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Cuba: Fear for safety: Joaquin Torres Alvarez

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 25/009/1997

There is concern for the safety of Joaquin Torres Alvarez, director of the independent news agency Habana Press, following reports that he was assaulted on 31 May 1997 by individuals believed to be working for the Department of State Security.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 25/09/97
UA 159/97 Fear for Safety 2 June 1997
CUBAJoaquín TORRES ALVAREZ, aged 44, journalist
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Joaquín Torres Alvárez,
director of the independent news agency, Habana Press, following reports that
he was assaulted by individuals believed to be working for the Department of
State Security.
According to reports, on 31 May 1997 Joaquín Torres was standing at the door
of his home in Havana with José Orlando González Bridon, president of the
Confederación de Trabajadores Democráticos de Cuba, Democratic Workers’ Union,
an unofficial trade union, when he was assaulted by at least four people whom
he recognized as being local Communist Party members or State Security
officials. The assailants punched him repeatedly and verbally abused him before
neighbours were able to intervene and help him to take refuge in his house.
Joaquín Torres afterwards made a formal complaint to the police concerning
the attack. He also obtained a medical certificate indicating that he had
received bruises and scratches to several parts of his body.
Joaquín Torres was reportedly arrested on six occasions during 1996 in
connection with his journalistic activities. In February 1997 he was warned
by State Security that he would be imprisoned if he did not cease his activities
or leave the country. His predecessor at Habana Press and the agency’s founder,
Rafael Solano, was forced into exile in 1996 after being threatened with
imprisonment (see Cuba: Dissidents Imprisoned or Forced into Exile, AI Index
AMR 25/29/96, July 1996).
Although threats of violence have been made to dissidents, including
journalists, on several occasions, few such threats have been carried out so
far. Amnesty International is therefore concerned about this attack on Joaquín
Torres and believes that it is a further attempt to force him to cease his
activities or to force him into exile. On 14 January 1997 Nicolás Rosario
Rosabal, a journalist working for the Asociación de Periodistas Independientes
de Cuba (APIC), Cuban Association of Independent Journalists, was reportedly
assaulted at a bus station by two individuals believed to be working for State
Security. In February 1997, several journalists working for independent
organizations were subjected to "actos de repudio", "acts of repudiation" -
these are meetings or demonstrations organized by government officials or mass
organizations supporting the government at which the person or persons concerned
are subjected to criticism and abuse, sometimes physical, because of their
so-called “counter-revolutionary” views or activities.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
All media in Cuba are state-controlled and freedom of expression, association
and assembly are severely limited. Over the past few years, a number of
non-governmental organizations, involving political and human rights
activists, independent journalists and trade unionists, economists, lawyers
and others, have been formed. However, none has been granted official permission
to operate even when they have made the appropriate application to the Ministry
of Justice for recognition (their requests usually go unanswered).
In 1995 the Cuban Government began a major crackdown on dissidents, following
the formation of Concilio Cubano, Cuban Concilium, a coalition made up of over
100 unofficial groups, including human rights groups, independent professional
2
associations and political parties. Since then members of Concilio Cubano and
journalists working for independent organization have been subjected to
persistent harassment and frequent short-term detention. They have also been
threatened with long-term imprisonment and occasionally physical violence if
they do not cease their activities or leave the country. A few have been brought
to trial and imprisoned as prisoners of conscience.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in Spanish or your own language:
- expressing concern at reports that journalist Joaquín Torres Alvárez was
attacked at his home by persons believed to be acting on the instructions of
the Department of State Security;
- calling for an immediate and impartial investigation into the incident and
for those found responsible to be brought to justice;
- urging that steps be taken to guarantee the physical integrity of Joaquín
Torres Alvárez;
- urging that members of Habana Press and other freelance journalists be
permitted to carry out their legitimate peaceful activities without
interference from the authorities.
APPEALS TO:
1) Attorney-General
Dr Juan Escalona Reguera
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
San Rafael 3, La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Fiscal General, Havana, Cuba
Telex: 511456 fisge
Salutation: Sr Fiscal General / Dear Attorney General
2) Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sr Roberto Robaina González
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Calzada No. 360
Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Ministro Relaciones Exteriores, Havana, Cuba
Telex: 511122 / 511464 / 512950
Fax: + 53 7 333085 / + 53 7 335261
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister
3) Minister of the Interior
General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra
Ministro de Interior
Ministerio del Interior
Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Ministro Interior, Havana, Cuba
Salutation: Señor Ministro / Dear Minister
4) Department of State Security
Sr Director
Departamento de Seguridad del Estado
Villa Marista
La Víbora
3
La Habana, Cuba
Telegrams: Director, Villa Marista, Havana, Cuba
Salutation: Señor Director / Dear Sir
COPIES TO:
Cuban Journalists Union (official body)
Unión de Periodistas de Cuba
Calle 23 No. 452
Apartado 6646
Vedado, Havana
Cuba
Editor of Granma (daily newspaper)
Sr Jacinto Granda de Laserna
Granma
Apdo 6260
La Habana, Cuba
and to diplomatic representatives of Cuba accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 14 July 1997.

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