Organisations and social actors call on the Cuban authorities to immediately release journalist Roberto Quiñones

On 7 August, the journalist was prosecuted and sentenced to a year’s deprivation of liberty, converted to correctional labour with internment, due to his coverage of a trial of public interest. He was arrested and beaten on 22 April by PNR agents in Guantánamo and he was held for 5 days. On his release he was informed that the legal process against him would continue.

During his arrest, he suffered a number of contusions, abrasions and wounds and the eardrum of his right ear was perforated. He was taken to the hospital, but the specialist who treated him did not register the injury. His condition was not diagnosed until seven days after his release, when he required medical assistance, which he accessed himself.

Despite a complaint filed against the officials who caused the injuries, on 30 April the First Military Prosecutor exonerated the agents and forwarded the complaint against the journalist to the Guantánamo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office. The journalist filed a further complaint but to date has not received a response.

On hearing the sentence imposed by the Municipal Court on 7 August, Roberto Quiñones appealed the sentence on 12 August, affirming that it violated his human rights.

On 13 August, an urgent appeal with 142 signatures, including from Cuban and international human rights organisations, media outlets and journalists, human rights defenders, academics, among others, called on the Cuban State to respect Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces’ human rights during the criminal process against him and to adopt measures to end the repression against journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society actor as a result of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Nevertheless, on 20 August the Guantánamo Provincial Court notified him that there would not be another hearing, even though legally this should occur when an appeal is filed. On 27 August the same Court confirmed the sentence handed down, which was to begin on 5 September, when the journalist was obliged to report for a year’s correctional labour with internment. However, Roberto Quiñones did not report for this, as he does not consider himself guilty of the crimes for which he has been sentenced. Consequently, the sentence was amended to detention at a closed prison, which means that he will be deprived of his liberty during one year.

The current status of this case is a result of a number of different factors, including the fact that the Court of Appeals rejected his appeal for a new hearing – denying the journalist this recourse and the opportunity to re-establish the guarantees of due process and expose the violations of national legislation.

The Military Prosecutor also prejudiced the evidence when he stated that the journalist “refused to show his identification” and that the PNR officials had to apply measures to make him obedient. He concluded that Roberto had engaged in criminal behaviour (resistance) which caused the State agents to act, without allowing him an opportunity to defend himself against these allegations. This was confirmed by the Courts of First and Second Instance, in a trial that violated fundamental guarantees of due process, especially the right to defend oneself in court and to be tried by impartial judges.

The legal basis used by this official is incorrect and contradictory. He alleges that the military personnel did not commit any crime and at the same time exonerated them for the injuries suffered by Roberto. According the Cuban criminal law, when medical treatment is required, it constitutes a criminal offence. The decision to exonerate them based on the conclusion that they were carrying out their duty is invalid, given that this criminal responsibility can only be absolved through a public trial in an independent court.

It is pertinent to highlight that during the years that Roberto de Jesús Quiñones has dedicated to independent journalism, he has suffered many acts of intimidation, harassment, arbitrary detention, illegal deprivation of liberty, a raid of his home, among other human rights violations. This is not an isolated case, rather it represents the reality faced by independent journalists, human rights defenders and those who fight to defend their rights in Cuba.

With regard to this particular case, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) denounced Roberto Quiñones’ sentence and expressed concern regarding the criminalisation of those who exercise their right to freedom of expression in Cuba, signalling that arbitrary detention has been used as a method of intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders and journalists.

The IACHR also noted that in 2019 the number of acts of intimidation and harassment of activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists has risen, and that this punishment or intimidation is used to deter them from exercising their right to peacefully voice their opinion, associate and gather.

To this end, the signatory organisations and social actors denounce the detention of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, coming as a result of a succession of violations of his human rights, and call for his immediate release.

Furthermore, we reiterate the call on the State to adopt all necessary measures for the guarantee of free press, thought and expression for journalists, human rights defenders and Cuban society in general.

Signatories

Journalists, human rights defenders and others:

  1. Alejandro Riquenez Coy, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  2. Amarilis Cortina Rey
  3. Anay Remón García
  4. Armando Chaguaceda
  5. Bárbara Maseda
  6. Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, periodista y editor de Tremenda Nota
  7. Carlos Antonio Fernández Chacón, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  8. Carlos Manuel Álvarez, El Estornudo
  9. Claudia Padrón Cueto
  10. Dario Alejandro Alemán Cañizares
  11. Ernesto Pérez Chang
  12. Henry Constantin
  13. Isbel Díaz Torres
  14. Iván García Quintero
  15. Ivón González
  16. Jimmy Roque Martínez
  17. José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, Promotor Ágora de Cuba
  18. José Antonio Fornaris
  19. José Raúl Gallego Ramos
  20. Juan Carrlos Linares Balmaseda
  21. Julio César Alvares López
  22. Laritza Diversent, directora ejecutiva de Cubalex
  23. Manuel Alberto Morejón Soler
  24. Maria De La Caridad Herrera Alfonso, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  25. Marelys Fonseca Viltres
  26. Maykel González Vivero
  27. Mirian Herrera Calvo
  28. Mónica Baró Sánchez, periodista independiente
  29. Norges Rodríguez de YucaByte
  30. Normando Hernández, Director General de ICLEP
  31. Odalina Guerrero Lara
  32. Odalys Legrá Castellanos, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  33. Pablo Díaz Espí
  34. Pedro Enrique Rodriguez, director de Play Off
  35. Roberto Alexander Rodríguez Cardona
  36. Roberto Hechavarria
  37. Tania Bruguera
  38. Taylor E. Torres de YucaByte
  39. Yeider Fuentes Aria, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  40. Yeris Curbelo Aguilera, comunicador Palenque Vision
  41. Yisel Aguilar Aguilera, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  42. Yoe Suárez
  43. Yuliesky Sánchez Rodríguez
  44. Yusmel Acosta Aguilera, Alianza Democrática Oriental

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Source: MEDIA FEED

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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