The London-based rights group criticized the Cuban government for
putting its opponents behind bars for years for "the peaceful exercise
of their rights".
"Cuba desperately needs political and legal reform to bring the country
in line with basic international human rights standards," said Kerrie
Howard, the organisation's deputy director for the Americas, in a statement.
"Cuban laws impose unacceptable limits on the rights to freedom of
expression, association and assembly," she said.
Amnesty International issued its statement to mark the 7th anniversary
of the so-called "Black Spring", a March 18, 2003 crackdown in which 75
Cuban dissidents were jailed.
Cuba's "Ladies in White", wives and mothers of the prisoners, were
shouted down and harassed by government supporters yesterday as they
marched through Havana in a protest ahead of tomorrow's anniversary.
The Cuban government has been criticised internationally following the
February 23 death of prisoner Orlando Zapata after an 85-day hunger
strike protest over prison conditions.
It is also under fire for its handling of a second hunger striker,
dissident Guillermo Farinas, who stopped eating and drinking three weeks
ago and is in a hospital after collapsing last week.
Farinas wants Havana to release 26 ailing political prisoners, but the
government has said it will not be "blackmailed" by him.
"The long imprisonment of individuals solely for the peaceful exercise
of their rights is not only a tragedy in itself but also constitutes a
stumbling block to other reforms," said Howard.
She said it was an obstacle to dialogue needed with the United States to
be able to obtain the lifting of the longstanding US trade embargo
Amnesty International urged Cuban President Raul Castro to allow
monitoring of the country's human rights situation by the United Nations
and other rights groups.
Cuba has vowed to resist international pressure over human rights. — Reuters