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Amnesty International is concerned for the human rights of peaceful government opponents and human rights activists in Cuba following violent clashes between pro-government supporters and protesters in Havana last week. Last Friday, crowds hoping to hi-jack boats to take them to the USA gathered along the Havana seafront. They reportedly attacked the security forces with sticks and stones and shouted anti-government slogans when it became clear that they were not going to be able to leave the country. Police reportedly fired repeatedly into the air to disperse the crowd.
Similar incidents were also reported in other parts of the city where special armed troops were said to have been called in. This week, Cuban television reported that 295 people had so far been charged in connection with the disturbances. The televisi on report showed large numbers of detainees being held in some kind of prison complex but it was not clear where. Unofficial sources believe that the number of those in detention may be nearer 500. Amnesty International is concerned that the authorities have reportedly used these events as a pretext to unjustly detain so- called "counter-revolutionaries". The human rights organization has received reports of 19 political and human rights activists who were rounded up at the weekend, including recently r eleased prisoner of conscience Fernando Velazquez Medina and his wife Xiomara Gonzalez. It is not clear where they are being held. At least four of these detainees are members of the Consejo Nacional por los derechos civiles en Cuba (National Council fo r Civil Rights in Cuba), a group documenting cases of people who have reportedly drowned or gone missing during attempts to leave Cuba illegally. The president of this council was arrested in May. Amnesty International considers all 19 of these detainees to be prisoners of conscience targeted solely because of their know anti-government sympathies and is urging the authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally.
"We acknowledge that the Cuban authorities have to maintain law and order and have a duty to arrest those involved in violent activities, but peaceful government opponents and human rights defenders should be allowed to carry out their legitimate activ ities without interference," Amnesty International said today. The unrest followed three incidents between 26 July and 4 August, in which groups of people, in some cases armed, hi-jacked ferries in the Havana area to divert them to the United States.
One policeman was reportedly killed during one incident after being attacked and pushed into the water, another is missing believed drowned. Cuban authorities have arrested one man suspected of being responsible for the killing of one of the policeman . He is likely to face the death penalty if convicted of murder. Others involved in the hi-jackings were also reportedly in detention. All those arrested in connection with last week's Havana seafront disturbances or for attempting to leave the country illegally should be immediately released unless charged with a recognizable criminal offence, according to Amnesty International
The organization is also calling for all those still in detention, including anyone charged with a capital offence, to be granted full judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards. Amnesty International also fears that pro-governmen t supporters are in effect being given carte blanche to carry out attacks on demonstrators and suspected dissidents by any means at their disposal. President Castro has said that these civilian supporters should not use firearms. In response to the unre st, the authorities mobilised large numbers of supporters, many reportedly armed with sticks and metal tubing. They reportedly attacked the demonstrators, as well as anyone who did not appear to support the government. Among those supporters mobilized w ere the government founded Brigadas de Respuesta Rapida (Rapid Response Brigades), which have frequently been involved in the serious harassment and intimidation of dissidents, sometimes resulting in physical injury. Participation in the Brigades is supp osed to be voluntary, but some people have reportedly been coerced into participating.100%"The Cuban Government should immediately disband the Rapid Response Brigades or bring them under the direct supervision of law enforcement officials and strictly reg ulate them by law," Amnesty International said.James J. Hughes Assistant Director of Research MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics U. of Chicago, MC6098 5841 S. Maryland Ave Chicago, IL 60637 (work) 312-702-3742 (fax) 312-702-0090 Subject: dsanet: Amnesty Concerned for Cuban Dissidents Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org.EDU Reply-To: email@example.com (J. Hughes)