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Cuba: Respect and Guarantee the Rights of journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones

On 1 August 2019, journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces was summoned to appear before the People’s Municipal Court in the city of Guantánamo, Cuba. On 7 August, he was prosecuted and sentenced to one year’s deprivation of liberty, converted to correctional labour with internment.

Quiñones Haces, 62-year-old, was a journalist at Cubanet, a Cuban independent media outlet for 12 years. He previously worked as a lawyer until 1999 when he was sentenced to eight years in prison and barred from practicing law.

His current sentence is a response to his work covering a trial where a married couple were accused of not taking their children to school and homeschooling them. On 22 April 2019, on his way to the trial at the Guantánamo Municipal People’s Court, agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) arrested Quiñones Hace, handcuffed him and beat him. He was arrested and held in prison for five days, accused of resistance and disobedience, and later released and informed that the legal process against him would continue.

During his arrest, he suffered a number of contusions, abrasions and wounds and the eardrum of his right ear was perforated. He was taken to the hospital, but the specialist who treated him did not register the injury. His condition was not diagnosed until seven days after his release, when he required medical assistance, which he accessed himself.

The authorities ex officio denounced both the acting officers for the injuries sustained and the journalist for crimes of resistance and disobedience. On 30 April the First Military Prosecutor exonerated the agents and forwarded the complaint against the journalist to the Guantánamo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

On 3 May, the journalist filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and was informed by an official that, on instruction from the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic, his case had been transferred to the Delegation of the Ministry of the Interior, the same institution that allowed his aggressors go free.

On 6 May, Quiñones Haces presented a written complaint about the decision taken by the Military Prosecutor’s Office to the Department of Attention for Citizens of the Ministry of the Interior. To date, no reply has been received. Since 9 June, he is forbidden to leave his residence without permission from state security agents. The ban is still in place today.

That same month he was summoned by a PNR captain who offered him the option to pay a fine to close the case. Quiñones Haces refused as this could admit responsibility. The trial continued and he was sentenced on 7 August.

Although Quiñones Haces appealed the sentence of the Municipal Court on 12 August, it is feared that the sanction will be confirmed and that the deprivation of his liberty will become effective.

It is clear from the case that the journalist was prosecuted without the minimum guarantees of due process by a non-independent court, through a summary criminal trial in which the principle of equality of arms between the parties and the right to a defence was not respected, nor was there adequate time and means to prepare his defence.

2019 has seen an increase in acts of intimidation and harassment in Cuba that may be classified as torture under international law, committed by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and State Security. These acts have been committed without warrant or judicial supervision, against human rights defenders and independent journalists, with the aim of using punishment or intimidation to limit the exercise of the right to express an opinion, to associate and to assemble peacefully.

In the case of Quiñones Haces, Cuban state agents, acting in their official capacity, intentionally violated his rights and caused severe suffering and pain (both psychological and physical). Such acts are prohibited by Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Cuban state agreed to comply with when it signed the Convention on 28 February 2008, as well as the Convention against Torture to which it is party.

The thematic report  on the situation of freedom of expression in Cuba, presented this year by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza, points to the criminalization of journalists and human rights defenders in Cuba, with particular emphasis on arbitrary detention, torture and subpoenas. Quiñones Haceswas also named in this report in relation to another arbitrary arrest less than a year ago.

Among the recommendations of the Rapporteur, the Cuban State was urged to:adopt the necessary measures to prevent and eradicate the criminalization of those who exercise the right to freedom of expression and association; and to put an end in the shortest possible time to the practice of harassment, including summonses, detentions of any duration, and harassment of any person for reasons related to the exercise of their freedom of expression, freedom of association, assembly or other related reasons.

The following recommendations were included in the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba in September 2018: End arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders as well as media professionals; and end measures restricting freedom of expression and assembly, including short-term detention and the use of general criminal charges such as “dangerousness”.

The Cuban State must guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights standards, which it has signed. The right to freedom of expression and access to information are established within article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 19 specifically reiterates the rights guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Articles 7, 9, 12, & 19; and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in accordance with international human rights standards.

The undersigned organizations and individuals condemn the unlawful arbitrary detention, criminalization and sentencing of the journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones and express our deep concern for the ill treatment and torture to which he was subjected during and after his detention.

We demand the following from the Cuban State:

  1. That the rights of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones be respected and guaranteedin the criminal process against him by the judicial authorities in the province of Guantánamo.
  2. Take steps to end the repression of human rights defenders and activists, especially independent journalists and other civil society actors at risk.
  3. Ensure that these acts of repression, intimidation and harassment are duly investigated and those responsible punished; in accordance with the methodology of the Istanbul Protocol.
  4. Ensure that all persons are protected from the intimidation and violence to which they may be exposed by their activities or the simple exercise of their freedoms of opinion and expression and their rights of association and peaceful assembly.
  5. Take legislative measures to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and ensure respect for the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
  6. Develop and implement training programs to ensure that judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials are fully aware of international provisions prohibiting torture and ill-treatment.

Signed:

Organisations and foundations

  1. ARTICLE 19 Office for Mexico and Central America
  2. Alianza Regional Por La Libre Expresión e Información
  3. Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP)
  4. Center for a Free Cuba
  5. Civil Rights Defenders
  6. CUBALEX
  7. Distintas Latitudes
  8. Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana
  9. Fundacion para los Derechos Humanos en Cuba
  10. Global Liberty Alliance
  11. IFEX-ALC
  12. Institute for War & Peace Reporting
  13. Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expressión y Prensa (ICLEP)
  14. Instituto Internacional sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos Humanos
  15. Instituto Patmos
  16. Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos
  17. Reporteros Sin Fronteras
  18. Solidaridad de Trabajadores Cubanos (STC)
  19. Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
  20. Vista Larga Foundation Corp

Media

  1. ADN CUBA
  2. Álas Tensas
  3. Árbol Invertido
  4. Cubanet News
  5. Diario de Cuba
  6. El Estornudo
  7. Havana Times
  8. La Hora de Cuba
  9. Palenque Visión
  10. Play – Off Magazine
  11. Proyecto Inventario
  12. Tremenda Nota

Journalists, human rights defenders and others

  1. Adrián Beja José. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
  2. Alcibíades Silva Fernández. Songo La Maya. Santiago de Cuba
  3. Alejandro Gonzalez Raga
  4. Alexander Guzmán Silva. Bayamo. Granma
  5. Alexander Rodríguez Santiesteban. Banes. Holguín
  6. Aliannis Astray Cedeño. Bayamo. Granma
  7. Amarilis Cortina Rey
  8. Annabel Borges Tamarit
  9. Armando Añel – escritor
  10. Armando Chaguaceda, politólogo
  11. Armando Rodríguez. Banes. Holguín
  12. Bárbara Maceda, Proyecto Inventario
  13. Bertha Bueno Fuentes
  14. Carlos Antonio Fernández Chacón. Guantánamo
  15. Claudia Padrón Cueto
  16. Dario Alejandro Alemán Cañizares
  17. Dhaniella Falk, IWPR
  18. Dixan Gaínza Moré. Camagüey
  19. Edalis Pacheco Silva. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
  20. Edberto Freeman Marrero. Banes. Holguín
  21. Eliecer Palma Pupo. San Germán. Holguín
  22. Enoide Pompa Reyna. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
  23. Eresnildo Pérez Escalona. Santiago de Cuba
  24. Erik Jennische
  25. Estela Cruz Marrero. Banes. Holguín
  26. Fernando Baliño Pérez. Veguitas. Granma
  27. Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz. Baracoa. Guantánamo
  28. Fulgencio García Pozo. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
  29. Galet Fragela, ADN Cuba
  30. Hugo Landa
  31. Idabell Rosales Cao
  32. Indomar Gómez Izaguirre. Camagüey
  33. Irael Ramírez Núñez. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
  34. Isela Poveda Silva. Guantánamo
  35. Iván García Quintero
  36. Ivón Soto González
  37. Joaquín Moré Rico
  38. Jorge A. Sanguinetty
  39. Jorge Chance Betancourt. Santiago de Cuba
  40. Jorge Chance Soria. Santiago de Cuba
  41. José Antonio Fornaris
  42. José Laborit Matos. Guantánamo
  43. José Rafael Martínez Carralero. Banes. Holguín
  44. José Raúl Gallego Ramos
  45. Juan Antonio Blanco
  46. Juan Carlos Linares Balmaseda
  47. Julio César Álvarez Lopez
  48. Karla María Pérez González, ADN Cuba
  49. Lennier López
  50. Leonardo Ramón Viamonte Marrero. Banes. Holguín
  51. Luis Enrique Guivert Martínez. Santiago de Cuba
  52. Luis Ramón Stiú Suárez. San Luis. Santiago de Cuba
  53. Luisa Bárbara Martínez Silva. Banes. Holguín
  54. Manuel Alberto Morejón
  55. Manuel Alejandro León Velázquez. Guantánamo
  56. Manuel Rey Carvajal. Bayamo. Granma
  57. Marco Antonio Morán Peregrín. Guantánamo
  58. María Caridad Herrera Alfonso. Guantánamo
  59. María Isabel Rodríguez Lobaina. Guantánamo
  60. Michel E. Figueredo Sean. Veguitas, Yara. Granma
  61. Miladis Piña Rosales. Banes. Holguín
  62. Miriam Herrera Calvo
  63. Misael Alexander Fabré Silva. Banes. Holguín
  64. Niober García Fournier. Guantánamo
  65. Norges Rodríguez de YucaByte
  66. Normando Hernández
  67. Odalina Guerrero Lara
  68. Odalys Legrá Castellanos. Guantánamo
  69. Osmay Vázquez Aranda. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
  70. Osmay Vázquez Díaz. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
  71. Pablo Díaz Espí
  72. Pedro Machado Mateo. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
  73. Rafael Rojas, historiador
  74. Roberto González Feria. San Luis. Santiago de Cuba
  75. Roberto Hechavarría
  76. Roberto Perdomo Fuentes. Mella. Santiago de Cuba
  77. Rogelio Fonseca Pérez. El Recreo. Granma
  78. Rolando Cartaya
  79. Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina. Guantánamo
  80. Rosa María Payá
  81. Santiago Martínez Mustelier. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
  82. Siro del Castillo
  83. Taylor E. Torres de YucaByte
  84. Tomás Núñez  Magdariaga. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
  85. Walter Cañete Cruz. Banes. Holguín
  86. Wilder Frómeta Romero. Guantánamo
  87. William Tamayo Ramayo. Banes. Holguín
  88. Yadita Rodríguez Ramírez. Camagüey
  89. Yadria Montoya Burgos. Santiago de Cuba
  90. Yaima Pardo La Red
  91. Yaleidi García Avila. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
  92. Yanet Díaz Santiago. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
  93. Yaqueline Aguilera Isalgué. Guantánamo
  94. Yaremis Buqueriget Socias. Guantánamo
  95. Yaxys Cires Dib
  96. Yeider Fuentes Arias. Guantánamo
  97. Yeris Curbelo Aguilera. Guantánamo
  98. Yisel Aguilar Aguilera. Guantánamo
  99. Yoani Sánchez
  100. Yobanis Hernández Enamorado. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
  101. Yoe Suárez
  102. Yosvany Sepúlveda Martínez. Camagüey
  103. Yusmel Acosta Aguilera. Guantánamo