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Rights group urges Cuba to revoke laws restricting freedom of expression

[JURIST] Human rights group Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged [press release] Cuban authorities to "revoke laws that restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association and to release all dissidents unfairly detained by the authorities." AI called on President Raul Castro [BBC profile] to invite UN experts and human rights organizations into the country to independently monitor the human rights situation. Currently, international independent human rights organizations are not permitted in the country. AI's statement also condemned vague legislation because it is "currently being interpreted in a way that infringes fundamental freedoms." For example, Article 72 [AI translation] of the Cuban Criminal Code makes "dangerousness" a jailable offense [AP report]. The statement was released as the 7th anniversary of the arrest of 75 Cuban dissidents [AP report] nears, with 53 of those arrested remaining in jail today.

Last week, the US State Department [official website] criticized Cuba for interfering with the right to privacy in its 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials; JURIST report]. In November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] claiming that the Cuban government continued to repress dissidents and violate fundamental civil liberties of Cubans, and resorted to imposing short-term imprisonment measures to elude international critique. According to a February 2009 report by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish], the number of political prisoners in Cuba had declined [JURIST report] from 234 in January 2008 to 205, while the number of brief detentions had increased. In January, HRW acknowledged some attempts in 2008 by the Cuban government to improve its position on human rights in its World Report 2009 [materials]. HRW decried that overall the Cuban government continues to deny its citizens their fundamental rights. In 2008, Cuba was ranked 170th in the eighth annual Worldwide Index of Press Freedom [JURIST report] issued by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) [advocacy website].

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