14ymedio, Madrid, 18 April 2022 — Prisoners Defenders (PD) stated that in Cuba, there are children even as young as 13 and 15 years old in jail for having participated in the peaceful demonstrations last July 11th (11J). The cases of these 13 minors, which have received less visibility, are included in the NGO’s report published Monday and presented to the United Nations on Friday .
In the report, PD denounces the systematic violation of Children’s Rights on the Island, focusing on two points: on one hand, the arrest of minors less than 18 years old following 11J, a total of 36; and on the other hand, the forced disappearance of thousands of parents and children that result from the internationalist brigades.
Thus, it states that 13-year-old Erik Yoángel Héctor Plaza, is in pretrial detention in the Helpi prison in Matanzas, for the crimes of assault and public disorder. “The accusation is very flimsy,” explained Prisoners Defenders, “and there remains the possibility that, like the majority of accusations we’ve analyzed, it is false.”
Furthermore, the report continues, “in Matanzas, the State Security forces have a record and plenty of evidence that they behaved with extreme aggression against the peaceful protesters, and we also know that there could be some isolated cases, of a response of legitimate self-defense.”
Along with Héctor Plaza, the organization took up the cases of Alexander Morejón Barroso, a 15-year-old resident of La Güinera, who they state was “arrested and taken to the 100 y Adalbó torture and interrogation center”; he is also in pretrial detention accused of public disorder and contempt. So too are Leosvani Jiménez Guzmán (age 15) held at the maximum security prison of Guanajay, Artemisa, and Rubén Alejandro Parra Ricardo (age 15) taken to the juvenile prison in Holguín after being “disappeared” for three months; his mother has only visited him once during this time.
The remaining 13 cases include young people 16 and 17 years of age, though PD clarified that they have not been able to verify all of the data. Among them are two girls, Katherine Martín Taquechel and Gabriela Zequeira Hernández, both from Havana. The first, the organization denounced, was “repeatedly beaten” in El Guatao prison “despite having epilepsy.” Following a “summary trial” held on July 20, she was sentenced to a year in jail which, upon appeal, was reduced to one year of house arrest.
For its part, before the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, Havana insisted that they do not have any detainees younger than 16 years, which is considered legal age in the Island’s criminal code. “Currently, 662 inmates between 16 and 18 years of age are held in penitentiaries. Two hundred sixty-four are between 16 and 17 years of age, while the rest have already turned 18,” stated the Government in its response.
The minors arrested in Cuba in the last several years, the regime continues, “are mostly boys between 14 and 15 years of age, mestizos and black,” whose “family situation” is characterized as “incomplete (primarily, absentee fathers); dysfunctional; with failures in the use of educational methods and in controlling the activities of their minor children; as well as the presence of indicators of domestic violence such as arguments, mistreatment and alcohol consumption.”
In any case, with 13 new cases, the updated list of political prisoners younger than 18 years of age exceeds 36. Of those, 22 cases are detailed in the Madrid-based NGO’s report.
In the second point of the complaint, the report offers testimonies of more than 1,000 Cuban professionals who have suffered the so-called “8 year law,” the period during which the regime does not allow anyone who ’deserts’ an international ’mission’ to return to the Island; this implies that there are between “5,000 and 10,000 children” in Cuba forcibly separated from their parents.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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