The Committee of Concerned Scientists expresses its shock and sadness at the death of Wilmar Villar Mendoza, a 31-year old member of the human rights group UMPACU (Union Patriotica de Cuba). Villar was beaten and arrested following a peaceful protest in Contramaestre on November 14, 2011, and sentenced to four years in prison. He began a hunger strike in the Prison of Aguadores on November 25, 2011, to protest the false accusations that led to incarceration, and died on January 18, 2012, after multiple organ failure and generalized sepsis.
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We are an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. The information we have received regarding Villar is consistent with other mistreatments of prisoners we understand to have been allowed by the Cuban government. We wrote to President Raoul Castro on April 3, 2008, on behalf of five medical doctors sentenced to long prison terms for peacefully expressing their political views. They were held in cruel and inhumane conditions in spite of serious health problems. We understand that similar degrading and cruel conditions led to the 2010 death on hunger strike of another political prisoner, Orlando Tamayo Zapata.
We reiterate our concern about Cuba’s continuing actions in violation of the fundamental human rights of its citizens to the peaceful exercise of self-expression and to their freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by Cuba on February 28, 2008.