Roberto Quiñones, 62-year-old, has been practicing journalism at Cubanet for 12 years and has a law degree. In 1999 he was sentenced to eight years in prison and since then he has been barred from practicing as a lawyer.
This current sanction stems from his coverage of a trial where a married couple were accused of not taking their children to school and homeschooling them. On April 22nd, as the journalist was on his way to the trial at the Guantánamo Municipal People’s Court, agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) arrested him, handcuffed him and beat him. He was arrested and held in prison for 5 days, accused of resistance and disobedience, and later released and informed that the legal process against him would continue.
During his arrest, he suffered a number of contusions, abrasions and wounds and the eardrum of his right ear was perforated. He was taken to the hospital, but the specialist who treated him did not register the injury because of a buildup of earwax in his ear. It was not diagnosed until 7 days after his release, when he required medical assistance, which he accessed by his own means.
The authorities ex officio denounced both the acting officers for the injuries sustained and the journalist for the crimes of resistance and disobedience. On April 30th, the First Military Prosecutor exonerated the agents and forwarded the complaint against the journalist to the Guantánamo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.
On May 3rd, the journalist filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and was informed by an official that, on instruction from the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic, his case had been transferred to the Delegation of the Ministry of the Interior, the same institution that allowed his aggressors go free.
On May 6th, Roberto de Jesús presented a written complaint about the decision taken by the Military Prosecutor’s Office to the Department of Attention for Citizens of the Ministry of the Interior. To date, no reply has been received. Since June 9th, he is forbidden to leave his province of residence without permission from State Security agents, who regularly are responsible for the repression he faces. The ban is still in place today.
That same month he was summoned by a PNR captain who offered him the option to pay a fine to close the case. Roberto Quiñones refused because such a course of action implied admitting responsibility. This meant that the trial continued and he was sentenced on August 7th.
Although Roberto Quiñones appealed the sentence of the Municipal Court on August 12th, it is feared that the sanction will be confirmed and that the deprivation of his liberty will become effective.
It is clear from the case that the journalist was prosecuted without the minimum guarantees of due process by a non-independent court, through a summary criminal trial in which the principle of contradiction and equality between the parties was not respected, nor was there adequate time and means to prepare his defense.
So far in 2019, there has been an increase in acts of intimidation and harassment in Cuba that may be classified as torture under international law, committed by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and State Security.
These acts have been committed without warrant or judicial supervision, against human rights defenders and independent journalists, with the aim of using punishment or intimidation to limit the exercise of the right to express an opinion, to associate and to assemble peacefully.
In the specific case of Roberto, Cuban state agents, acting in their official capacity, intentionally violated Roberto de Jesús Quiñones’ rights and caused severe suffering and pain (both psychological and physical).Such acts are prohibited by Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Cuban state agreed to comply with when it signed the Convention on February 28th of 2008, as well as the Convention against Torture to which it is party.
It is important to note that the thematic report on the situation of freedom of expression in Cuba (in Spanish), presented this year by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Edison Lanza, points to the criminalization of journalists and human rights defenders in Cuba, with particular emphasis on arbitrary detention, torture and subpoenas.Roberto Jesús Quiñones was also named in this report in relation to another arbitrary arrest less than a year ago.
Among the recommendations of the Rapporteur, the Cuban State was urged to “adopt the necessary measures to prevent and eradicate the criminalization of those who exercise the right to freedom of expression and association; and to put an end in the shortest possible time to the practice of harassment, including summonses, detentions of any duration, and harassment of any person for reasons related to the exercise of their freedom of expression, freedom of association, assembly or other related reasons.”
The following recommendations were included in the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba in September 2018: “End arbitrary detention and harassment of human rights defenders as well as media professionals; and end measures restricting freedom of expression and assembly, including short-term detention and the use of general criminal charges such as “dangerousness”.”
It is important to recall the obligations of the Cuban State to guarantee respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights standards ratified or signed by Cuba. The right to freedom of expression and access to information are established within article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 19 specifically reiterates the rights guaranteed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Articles 7, 9, 12, & 19; and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in accordance with international human rights standards.
Therefore, the undersigned organizations and individuals condemn the unlawful arbitrary detention, criminalization and sentencing of the journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones and express our deep concern for the ill-treatment and torture to which he was subjected during and after his detention.
We also demand the following from the Cuban State:
- That the rights of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones be respected and guaranteed in the criminal process against him by the judicial authorities in the province of Guantánamo.
- Take steps to end the repression of human rights defenders and activists, especially independent journalists and other civil society actors at risk.
- Ensure that these acts of repression, intimidation and harassment are duly investigated and those responsible punished; in accordance with the methodology of the Istanbul Protocol.
- Ensure that all persons are protected from the intimidation and violence to which they may be exposed by their activities or the simple exercise of their freedoms of opinion and expression and their rights of association and peaceful assembly.
- Take legislative measures to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and ensure respect for the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
- Develop and implement training programs to ensure that judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials are fully aware of international provisions prohibiting torture and ill-treatment.
Journalists, human rights defenders and others:
Adrián Beja José. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
Alcibíades Silva Fernández. Songo La Maya. Santiago de Cuba
Alejandro Gonzalez Raga
Alexander Guzmán Silva. Bayamo. Granma
Alexander Rodríguez Santiesteban. Banes. Holguín
Aliannis Astray Cedeño. Bayamo. Granma
Amarilis Cortina Rey
Annabel Borges Tamarit
Armando Añel – escritor
Armando Chaguaceda, politólogo
Armando Rodríguez. Banes. Holguín
Bertha Bueno Fuentes
Carlos Antonio Fernández Chacón. Guantánamo
Claudia Padrón Cueto
Dario Alejandro Alemán Cañizares
Dhaniella Falk, IWPR
Dixan Gaínza Moré. Camagüey
Edalis Pacheco Silva. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
Edberto Freeman Marrero. Banes. Holguín
Eliecer Palma Pupo. San Germán. Holguín
Enoide Pompa Reyna. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
Eresnildo Pérez Escalona. Santiago de Cuba
Estela Cruz Marrero. Banes. Holguín
Fernando Baliño Pérez. Veguitas. Granma
Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz. Baracoa. Guantánamo
Fulgencio García Pozo. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
Idabell Rosales Cao
Indomar Gómez Izaguirre. Camagüey
Irael Ramírez Núñez. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
Isela Poveda Silva. Guantánamo
Iván García Quintero
Ivón Soto González
Joaquín Moré Rico
Jorge A. Sanguinetty
Jorge Chance Betancourt. Santiago de Cuba
Jorge Chance Soria. Santiago de Cuba
José Antonio Fornaris
José Laborit Matos. Guantánamo
José Rafael Martínez Carralero. Banes. Holguín
Juan Antonio Blanco
Juan Carlos Linares Balmaseda
Julio César Álvarez Lopez
Leonardo Ramón Viamonte Marrero. Banes. Holguín
Luis Enrique Guivert Martínez. Santiago de Cuba
Luis Ramón Stiú Suárez. San Luis. Santiago de Cuba
Luisa Bárbara Martínez Silva. Banes. Holguín
Manuel Alberto Morejón
Manuel Alejandro León Velázquez. Guantánamo
Manuel Rey Carvajal. Bayamo. Granma
Marco Antonio Morán Peregrín. Guantánamo
María Caridad Herrera Alfonso. Guantánamo
María Isabel Rodríguez Lobaina. Guantánamo
Michel E. Figueredo Sean. Veguitas, Yara. Granma
Miladis Piña Rosales. Banes. Holguín
Miriam Herrera Calvo
Misael Alexander Fabré Silva. Banes. Holguín
Niober García Fournier. Guantánamo
Norges Rodríguez de YucaByte
Odalina Guerrero Lara
Odalys Legrá Castellanos. Guantánamo
Osmay Vázquez Aranda. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
Osmay Vázquez Díaz. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
Pablo Díaz Espí
Pedro Machado Mateo. Paquito Rosales. Holguín
Rafael Rojas, historiador
Roberto González Feria. San Luis. Santiago de Cuba
Roberto Perdomo Fuentes. Mella. Santiago de Cuba
Rogelio Fonseca Pérez. El Recreo. Granma
Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina. Guantánamo
Rosa María Payá
Santiago Martínez Mustelier. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
Siro del Castillo
Taylor E. Torres de YucaByte
Tomás Núñez Magdariaga. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
Walter Cañete Cruz. Banes. Holguín
Wilder Frómeta Romero. Guantánamo
William Tamayo Ramayo. Banes. Holguín
Yadita Rodríguez Ramírez. Camagüey
Yadria Montoya Burgos. Santiago de Cuba
Yaima Pardo La Red
Yaleidi García Avila. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
Yanet Díaz Santiago. Palma Soriano. Santiago de Cuba
Yaqueline Aguilera Isalgué. Guantánamo
Yaremis Buqueriget Socias. Guantánamo
Yaxys Cires Dib
Yeider Fuentes Arias. Guantánamo
Yeris Curbelo Aguilera. Guantánamo
Yisel Aguilar Aguilera. Guantánamo
Yobanis Hernández Enamorado. Jibacoa. Las Tunas
Yosvany Sepúlveda Martínez. Camagüey
Yusmel Acosta Aguilera. Guantánamo
Source: MEDIA FEED