Posted on 05-05-2010
Cuba's 'Ladies in White' at risk of beatings and intimidation
Source: Amnesty International
Editor's note: Recently, the 'Ladies in White' have been stopped from
holding their Sunday protests for three weeks now. The women, who have
held protests for seven years now, were corralled and harassed by a
pro-Castro group last Monday.
Amnesty International urged Cuban President Raúl Castro to ensure the
safety of a group of female relatives of prisoners of conscience ahead
of a scheduled demonstration (on March 18).
After the incident, some of the women said they had been beaten by the
police. They include Reyna Tamayo, mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who
died on February 22, 2010, having spent several weeks on hunger strike
to demand the release of prisoners of conscience.
"The Cuban authorities must stop repressing legitimate dissent and
harassing those who are only asking for justice and exercising their
freedom of expression," said Kerrie Howard, Americas Deputy Director at
Amnesty International. "Instead, they should review their repressive
legislation and release all those who have been detained for years
sentenced in summary trials on charges that are often baseless."
The Damas de Blanco, an unofficial group of women relatives and friends
of individuals imprisoned around a major crackdown around March 18,
2003, have organized daily demonstrations in Havana during the week of
the seventh anniversary of the arrests. Fifty-three of those arrested in
March 2003 continue to be detained.
Since the start of their campaign, members of the Damas de Blanco have
been victims of threats and intimidation by Cuban security officials.
On March 15, State security officials visited Soledad Riva's home and
advised her against taking part in the events organized by the Damas de
Blanco. The officials warned her that if she took part in a
demonstration she could risk being beaten and would not see her children
again. Her children live abroad and Soledad has been seeking an exit
visa to visit them, which so far has not been granted by Cuban authorities.
On March 16, several members of the Damas de Blanco were intimidated by
government supporters during a march they had organized to call for the
release of their relatives in prison.
Government supporters shouted insults at them and physically assaulted
William Cepero Garcia a man supporting the protest. Hugo Damian Prieto
and Juan Carlos Vasallo, two men who were supporting the demonstration,