while others reached other nearby countries, but an unknown number died in the attempt and still others were caught by Cuban coastguards. Writer Norberto Fuentes and others were captured by coastguards while trying to depart by boat on 10 October. Norberto Fuentes, who had been refused official permission to leave, was held in the DSE headquarters for 20 days before being released. It was not clear whether he was still to face trial for attempting to leave the country illegally. Reports were received that the authorities were putting pressure on some political prisoners to accept early release on condition they went into exile. Prisoner of conscience Sebasti n Arcos Bergnes (see Amnesty International Report 1993) was said to have been threatened that his family visits would be terminated, his sentence extended or reprisals would be taken against relatives if he refused to go into exile. At the end of the year he remained imprisoned. Several prisoners of conscience were released during the year. They included María Elena Cruz Varela, José Luis Pujol Irizar and Marco Antonio Abad, all released in May; three members of the unofficial Movimiento Cristiano "Liberación", Liberation Christian Movement, released in June (on condition that they left Cuba - they went to Spain); and Jorge Crespo Díaz, who was released in September (see Amnesty International Report 1993). All were released several months (or, in the case of the three who went to Spain, several years) before their sentences were due to expire. Detention and trial procedures continued to fall far short of international standards. Prisoners accused of offences against state security, which include "enemy propaganda", were held under investigation by the DSE for several weeks or months without access to lawyers. It was feared that psychological pressures during this period were such that some detainees may have been coerced into confessing to the charges against them. At the trial of Amador Blanco and Joel Mesa in September (see above), their defence lawyer was reportedly prevented from presenting witnesses on their behalf. Prisoner of conscience Adriano Gonz lez Marichal, arrested in January 1992, was detained for 21 months before being tried in September on a charge of "enemy propaganda", convicted and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. He was reportedly not permitted to speak in his own defence at the hearing. Cases involving "dangerousness" (see above) are tried in municipal courts, often within days of a person's arrest. Contrary to other cases tried in these courts, the law states that a lawyer must participate. However, reports indicated that in some cases defendants had no opportunity to appoint a lawyer of their choice and had no contact with the lawyer assigned to them by the court prior to the trial hearing. Reports were received that prisoners were sometimes beaten by prison guards or held in so-called "punishment cells" in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or, in some cases, torture. Some prisoners were punished for protesting about lack of food, medicines, water and other essentials, of which there were reportedly serious shortages. Those punished had sometimes been involved in hunger-strikes or committed other breaches of prison discipline, but others had simply written to the authorities complaining about the conditions. In May prisoner of conscience Luis Alberto Pita Santos and Jesús Chambes Ramírez, a possible prisoner of conscience, were reported to be held handcuffed and with chains on their ankles for 14 hours a day in Camagüey Special High Security Prison, apparently because they had refused to wear prison uniforms and gone on hunger-strike. Luis Alberto Pita was also said to have been injured in April when guards forcibly dressed him. Jorge Luis Alvarez Antunes, another possible prisoner of conscience serving a 10-year sentence for "enemy propaganda", who was called as a state witness at the trial of Amador Blanco and Joel Mesa in September, alleged in court that guards had beaten him with rubber hoses and set dogs on him. At least two people were alleged to have died as a result of torture. In March Rogelio Carbonell Guevara died after he was apparently beaten by police at the time of arrest. The authorities were said to have taken action against those responsible, although the nature of this was not clear. Luis Quevedo Remolina died in October when coastguards caught him and three others trying to leave the country. The authorities said he had been shot dead after refusing to obey an order to halt but other sources alleged that he died from injuries caused by beatings received after he was detained. At least four people died in circumstances suggesting they may have been victims of extrajudicial executions. Three men, all apparently unarmed, were killed in Cojímar in July when the security forces fired on people trying to board a boat that had arrived illegally from the USA to help them flee the country. Other people were injured. The authorities were believed to be carrying out an investigation into the incident but no further news was received. Vladimir León Aballí was reportedly assaulted and shot dead by police in Havana in December after being stopped and asked for his identity card. At least one man may have been executed and at least six others were known to be appealing against death sentences. Nelson Baez Jorge had his death sentence for murder confirmed by the Council of State in early December but it was not known whether he had been executed by the end of the year. In February, two men were reported to be on death row in Boniato Prison after having been sentenced to death for murder in late 1992, but no further news of them was received. Four others were sentenced to death in October and November, all for murder, and were believed to be awaiting the result of appeals to the Supreme Court. Amnesty International appealed to the authorities to release prisoners of conscience, to ensure that detention and trial procedures conformed to international standards, to investigate allegations of ill-treatment or torture and possible extrajudicial executions, and to commute death sentences. Little substantive response was received to requests for information. In an oral statement to the UN Commission on Human Rights in February, Amnesty International included reference to its concerns in Cuba regarding arbitrary detention.

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