The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2020/21. This report documents the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2020, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty lnternational’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. During 2020, the world was rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic and measures taken to tackle it impacted everyone, but also threw into stark relief, and sometimes aggravated, existing inequalities and patterns of abuse.

Cuba Human Rights 2020

Amid reports of food scarcity, the authorities continued to repress all forms of dissent, including by imprisoning independent artists, journalists and members of the political opposition in 2020.

Right to food

Throughout 2020 there were reports of scarcity of food and other basic goods, leading senior government officials to call on Cubans to grow more of their own food. In September 2020, artist “Yulier P” graffitied a haunting image of someone eating their own bones on the streets of the capital, Havana.

Despite the UN’s recommendation that sanctions be waived to ensure access to food and essential medical supplies to adequately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USA continued to impose its economic embargo on the country.

Repression of dissent

Authorities continued to clamp down on all forms of dissent, imprisoning political leaders, independent journalists and artists.

In April 2020, the authorities released José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of the unofficial political opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and former prisoner of conscience, who had been imprisoned in October 2019 and tried on 26 February in a trial tainted by irregularities.1 The Cuban authorities had prevented the press, the EU and Amnesty International from monitoring his trial.

Freedom of expression

Reports of independent journalists fined for reporting on COVID-19 and its impact on the country prompted calls for President Miguel Díaz-Canel to take immediate measures to guarantee press freedom.2 Civil society and journalists also expressed concern during 2020 that Decree-Law 370, a law related to online expression, appeared to tighten the Cuban government’s network of control and censorship online, especially during the pandemic.

In March 2020, Cubanet journalist Camila Acosta was arrested for hours and given a fine for sharing information on Facebook. In September 2020, she was arrested again and threatened with further prosecution for protesting Decree 370. On 4 September 2020, the authorities released independent journalist with Cubanet, Roberto Quiñones Haces, aged 63. He had been tried in 2019 and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for “resistance” and “disobedience” because of his work as a journalist. Amnesty International, Article 19, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and the Committee to Protect Journalists called consistently for his release, especially in the context of his heightened risk from COVID-19 as a person with underlying medical conditions and over the age of 60. Roberto Quiñones had published articles about his prison conditions, including overcrowding, poor food and water quality, and lack of adequate medical care.3

Throughout 2020, authorities harassed and intimidated members of the San Isidro Movement – composed of artists, poets, LGBTI activists, academics and independent journalists. Its members were at the forefront of challenging Decree 349 that stands to censor artists. The authorities’ actions symbolized Cuba’s ongoing repression of the right to freedom of expression in the country.4

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, a key leader in the movement, was jailed for two weeks in March 2020, having reportedly been charged with “insults to symbols of the homeland” (Article 203 of the Penal Code), an offence inconsistent with international human rights law and standards, and “damage” to property (Article 339).5

In November 2020, the San Isidro Movement garnered international attention when members went on hunger strike to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís González, who had been sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for “contempt”, a crime also inconsistent with international human rights standards.

Following a police raid on the headquarters of the movement in Old Havana – which according to Cuba’s official newspaper was carried out due to alleged violations of COVID-19 related health protocols – authorities took Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara into custody again for several days, and detained academic Anamely Ramos González for approximately 12 hours.6

In response to the raid, on 27 November 2020, hundreds of artists and intellectuals staged a rare protest outside the Ministry of Culture and secured an equally unusual audience with the Vice Minister of Culture.

For approximately two weeks after the meeting, members of the movement, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Anamely Ramos González, and approximately 10 or more activists and independent journalists were subjected to constant surveillance and faced arrest by police and state security officials if they left their houses, essentially amounting to house arrest, in violation of international law.7

  1. Cuba: Opposition leader sentenced to house arrest after trial tainted by irregularities (Press release, 3 April)
  2. Cuba: Authorities must guarantee press freedom in the COVID-19 era (Press release, 2 May)
  3. Cuba: Prisoner of Conscience at risk of COVID-19: Roberto Quiñones Haces (AMR 25/2210/2020)
  4. Cuba: Harassment of San Isidro movement exemplifies ongoing assault on freedom of expression (Press release, 20 November)
  5. Cuba: Artist opposing censorship at risk: Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (AMR 25/2028/2020)
  6. Cuba: Amnesty International calls for release of two San Isidro prisoners of conscience (Press release, 27 November 2020)
  7. Cuba: San Isidro movement and allies under frightening levels of surveillance (Press release, 15 December 2020)


Cuba Newsroom

March 25, 2022 • Press Release

Amnesty International calls for access to the country to monitor trials of 11J protesters in Cuba

In recent months, Cubans of all ages and walks of life have been charged, put on trial, or sentenced for participating in last July’s nationwide protests, in largely unfair and opaque proceedings mostly held behind closed doors, said Amnesty International today, as it calls on the authorities to allow it and other human rights observers access to the country to monitor the ongoing trials.

December 17, 2021 • Press Release

Amnesty International Launches a Holidays Solidarity Action in Support of Prisoners of Conscience in Cuba

Today Amnesty International launches “Write a letter of hope”, a global solidarity action inviting the public, during the 2021 holidays, to write individually to five brave human rights defenders detained in Cuba to express support and solidarity with them and all those incarcerated only for exercising their rights.

April 15, 2018 • Report

Cuba: Change of leadership must herald a new era for human rights

The end of Raúl Castro’s mandate as president of Cuba, expected to come on April 19, presents a historic opportunity to overhaul the state of human rights in Cuba, Amnesty International said today, as it published a roadmap for how the new administration can improve the nation’s human rights record: Transform confrontation into dialogue.

November 16, 2017 • Report

Cuba: Job sector, a tool of repression as perceived critics face jobless life

Ordinary Cubans perceived to be even subtly critical of life in the country face a future of harassment at work, or unemployment as authorities use their control over the job market as an additional tool of repression, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

June 16, 2014 • Report

President and Congress should apply human rights principles and close Guantánamo

The US prison camp at Guantánamo is back on the political agenda. And the politicking again threatens to derail the already long overdue goal of closing it. This is what happens when a government operates a detention regime that flouts human rights and the rule of law and then fails to apply human rights principles in ending it.

May 17, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Cuba 2013

REPUBLIC OF CUBA Head of state and government Raúl Castro Ruz Repression of independent journalists, opposition leaders and human rights activists increased. There were reports of an average of 400 …

March 28, 2013 • Report

USA: Letter to US Secretary of Defense in relation to hunger-strikes at Guantánamo

Amnesty International expresses deep concern at the situation faced by the detainees held in Department of Defense custody at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

September 11, 2012 • Report

Another detainee dies at Guantánamo: Yemeni man, in his 11th year of detention without charge or trial, found dead in cell

A tragic reminder of the numbing cruelty of the USA’s indefinite detention regime at its Guantánamo Bay detention facility, and the urgent need to resolve the detentions, comes with the news that another detainee has died at the naval base.