The Harsh Sentencing of Human Rights Defenders in Cuba

06/30/2022 03:46 PM EDT

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States is deeply concerned by the ongoing harsh sentencing of political protesters in Cuba, and we will continue to work with our partners around the world to demonstrate our collective support for the rights of Cubans who are unjustly detained.  Cuban judges have sentenced over 550 Cuban protesters to more than 4,000 combined years.  Protesters are sentenced to prison, forced labor, or other punitive measures.  These numbers include more than 20 protesters arrested as minors.

Meanwhile, the Cuban government continues to hold in detention more than 700 protesters who took to the streets nearly one year ago, on July 11, 2021, to criticize the government’s failure to respect their human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Hundreds of protesters languish in jails on arbitrary charges because they criticized the regime and its leaders.  Despite video and photographic evidence to the contrary, the Cuban government attempts to justify their detentions, prosecutions, and draconian sentences by falsely claiming the protests were largely violent.  Today’s class of political prisoners are made up of Cubans from across Cuba and from all walks of life.

State prosecutors chose to make examples of protesters from Havana’s impoverished neighborhoods of La Guinera and 10 de Octubre, with significant Afro-Cuban populations, charging them with sedition and issuing the harshest sentences up to 26 years in prison.  Six defendants from these neighborhoods, ages 16 or 17 at the time of their arrest, received up to five years forced labor.  Cuban government officials continue to detain, harass, and threaten mothers of detained protesters who dare speak publicly about their children.

These injustices have clear aims:  to prevent Cuban citizens from asserting their rights and create fear of reprisals. Cubans have a right to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly under Cuba’s constitution and as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Cuban government must allow its people to freely express their hopes and aspirations, rather than rule through fear and intimidation.