14ymedio, Havana, 11 June 2018 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) estimates that there as many as 120 political prisoners in Cuba in a report published on Monday. The independent group states that this figure “is very difficult to arrive at when the Government of Cuba refuses to cooperate” with international organizations.
On the island there are between 65,000 and 70,000 people imprisoned and it is “very difficult to define an exact number of political prisoners because they are intermixed,” the report states. “The Castro Gulag is composed of between 150 and 180 high security prisons, correctional centers, settlements and camps.”
This high number of prisons located throughout the Island make up what, in the opinion of the Commission, is a “huge and top-heavy prison system.”
Cuban authorities refuse to collaborate with international organizations such as the International Red Cross, United Nations agencies or other organizations that can monitor real data inside the prisons.
“In the total of 120 people imprisoned for political reasons, recognized as of May 31,” the CCDHRN has identified “96 people who are opponents of or disaffected toward the regime and 24 prisoners who are accused of employing or planning to use some form of force or violence to perform acts against the security of the State.”
The report emphasizes that the country urgently needs a Law of the Penitentiary System, and “at the same time the Government of the Island must demilitarize the system and subordinate it to a civil organization.”
The report contains two appendices, one that lists “the cases of ten former prisoners of conscience, released on parole — the so-called “extra-penal license” — who remain subject to all kinds of draconian measures, including the prohibition to travel freely abroad with the right to return to Cuba.”
The second appendix details the “21 prisoners who have served between 15 and 27 years in the prisons of the Island under the known subhuman and degrading conditions that prevail in all of them.”
“They are, without a doubt, some of the oldest political prisoners in the Western Hemisphere,” concludes the text’s introduction.
The figure of 120 is slightly lower than the 140 political prisoners that the CCDHRN had estimated on the island as of May 2017.
In March 2016, during the visit of US President Barack Obama to Cuba, a journalist questioned Raúl Castro at a press conference about the existence of political prisoners on the island. “Give me the list of political prisoners now, to release them. Or give it to me after the press conference and before nightfall they will be released,” the leader replied.
Castro, who traditionally did not answer questions from the national or international press, was visibly annoyed by the question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
Amnesty International (AI) contends that the Havana government uses ambiguous legal terms to punish dissidents.
“The laws regarding ’public disorder’, ’contempt’, ’lack of respect’, ’dangerousness’ and ’aggression’ are used to prosecute or threaten to prosecute, for political reasons, opponents of the government,” Amnesty International said in its report on Cuba.
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