[JURIST] The Cuban government of Raul Castro [BBC profile] has continued to repress dissidents and violate fundamental civil liberties of Cubans, maintaining the mechanisms put in place by Fidel Castro [BBC profile], according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] report [text, PDF; press release] released on Wednesday. Specifically, HRW reported that 53 political dissidents imprisoned since 2003 under Fidel Castro remain imprisoned, as well as "scores of of individuals incarcerated for 'dangerousness' under Raul Castro." The HRW report claims that Raul Castro's government relies heavily on the Criminal Code offense of "dangerousness" [text], which provides for imprisonment of people suspected of behavior against socialist values. Among those imprisoned are individuals whose behavior included unemployment, voicing opinions contrary to the government, and staging peaceful protests. HRW maintains that Raul Castro's government has resorted to imposing short-term imprisonment measures to elude international critique, while mistreatment of prisoners may rise to the level of torture. The report does acknowledge that a limited amount of dissent outlets, like independent blogging, have been allowed to emerge in recent years. The Cuban Interests Section Washington DC has charged [text] in a statement published by the Miami Herald that the HRW report is an illegitimate and illegal evaluation that aims to manipulate public scrutiny away from the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs [official website] hearing [materials] on Thursday about ending the travel ban to Cuba.
The number of political prisoners in Cuba had declined from 234 in January 2008 to 205, while the number of brief detentions had increased, according to a Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish] report [JURIST report] in February. The same report also charged that the decline in the number of political prisoners was due to the new practice of imposing shorter prison terms for those arrested employed since 2003. In January, HRW acknowledged some attempts in 2008 by the Cuban government to improve its position on human rights in its 2009 report [report text] on the country. HRW decried that overall the Cuban government continues to deny its citizens their fundamental rights. Last year, Cuba was ranked 170th in the eighth annual Worldwide Index of Press Freedom [JURIST report] issued by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) [advocacy website].