Cuba: Harassment of San Isidro movement exemplifies ongoing assault on freedom of expression

A report from Amnesty International.

In response to reports that members of Cuba’s San Isidro movement have been detained, had their human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement restricted, and been criminalized simply for peacefully exercising their human rights, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International said:

“The ongoing harassment and intimidation of members of the San Isidro movement, at the forefront of challenging Decree 349, a dystopian law that stands to censor artists, shows Cuba’s ongoing repression of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression in the country. Authorities can continue to harass, intimidate, detain, and criminalize artists and alternative thinkers, but they can’t keep their minds in prison.”

According to the legal NGO Cubalex, between 9 and 19 November, authorities arbitrarily detained and harassed multiple members of the San Isidro movement, sometimes more than once. Members of the movement, which is composed of artists, poets, LGBTI activists, academics, and independent journalists, have in recent days been protesting the imprisonment of the rapper Denis Solís González.Authorities can continue to harass, intimidate, detain, and criminalize artists and alternative thinkers, but they can’t keep their minds in prison Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

According to information Amnesty International was able to obtain, Denis was detained on 9 November, and then tried and sentenced on 11 November to eight months in prison for “contempt” (desacato), a crime inconsistent with international human rights law. He is now imprisoned at a maximum-security prison, Valle Grande, located just outside Havana.

“No one should be imprisoned for ‘contempt’ against a public official, a provision of the criminal code that Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have consistently called on the Cuban authorities to repeal,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

By 19 November, eight members of the group were on hunger strike at the San Isidro movement’s headquarters in Old Havana in protest over Denis’ imprisonment, according to Anamely Ramos González, an art curator and member of the movement.

Images that Amnesty International verified show that at one point the authorities appeared to cordon off the block of the headquarters with yellow tape, limiting the group’s freedom of movement. Members of the group said they were under 24-hour surveillance by plain-clothed state security officials and feared they would be detained again if they tried to leave.

In March, Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a former prisoner of conscience and member of San Isidro movement, was imprisoned solely because of his consciously held beliefs, and later released. He is among those the authorities have held in short-term detentions in recent weeks, according to Cubalex. 

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