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Cuba: Joint call for authorities to immediately release journalist Roberto Quiñones

ARTICLE 19 and the undersigned organisations condemn the sentencing of Cuban journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces to one year’s imprisonment by the Guantánamo City People’s Municipal Court, on 7 August 2019, for his reporting. He must be immediately released and all charges against him dropped.

On 11 September 2019, journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces was detained at his home in Guantánamo by three National Revolutionary Police agents (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria – PNR), to enforce his sentencing by the Court on 7 August. He was convicted of ‘resistance’ and ‘disobedience’ and sentenced to a year’s deprivation of liberty, converted to correctional labour with internment, for his work reporting a trial in the public interest.

Quiñones Haces reported to be beaten by police

On his way to report on a trial at the Court on 22 April 2019, Quiñones Haces was arrested and reported he was beaten by PNR agents and held in detention for five days. On his release he was informed that he would face charges.

During his arrest, he reportedly suffered a number of injuries. He filed a complaint but the agents were exonerated by the First Military Prosecutor. A further complaint has received no response to date.

After being convicted on the charges and sentenced on 7 August, Quiñones Haces appealed on the basis that the sentence violated his human rights.

In an urgent appeal with 142 signatures, from Cuban and international human rights organisations, media outlets and journalists, human rights defenders, and academics among others, called on the Cuban State to respect Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces’ human rights during the criminal process and to adopt measures to end the repression of journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors as a result of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Failure to guarantee the rights to due process and a fair trial

On 20 August the Guantánamo Provincial Court notified Quiñones Haces that his appeal had been denied. This denial was a violation of the procedural law, as there was no hearing. On 27 August the same Court confirmed his sentence was to begin on 5 September, when the journalist was obliged to report for a year’s correctional labour with internment. Quiñones Haces did not report for his sentence, as he does not consider himself guilty of the crimes for which he has been sentenced. Consequently, his sentence was amended to detention at a closed prison.

Quiñones Haces’ right to a fair trial was violated by prejudiced evidence brought by the military prosecutor when he stated that the journalist “refused to show his identification” and that the PNR officials had to apply measures to make him obedient. He concluded that Roberto had engaged in criminal behaviour (resistance) which caused the State agents to act, without allowing him an opportunity to defend himself against these allegations. This was confirmed by the Courts of First and Second Instance, in a trial that violated fundamental guarantees of due process, as the right to choose his own lawyer or the right to defend oneself in court was not respected.

The statement made by this official is incorrect and contradictory. He alleges that the military personnel did not commit any crime, and at the same time exonerated them for the injuries suffered by Roberta at their hands. According the Cuban criminal law, when medical treatment is required as a result of injuries sustained in custody, it constitutes a criminal offence. The official exonerating them based on the conclusion that they were carrying out their duty is invalid, given that this criminal responsibility can only be absolved through a public trial in an independent court.

Violations against journalists and human rights defenders in Cuba

During Roberto de Jesús Quiñones’ years working as a journalist, he has suffered many acts of intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention, illegal deprivation of liberty, a raid of his home, among other human rights violations. This is not an isolated case, rather it represents the reality faced by independent journalists and human rights defenders in Cuba.

With regard to this particular case, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) denounced Roberto Quiñones’ sentence and expressed concern regarding the criminalisation of those who exercise their right to freedom of expression in Cuba, signalling that arbitrary detention has been used as a method of intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders and journalists.

The IACHR also noted that in 2019 the number of acts of intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists has risen, and that this punishment or intimidation is used to deter them from exercising their right to peacefully voice their opinion, associate and gather.

To this end, the signatory organisations and activists denounce the detention of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, coming as a result of a succession of violations of his human rights, and call for his immediate release.

Furthermore, we reiterate our call to the State to adopt all necessary measures for the guarantee of a free press and the right to expression for journalists, human rights defenders and Cuban society in general.

Signed:

Organisations

  • Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información
  • Artículo 19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica
  • Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP)
  • Comité para la Protección de Periodistas (CPJ)
  • Corriente Martiana
  • Cubalex
  • Distintas Latitudes
  • IFEX-ALC
  • Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expressión y Prensa (ICLEP)
  • Instituto Internacional sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos Humanos

Media

  • ADNCuba
  • Alas Tensas, revista feminista cubana
  • Árbol Invertido
  • Cubanet
  • Diario de Cuba
  • El Estornudo
  • Havana Times
  • La Hora de Cuba
  • Play Off
  • Proyecto Inventario
  • Tremenda Nota

Journalists, human wrights defenders and others

  • Alejandro Riquenez Coy, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Amarilis Cortina Rey
  • Anay Remón García
  • Armando Chaguaceda
  • Bárbara Maseda
  • Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, periodista y editor de Tremenda Nota
  • Carlos Antonio Fernández Chacón, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Carlos Manuel Álvarez, El Estornudo
  • Claudia Padrón Cueto
  • Dario Alejandro Alemán Cañizares
  • Ernesto Pérez Chang
  • Henry Constantin
  • Isbel Díaz Torres
  • Iván García Quintero
  • Ivón González
  • Jimmy Roque Martínez
  • José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, Promotor Ágora de Cuba
  • José Antonio Fornaris
  • José Raúl Gallego Ramos
  • Juan Carrlos Linares Balmaseda
  • Julio César Alvares López
  • Laritza Diversent, directora ejecutiva de Cubalex
  • Manuel Alberto Morejón Soler
  • Maria De La Caridad Herrera Alfonso, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Marelys Fonseca Viltres
  • Maykel González Vivero
  • Mirian Herrera Calvo
  • Mónica Baró Sánchez, periodista independiente
  • Norges Rodríguez de YucaByte
  • Normando Hernández, Director General de ICLEP
  • Odalina Guerrero Lara
  • Odalys Legrá Castellanos, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Pablo Díaz Espí
  • Pedro Enrique Rodriguez, director de Play Off
  • Roberto Alexander Rodríguez Cardona
  • Roberto Hechavarria
  • Tania Bruguera
  • Taylor E. Torres de YucaByte
  • Yeider Fuentes Aria, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Yeris Curbelo Aguilera, comunicador Palenque Vision
  • Yisel Aguilar Aguilera, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Yoe Suárez
  • Yuliesky Sánchez Rodríguez
  • Yusmel Acosta Aguilera, Alianza Democrática Oriental