Cuba: Death in prison

Prisoner dies after refused treatment

Frankfurt am Main (21st of February 2013) - After a 38 day-hunger strike in a prison in Santa Clara, Cuba, a prisoner has died, spurring human rights groups to call for change in the prison regime system of the country. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) reported that the victim Roberto Antonio Rivalta began the hunger strike in protest against his arbitrary arrest without a trial. He was accused by the authorities of theft, but Rivalta denied all the accusations and assured his innocence until his death. He was only 46 years old. His sister stated that her brother was persistent in requesting a trial where he expected to be absolved of the accusations because there was no evidence against him. She believed her brother was only held in prison because the authorities did not want to admit that they had accused the wrong person.

"Rivalta wasn´t a dissident. He didn´t assert a political claim. He just wanted a fair trial in order to prove his innocence", clarifies Martin Lessenthin, the Speaker of the Board of the ISHR. "But in Cuba there are situational basic rights, whether it is a fair trial or medical treatment during the arrest it is only for those who keep still and fit in the system." Rivalta had even been refused water, even when he already was in a coma. When Rivalta’s corpse arrived in the morgue, the rigor mortis had already set in, says Lessenthin - a sign that Rivalta has already been dead for some hours before somebody took care of him.

Abuses and deaths in Cuban prisons

The Cuban government denies the abuses and deaths in the Cuban prison system and assures that accusations are only anti-Cuban propaganda. Former inmates of the Cuban prison system who survived this experience disagree, citing that abuses and humiliation are a daily routine in the prisons.

Appeal to the European Union
At the moment there is a discussion about a new Cuba policy in Europe. Since the newest measures by the Cuban government concerning freedom of travel, the talks between Havana and Brussels have intensified. The ISHR requests that the European Union uses the talks with the Cuban government to also address the situations in Cuban prisons as well as the observance of human rights. "At the moment the Caribbean island Cuba holds the temporary presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. This mandate should also be used to influence the observance of human rights in Cuba from Europe. The dispatch of an expert delegation to Cuba, in order to monitor the situation in the prisons locally, is more necessary than ever", says the ISHR. The lack of independent press on the island appears like a free pass for the Castro regime to continue to support the catastrophic circumstances in prisons as well as other human rights violations in Cuba.

More information about the human rights situation in the Republic of Cuba

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