Christian Solidarity Worldwide releases report on rights abuses in Cuban prisons
Posted: 23 March 2008 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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InspireMagazine.org.uk

The religious rights of prisoners of conscience are systematically violated in Cuban prisons, according to a new report released this week by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The report was released on the fifth anniversary of a massive human rights crackdown, now referred to as Cuba’s Black Spring, when 75 members of Cuban civil society, including human right defenders, independent librarians, pro-democracy activists and independent journalists, were arrested, subjected to summary trials, and handed down lengthy prison sentences.

CSW has interviewed the families of prisoners and former prisoners over the last eight months. According to the research, prison authorities regularly deny political prisoners the right to religious literature including Bibles, the right to meet with a pastor or priest, and the right to meet together with other prisoners for religious study, prayer or worship.

The report highlights individual cases, including that of Alfredo Rodolfo Domínguez Batista who is serving a 14-year sentence in the Holguín Provincial Prison.  According to Domínguez Batista’s wife, his Bible and all religious materials were confiscated in the summer of 2007 and have yet to be returned.

He has also had to repeatedly request access to a priest, a right which has only been granted every four to six months and most recently was denied outright. Another prisoner of conscience, Normando Hernández González has been denied the right to pastoral visits altogether.

The interviews indicate that similar abuses take place on a regular basis in high security prisons across the island, suggesting that it is state policy to psychologically break down political prisoners.

the practice of denying the basic religious rights of prisoners of conscience is in direct contravention of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which specifies that the religious rights of all prisoners must be protected.

Tina Lambert, Advocacy Director at CSW, said: “While we firmly believe that these prisoners should be released immediately, in the interim we call on the Cuban authorities to ensure that all prison authorities are trained in and are implementing the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

“It is unacceptable that the Cuban authorities should seek to use the religious beliefs of these men and women to attempt to manipulate them in such a cynical way.”

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