Human Rights Watch/Americas calls on the Cuban government to release immediately the detained leaders of a new coalition of non-governmental organizations. Since Thursday February 15, the Cuban government has arrested dozens of representatives of Concilio Cubano (Cuban Council), a group of over one hundred non-violent dissident organizations. Four members of Concilio's national leadership board remain in detention at this writing. The Cuban authorities have arrested over forty other Concilio members, threatened them with criminal charges (such as "enemy propaganda") if they continued their activities with Concilio, and in some cases, released them. The heightened level of state repression apparently is linked to plans for Concilio's first national general assembly, which was scheduled for February 24 to 28, 1996. The Cuban Interior Ministry verbally denied permission to hold this event on February 18, 1996. Concilio members announced that the national assembly would be postponed in light of the denial and the continuing detentions.
Jos Miguel Vivanco, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Americas charges that, "Concilio Cubano includes a broad cross-section of Cuban society that has adopted peaceful means of dissent. The Cuban government's recent refusal to permit Concilio Cubano's general assembly and its aggressive campaign of intimidation and arrests reveal an utter disregard for the internationally recognized principles of free association and free expression. The present situation highlights the need for prompt reform of Cuba's penal code provisions criminalizing free speech under dubious provisions such as `enemy propaganda,' `contempt of authority' and `public disorder.' "
Human Rights Watch/Americas calls for the immediate halt to arbitrary arrests, threats of criminal charges against dissidents, targeted arrests of independent journalists, deportations of Concilio members based in Havana to rural areas, and photographs, surveillance, and other efforts to intimidate Concilio members. Human Rights Watch/Americas urges the Cuban government promptly to release the following leaders of Concilio Cubano:
- Leonel Morej"n Almagro, National Delegate for Concilio, member of Naturpaz Ecological and Pacifist Movement (NATURPAZ). Mr. Morej"n reportedly was detained at the Independent Press Bureau by State Security agents on February 15, 1996 and is now being held at the Police Station at L Street and Malecon. He commenced a hunger strike on February 15, 1996.
- Mercedes Parada Ant#nez, Vice-delegate for Concilio, member of the Popular Democratic Alliance (ADEPO). Ms. Parada reportedly was detained by State Security agents at her home on February 15, 1996. She was released on the next day on the condition that she receive medical treatment at the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital. Ms. Parada remains under guard at the hospital.
- L zaro Gonz lez Valdz, Vice-delegate for Concilio, member of the Independent Pro-Human Rights Party (PPDH). Cuban State Security Police arrested Mr. Gonz lez in his home on February 15, 1996. He reportedly remains in detention at the Capri police station in Arroyo Naranjo. Human Rights Watch/Americas has received unconfirmed reports that Mr. Gonz lez may face charges for contempt of authority.
- Reinaldo Cosano Alen, Vice-delegate for Concilio, member of the Cuban Democratic Coalition (CDC). Mr. Cosano went into hiding soon after the arrests of Concilio members began on February 15, 1996. He was arrested on February 21, 1996 and reportedly is being held at the police station at Silueta and Dragones.
- Hctor Palacio Ruiz, Vice-delegate for Concilio, member of the Democratic Solidarity Party (PSD). Cuban authorities searched Mr. Palacio's residence on the afternoon of February 16, 1996 and returned that evening to arrest him. Mr. Palacio reportedly was held at the police station at Zapata and C Streets until his release on February 20, 1996.
Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and among the signatories of the Helsinki accords. It is supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board; Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair; Kenneth Roth is the executive director. Its Americas division was established in 1981 to monitor human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean. Jos Miguel Vivanco is executive director; Peter D. Bell is the chair of the advisory committee and Stephen L. Kass and Marina Pinto Kaufman are vice chairs.
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