Parliamentary question E-2213/03 by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Council and answer

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Council
(24 June 2003)

Subject: Imprisonment in Cuba, in inhuman and degrading conditions, of 75 opposition figures sentenced by show trial in April 2003, and the particular case of Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

In Cuba in April 2003, 75 opposition figures (intellectuals and independent journalists) received sentences following a show trial. Human Rights Watch has said that the only crime committed by these prisoners was to promote ideas which are forbidden in Cuba.

The one woman member of this group is Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello (aged 58), the director of the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists named after Manuel Sánchez Herrero. She is also a writer, economist and political activist.

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello was sentenced to 27 years' imprisonment and is being kept under a maximum-security regime in the Manto Negro jail, in a windowless, 1.5 m by 3 m cell infested by rodents and cockroaches, with only a hole for her personal necessities and the light permanently on, and is obliged to drink foul water.

She is now suffering from severe rheumatic ailments and a stomach ulcer, and has high blood pressure; the entire left-hand side of her body is paralysed; since April, she has lost more than 14 kilos and has been denied proper medical care and the drugs needed for treatment.

Ms Roque Cabello is well known in Cuban dissident circles: in 2002 the New York Academy of Sciences awarded her the Human Rights for Scientists prize, and she has recently been declared a prisoner of conscience by a number of international organisations. Since the 1980s she has been a member of the Transnational Radical Party.

Is the Council aware of these facts? If so, what initiatives has it taken, or what initiatives does it intend to take, vis-à-vis the Cuban authorities to secure the release of the 75 prisoners or, at all events, to ensure that they are guaranteed conditions of imprisonment that are compatible with fundamental human rights?

Has the Council asked for the prisoners - and especially and immediately Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello - to be visited by a delegation from the EU and any other relevant and recognised international organisation? If not, when does it intend to do so?

(written question: E-2213/03)
(17 November 2003)

The Council is aware of the preoccupying conditions and health situation of some political prisoners in Cuba and has made various demarches, calling for immediate release of all political prisoners and demanding that in the meantime they do not suffer unduly and are not exposed to inhumane treatment. In support of this line, steps have been taken, notably on 26 March, when the local Troika in Havana carried out a demarche expressing strong concern over the detention of dozens of Cuban dissidents by the Cuban authorities. On 5 June, the EU issued a second declaration to the Cubans expressing deep concern over the violation of the human rights of the opposition and called once again for the Cuban authorities to release all political prisoners immediately. The EU further requested that prisoners not be exposed to inhumane treatment and that access for the Red Cross be guaranteed. On 1 August a third, specific demarche was made by the EU Presidency in Rome to the Cuban Ambassador expressing preoccupation over the deteriorating health of Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello and Oscar Espinosa Chepe and requesting full access to medical care for these prisoners. HOM's are continuing to monitor the situation.

For a more complete picture of the Council's efforts in favour of Cuban dissidents, the Council refers to the answers given to various parliamentary questions recently (questions H-243/03, H313/03, H-396/03). Furthermore, the Council would refer the Honourable Parliamentarian to the conclusions it adopted on the occasion of its meeting on 21st of July regarding the re-evaluation of the EU Common Position on Cuba