THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGTHS CONDEMNS DEATH OF ORLANDO ZAPATAIN CUBA

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- Washington, D.C., February 26, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR, deeply regrets and condemns the death of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died of starvation after 85 days on a hunger strike. The IACHR expresses its condolences and solidarity with his next of kin.

Mr. Zapata Tamayo was one of the victims in IACHR Case No. 12.476, in which the Inter-American Commission recommended to the State of Cuba that it order the immediate and unconditional release of all the victims in the case and overturn their convictions, inasmuch as they were based on laws that impose unlawful restrictions on their human rights. The report on the merits in this case, approved on October 21, 2006, also recommended that the State adopt the measures necessary to adapt its laws, procedures, and practices to international human rights laws; redress the victims and their next of kin for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages suffered as a result of the violations of the American Declaration established in the report; and adopt the measures necessary to prevent a recurrence of similar acts. The State of Cuba has not complied with the IACHR's recommendations.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was detained in March 2003, as part of a crackdown by the State of Cuba against human rights activists and independent journalists. Between April 3 and 7, 2003, the more than 70 individuals who had been detained in March were subject to proceedings that lasted no longer than a day and were held behind closed doors, with access barred to reporters, diplomats, and the general public. At the end of the proceedings, they were sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. At that time, Mr. Zapata Tamayo was sentenced to three years in prison.

Subsequently, Mr. Zapata Tamayo was sentenced in Cuba to additional prison terms, due to his dissident opinions. According to news accounts, he had reportedly been sentenced to 36 years in prison. Information received by the IACHR indicates that Mr. Zapata Tamayo had been subjected to torture and inhumane treatment in the Kilo 8 prison.

Meanwhile, the IACHR also received information that, following the death of Mr. Zapata Tamayo, at least 50 dissidents reportedly were detained or forced to remain in their houses to prevent them from attending the wake and funeral.

The Commission reiterates that restrictions to political rights and to freedom of expression and the dissemination of thought; the lack of elections; and the lack of independence of the judiciary create a permanent situation in Cuba in which the fundamental rights of its citizens are violated. The Commission once again urges the State to carry out the reforms that are necessary in accordance with its international human rights obligations.  

The IACHR would like to reiterate to the State of Cuba the recommendation that it order the immediate and unconditional release of all the victims in Case 12.476 and overturn their convictions, inasmuch as they were based on laws that impose unlawful restrictions on their human rights. The IACHR also urges the State of Cuba to adapt its legal procedures to applicable international standards for due process, so that those who go before the courts for a determination of their rights and responsibilities can count on the minimum legal guarantees to be able to exercise their defense.  

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States, OAS,  the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

María Isabel Rivero
Directora de la Oficina de Prensa y
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Tel. +1 (202) 458-3867

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