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Cablegate: Recommendations for Un Special Rapporteur Manfred

VZCZCXRO8675
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHUB #0619/01 2861518
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131518Z OCT 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4829
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0188
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEKJCE/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 HAVANA 000619

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PINS CU
SUBJECT: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR MANFRED
NOWAK'S VISIT TO CUBA

REF: GENEVA 583

HAVANA 00000619 001.3 OF 005


1. (SBU) Summary: This cable responds to an Action Request in
Ref A requesting "information on specific detention
facilities and/or detainees in Cuba," pertaining to the
intended visit to Cuba of United Nations Special Rapporteur
(SR) on torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment (CIDT), Manfred Nowak. It also
includes Post's recommendations regarding dialogue with civil
society, and summarizes GOC preparations for the Special
Rapporteur's mission, as well as the likelihood of GOC state
security obstruction during the mission. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --
DOCUMENTATION TO FACILITATE MISSION PREPARATION
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) Post refers SR Nowak to the State Department's 2008
Human Rights Report on Cuba, which details torture and CIDT,
prison and detention center conditions, arbitrary detentions,
and denials of judicial due process. In addition, Post will
forward to U.S. Mission Geneva copies of the following for SR
Nowak:

-- letters written by prisoners to SR Nowak detailing their
experience in prison;

-- schematics drawn by prisoners detailing prison cell
dimensions and construction; and

-- a list of the 75 political prisoners who were detained in
March 2003, including the locations of the 54 political
prisoners who remain in jail.

--------------------------------------------- ----
NON-GOVERNMENTAL PRISONER ADVOCACY GROUPS IN CUBA
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) Post urges the SR to meet with a broad swath of
civil society during his mission, particularly "unofficial"
or "unregistered" civil society groups. (Note: The GOC
regulates NGO status, and routinely denies it to any civil
society group critical of GOC practices. The GOC will
disregard claims made by these groups, accusing them of being
foreign agents trying to subvert the GOC. Human rights
reports by registered Cuban NGOs should consequently be
viewed with skepticism, since their existence is predicated
upon political support for the GOC. End Note.)

4. (SBU) The following civil society groups have not been
registered as NGOs by the government, but do monitor prison
conditions in Cuba and maintain steady contact with Cuban
political and common prisoners:

-- Comision Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliacion
(President: Elizardo Sanchez);

-- Consejo de Relatores de Derechos Humanos en
Cuba(President: Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva);

-- Damas de Blanco (Spokeswoman Laura Pollan);

-- Comision Martiana de Atencion al Presidio Politico en Cuba
(President: Lilvio Fernandez Luis).

(Note: Post can provide further background and contact
information for all of the groups and individuals mentioned
above upon request. End Note.)

--------------------------------------------- --
DETENTION FACILITIES: SITE VISIT CONSIDERATIONS
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (SBU) Post has received reports throughout 2009 that
prisons are being modified in preparation for the SR's visit,
to improve conditions. Reported modifications include:

-- fresh paint inside and outside of prisons;

HAVANA 00000619 002.3 OF 005

-- the distribution of additional mattresses;

-- construction of new buildings and razing of old buildings;

-- landscaping, not only around a prison but also on the
highway leading up to it;

-- the construction of a "model prison" in Sancti Spiritus
province in central Cuba, which can be shown to the SR in
lieu of a traditional prison; and

-- substantial remodeling and construction inside prisons in
order to brighten and expand hallways or waiting areas,
create new visitors areas, remove a third level of concrete
bunk beds from barracks-like prison cells, and install modern
toilets in bathrooms which previously had squat toilets.

6. (SBU) Prisoners have reported that unpaid prison labor was
utilized to accomplish many of the above projects. In
addition, prisoners have reported that large numbers of
inmates in maximum security prisons are being transferred to
other detention centers or labor camps in order to reduce
traditional overcrowding in the prisons. Prisoners and
advocates suspect that more inmates will be transferred out
of the prisons immediately before the SR's visit and "hidden"
in the countryside until he completes his mission.

--------------------------------------------- --
DETENTION FACILITIES: RECOMMENDATIONS AND NOTES
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) VILLA MARISTA - Villa Marista is a state security
detention center located in Havana. Former Villa Marista
detainees have spoken with Post about their experiences and
reported they had been subjected to psychological torture.

-- Detainees are driven around for hours by state security
agents before arriving at Villa Marista, and are forced to
keep their heads close to their knees throughout this time.

-- Detainees are held in small cells that contain a metal bed
with no mattress. Cells are brightly lit 24 hours a day and
meals are brought at irregular intervals, making it difficult
for inmates to judge how long they've been in detention.
Cells are either air-conditioned "like a refrigerator," or
they are hot and humid, in which case interrogation rooms are
extremely cold.

-- Detainees receive a thin uniform, but no other clothing or
blankets.

-- Detainees may be given food and water, but report that the
food is spoiled or generally inedible.

-- Detainees are interrogated frequently; one contact
reported eight interrogations over two days, while another
reported four interrogations a day for 12 days.
Interrogators repeated the same questions constantly,
threatened long prison sentences, suggested that family
members had fallen ill during the detainee's stay, and
otherwise attempted to break the will of detainees in order
to intimidate them or gather information.

-- Psychological tactics are used not only against detainees
but also against family members. A detainee was told,
falsely, that his father had become very ill. During his
detention, his wife received "constant" phone calls from a
mysterious woman inquiring about her husband, leading the
wife to believe her husband had been unfaithful.

-- Family members receive no information regarding detainees'
whereabouts, and frequently spend days attempting to discover
where their relatives have been taken.

8. (SBU) Post recommends the SR speak with Lilvio Fernandez
Luis, President of the Comision Martiana de Atencion al
Presidio Politico en Cuba, who was detained at Villa Marista

HAVANA 00000619 003.3 OF 005


for three days in March 2009 due to opposition activity.

9. (SBU) COMBINADO DEL ESTE PRISON, HAVANA PROVINCE -
Combinado del Este is a maximum security prison. The most
notorious area of Combinado is "Section 47," where punishment
cells ("celdas de castigo") are located. Punishment cells
hold four prisoners but are too small to allow all four
prisoners to lie down at the same time. Prisoners are only
authorized to leave punishment cells when they receive a
family visit, which occurs every two to three months. During
family visits, prisoners are shackled by their hands and feet.

10. (SBU) Post recommends the SR speak with the following
Combinado del Este inmates:

-- Harold Arkalo Aramburo and Maykel Delgado Aramburo,
brothers who were sentenced to life in prison, and who have
been held in a punishment cell in Section 47 for the past 2-3
years

-- Enrique Diaz Silva, an opposition activist who was
arrested in June 2009 but was still awaiting formal charges
in October 2009.

-- Political prisoner Dr. Oscar E. Biscet, as well as the
other political prisoners listed in Post's accompanying
electronic documentation.

11. (SBU) Post also recommends the SR speak with Officer
Riguelme, Chief of the Punishment Cells in Section 47, as
well as with his brother, also named Officer Riguelme, Chief
of Internal Order ("orden interior") for Building 1 at
Combinado del Este. Both have been accused by former and
current inmates of brutally beating and otherwise mistreating
inmates.

12. (SBU) AGUICA PRISON, MATANZAS PROVINCE - Aguica is a
maximum security prison. Former inmates grimly note, "it's
one of the prettier prisons outside, so no one figures out
how ugly it is inside." Aguica is notorious for reports of
the practice called "la escalera" ("the stairs") to punish
prisoners. Prison guards handcuff an inmate's hands behind
his back and then lead him to the top of a flight of stairs.
The guards turn the inmate so that he is facing the stairs,
and then push him off, causing the inmate to topple -
handcuffed - down the stairs. Guards subsequently explain
the inmate's injuries by saying that "he fell."

13. (SBU) Post recommends the SR speak with political
prisoner Hector Maseda, currently incarcerated in Aguica, as
well as with his wife Laura Pollan, spokeswoman for the
"Damas de Blanco," and the other political prisoners listed
in accompanying documentation.

14. (SBU) Post also recommends the SR speak with Major Brito,
also known as "El Britanico," who works at Aguica and also at
Canaleta prison in Matanzas. Major "Brito" reputedly
invented "la escalera."

15. (SBU) In addition to the above, Post also recommends that
the SR visit the following maximum security prisons (location
listed first):

-- Pinar del Rio Province: Prison "59," Kilo 5.5

-- Matanzas Province: Combinado del Sur, "Canaleta"

-- Isle of Youth ("Isla de Juventud"): "El Guayabo"

-- Villa Clara Province: Provincial Prison Guamajal, also
known as the "Pre"

-- Cienfuegos Province: "Ariza"

-- Camaguey Province: Kilo 8

-- Sancti Spiritus Province: Nieves Morejon.


HAVANA 00000619 004.3 OF 005


16. (SBU) Post has received anecdotal reports of cruel or
inhuman treatment at old people's homes and psychiatric
hospitals on the island. Although these locations are not
traditional "detention centers," occupants are generally not
free to leave the centers of their own will, and represent
one segment of the population that would be particularly
vulnerable to cruel and inhuman treatment and unlikely to be
monitored by any independent entities.

--------------------------------------------- -------
SPECIFIC PRISONERS AND/OR ADVOCATES: RECOMMENDATIONS
--------------------------------------------- -------

17. (SBU) ARIEL SIGLER AMAYA is a political prisoner who was
arrested in March 2003 and is serving a twenty year term.
According to his family, Sigler Amaya is severely ill, and
has lost over forty percent of his body weight since entering
prison. He has been unable to walk since September 2008.
Sigler Amaya was being held at Arizas maximum security prison
in Camaguey Province, but was moved between prisons and
hospitals throughout 2009. Eventually, he was diagnosed with
"severe malnutrition." On August 14, 2009, Sigler Amaya was
reassigned to Julio Diaz Rehabilitation Hospital in Havana,
where doctors have been attempting to treat him.

18. (SBU) DR. DARSI FERRER is a human rights activist and
medical doctor who has been imprisoned without formal charge
since July 21, 2009 at Valle Grande prison in Havana
Province. Dr. Ferrer had organized peaceful marches along
Havana's seawall every December since 2006. He was arrested
for common crimes (possession of unauthorized goods and
threats against a neighbor), but his detention is widely seen
as politically-motivated.

19. (SBU) RENE GOMEZ MANZANO is an attorney who was disbarred
in 1995 for advocating legal reforms. He is also a former
political prisoner. Gomez was held for more than eighteen
months without charges and spent a total of 567 days in
prison for participating in a protest in front of the French
Embassy which he claims not to have attended. He was held at
Villa Marista and at Nieves Morejon maximum security prison.
Gomez cannot practice law, but he is well-versed in Cuban
legal standards and reforms, and can provide an alternative
to official GOC descriptions of the Cuban legal system.

20. (SBU) ORLANDO ZAPATA TAMAYO is being held in the
Provincial Prison of Holguin, in Holguin Province. On May
15, 2009 he was sentenced in a summary trial to an additional
ten years in prison for "desacato" ("contempt of law"),
apparently for having shouted "Abajo Fidel" and other
anti-GOC phrases.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR'S MISSION
--------------------------------------------- --------------

21. (SBU) COMMENT ON COMMON AND POLITICAL PRISONERS:
Although many of Post's recommendations focus on political
prisoners, Post often receives reports that common prisoners
live in worse conditions than political prisoners. Post
urges the SR to meet with common prisoners to clarify
discrepancies in prisoner treatment; Post notes that the GOC
officially denies the existence of any political prisoners.
Post notes that common prisoners and political prisoners are
kept in the same prison cells. Common prisoners may be
encouraged to attack, threaten or otherwise harass political
prisoners in order to curry favor with prison officials
and/or receive special benefits. During the summer of 2009,
Post observed an alarming increase in detentions of
opposition activists for common crimes. Activists were moved
immediately to maximum security prisons, where they were held
without charges. Post believes these detentions were
fundamentally political in nature.

22. (SBU) COMMENT ON STATE SECURITY SURVEILLANCE TECHNIQUES:
Post warns the SR that GOC surveillance techniques are highly
sophisticated, and state-sponsored repression of free speech
and free movement pervasive. Post believes the SR may face

HAVANA 00000619 005.3 OF 005


many of the same fact-finding obstacles in Cuba that he
experienced during his 2005 mission to China, including
surveillance by intelligence and security officials, and the
likelihood that "during the visit a number of alleged victims
and family members, lawyers and human rights defenders (will
be) intimidated by security personnel, placed under police
surveillance, instructed not to meet the SR, or (be)
physically prevented from meeting with him." Many Cubans who
meet with the SR will expect and fear recrimination if they
report negatively on GOC practices, even if the GOC has given
the SR assurances against such reprisals.

23. (SBU) Post notes that at the end of the SR's mission to
China, he arranged a meeting with U.S. Embassy Beijing to
discuss his findings. Post would welcome the opportunity to
meet with the SR before he departs Cuba, either individually
or in a group setting with other diplomatic missions.

24. (SBU) Finally, Post wishes to express its strong support
for the Special Rapporteur's visit, and remains available to
assist the Special Rapporteur and his team before, during,
and after their visit to Cuba, as appropriate. Post is ready
to provide contact information for any of the prisoners,
family members, or advocates listed in this cable, upon
request. Post's POC is Kathleen Duffy at 53 (7) 836-4039
and duffyk@state.gov.
FARRAR

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