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Cuba. Amnesty International calls for release of artist and prisoner of conscience

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Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcntara is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely because of his conscious beliefs, and should be released immediately, Amnesty International said today. A key leader of the movement against Decree 349, a dystopian law who censors artists, he is detained and awaits a trial which was originally scheduled to take place on March 11, but has since been delayed.

It is absolutely shameful that the Cuban administration continues to stifle any voice that does not correspond to the official position. Luis Manuel Otero is a prisoner of conscience and we urge the Cuban government to release him immediately and unconditionally, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Director of the Americas at Amnesty International.

According to information obtained by Amnesty International, Luis Manuel Otero Alcntara appears to be accused of insulting symbols of the fatherland (article 203 of the Criminal Code), an offense which does not comply with international law and standards relating to human rights and property damage (Article 339).

According to the NGO Cubalex, in the past 30 months, authorities have arbitrarily detained Luis Manuel more than 20 times. Prior to his detention, he announced on Facebook that he planned to participate in a protest convened by LGBTI activists after the alleged censorship of a film about two men kissing.

It is absolutely shameful that the Cuban administration continues to stifle any voice that does not correspond to the official position. Luis Manuel Otero is a prisoner of conscience and we urge the Cuban government to release him immediately and unconditionally

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Director of the Americas at Amnesty International

In an interview with Amnesty International in 2019, Luis Manuel said: I am like the tip of the iceberg. We are talking about an infinite number of artists in Cuba. (The authorities) come after me, because as I am supposedly the most visible of the young, artist activists, they send the message Well, if we close this one, look at what we can do you a lot.

Cuba is the only country in the Americas to ban Amnesty International visits.

The organization calls on all LGBTI artists, journalists and activists to call on the Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Luis Manuel Otero Alcntara.

Background information

Under Decree 349, all artists, including collectives, musicians, and performers, are prohibited from operating in public or private spaces without the prior approval of the Ministry of Culture. People or companies who hire artists without permission can be penalized, and artists who work without prior permission can have their equipment confiscated or face a substantial fine. Under the new decree, the authorities also have the power to immediately suspend a performance and to propose the cancellation of the authorization granted to exercise the artistic activity. These decisions can only be appealed to the same Ministry of Culture (Article 10); the decree does not provide for an effective remedy to appeal such a decision before an independent body, including through the courts.

The decree contains vague and overly broad restrictions on artistic expression. For example, it prohibits audiovisual documents which contain, inter alia: the use of patriotic symbols which contravene current legislation (article 3 bis), sexist, vulgar or obscene language (article 3d), and any other (content) which violates the legal provisions which regulate the normal development of our society in cultural matters (article 3g). In addition, it is prohibited to market books whose content harms ethical and cultural values ​​(Article 4f).

International human rights law and standards require that any restriction on the right to freedom of expression, including through art, be provided for by law and formulated with Sufficiently precise to avoid overly broad or arbitrary interpretation or application, and in a manner accessible to all. the public and which clearly indicates which conduct is or is not prohibited.

As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Cuba is under the obligation to refrain from any act that goes against the object and purpose of the treaty. Article 19 of the ICCPR specifically protects the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, including in the form of ;art.

Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that Decree 349 is likely to have a general deterrent effect on artists in Cuba, preventing them from performing their legitimate work for fear of reprisals.

Article 203 of the Criminal Code, one of the provisions under which Luis Manuel appears to be charged, is incompatible with international standards because it has the effect of limiting freedom of expression. Amnesty International opposes laws prohibiting non-compliance with heads of state or public figures, military or public institutions, or flags or symbols (such as lse majest and desacato laws).

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker: [email protected]

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