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Cuba: UN rights office hopes release of political prisoners paves way
for freedoms to flourish

9 January 2015 – The United Nations office today welcomed
Cuba’s recent release of political prisoners, hoping this new
development will help open the way for an environment where of
and association flourishes.

According to media reports yesterday and overnight, at least nine
political prisoners have been released by the Cuban authorities,
reportedly as part of the recent US-Cuba agreement.

“We understand that at least some of them may have been released
conditionally, which means that they have to report to the authorities
regularly,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said at a Geneva briefing.

“We do not know what other conditions may have been imposed for their
release. As far as we are aware, the Cuban authorities have not made any
statements with regard to these releases, so the details are not yet
clear,” he added.

OHCHR has been particularly concerned about Cuba’s recent short-term
detention of political opponents, human rights activists and members of
civil society. Over the past four years, the Office received numerous
reports of such detentions, without warrants, especially in advance of
certain meetings and events, apparently in order to prevent specific
people from participating.

“These detentions can last a few hours, a few days and sometimes longer,
and then people are usually released without charges,” Mr. Colville
said, adding that a number of UN rights experts have engaged with the
Cuban authorities on this issue.

“We urge the authorities to stop this practice, which clearly impinges
on individuals’ human rights and appears to be little more than a form
of intimidation or harassment,” Mr. Colville said.

The latest such detention occurred on 30 December 2014 when, according
to media reports, dozens of people were before they could
participate in a performance at the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana by
Tania Bruguera, a well-known Cuban artist. The protest had not been
authorized by the authorities. Ms. Bruguera and others were subsequently
released, but she was detained on two further occasions over the
following days and finally released last Friday.

Sources in Cuba have put the number of these detentions to well over
8,000 in 2014 alone, although we have not been able to verify the number
independently, he added.

Source: United Nations News Centre – Cuba: UN rights office hopes
release of political prisoners paves way for freedoms to flourish –
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=49769#.VLJnNCvF9HE

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