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Cuba: organisations call for the immediate release of journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces

Thursday 12 September 2019 - 11:47am

Roberto De Jesús Quiñones Haces

Mexico City, 12 September 2019 - On 11 September journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces was detained in his home by three National Revolutionary Police agents (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria -PNR). They arrived at his home at 4:05pm to enforce the sentence imposed by Guantánamo city’s People’s Municipal Court, where he was accused of the crimes of resistance and disobedience.

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.

Organisations

  • Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información
  • Artículo 19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica
  • Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP)
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • Comité para la Protección de Periodistas (CPJ)
  • Corriente Martiana
  • Cubalex
  • Distintas Latitudes
  • IFEX-ALC
  • Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expressión y Prensa (ICLEP)
  • Instituto Internacional sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos HumanoS
  • PEN International
  • Reporteros Sin Fronteras

Media

  • ADNCuba
  • Alas Tensas, revista feminista cubana
  • Árbol Invertido
  • Cubanet
  • Diario de Cuba
  • El Estornudo
  • Havana Times
  • La Hora de Cuba
  • Play Off
  • Proyecto Inventario
  • Tremenda Nota

Journalists, human rights defenders and others

  • Alejandro Riquenez Coy, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Amarilis Cortina Rey
  • Anay Remón García
  • Armando Chaguaceda
  • Bárbara Maseda
  • Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, periodista y editor de Tremenda Nota
  • Carlos Antonio Fernández Chacón, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Carlos Manuel Álvarez, El Estornudo
  • Claudia Padrón Cueto
  • Dario Alejandro Alemán Cañizares
  • Emiliano González Oliveira
  • Ernesto Pérez Chang
  • Henry Constantin
  • Isbel Díaz Torres
  • Iván García Quintero
  • Ivón González
  • Jimmy Roque Martínez
  • José Alberto Álvarez Bravo, Promotor Ágora de Cuba
  • José Antonio Fornaris
  • José Raúl Gallego Ramos
  • Juan Carrlos Linares Balmaseda
  • Julia Rosa Piña Sanchez
  • Julio César Alvares López
  • Laritza Diversent, directora ejecutiva de Cubalex
  • Manuel Alberto Morejón Soler
  • Maria De La Caridad Herrera Alfonso, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Marelys Fonseca Viltres
  • Maykel González Vivero
  • Maykel González, El Estornudo
  • Mirian Herrera Calvo
  • Mónica Baró Sánchez, periodista independiente
  • Norges Rodríguez de YucaByte
  • Normando Hernández, Director General de ICLEP
  • Odalina Guerrero Lara
  • Odalys Legrá Castellanos, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Pablo Díaz Espí
  • Pedro Enrique Rodriguez, director de Play Off
  • Roberto Alexander Rodríguez Cardona
  • Roberto Hechavarria
  • Tania Bruguera
  • Taylor E. Torres de YucaByte
  • Yeider Fuentes Aria, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Yeris Curbelo Aguilera, comunicador Palenque Vision
  • Yisel Aguilar Aguilera, Alianza Democrática Oriental
  • Yoe Suárez
  • Yuliesky Sánchez Rodríguez
  • Yúnior Berges González
  • Yusmel Acosta Aguilera, Alianza Democrática Oriental