NEW YORK — This Monday, Human Rights Foundation (HRF) submitted an individual complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), requesting that they initiate proceedings to investigate the arbitrary arrest and ongoing detention of Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as El Sexto. The prominent Cuban artist and activist was beaten and taken from his home in Havana on November 26, the day after Fidel Castro’s passing.
“El Sexto is clearly being punished once again for his prominence as a dissident artist and for the creative ways he exposes the Cuban dictatorship to the outside world,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “His arrest is the result of a countrywide repressive operation put in place by the regime’s political police to silence dissident voices following Castro’s death,” Halvorssen added.
The Cuban government accuses Maldonado of “damaging property,” an infraction under Cuban law that, HRF’s sources say, is punishable with a fine, not incarceration. The night before his arrest, Maldonado spray painted “Se fue” (in English, “He’s gone,” referencing Castro’s passing) on a wall at the iconic Hotel Habana Libre. Maldonado also uploaded a video to Facebook mockingly commenting on Fidel Castro’s death.
The government’s official reason for Maldonado’s detention remained unknown until December 9 — 14 days after his warrantless arrest and detention — when a Cuban “revolutionary” court issued a decision that denied a writ of habeas corpus filed by the artist’s mother on Monday, December 5.
The state security agents who dragged Maldonado out of his home to a prison cell did not carry an arrest warrant. He remains in detention and, 19 days after he was first apprehended, no formal charges have been filed against him. During this period, Maldonado was held in solitary confinement from December 9 to December 12, where he was kept naked and without food.
Yesterday afternoon, as his girlfriend, Alexandra Martínez, and his mother, María Victoria Machado, were waiting outside the Vallegrande prison in the hope of being allowed to visit him, Maldonado was taken in a white van and was able to yell, “They are taking me to El Combinado [del Este],” referring to Havana’s most notorious maximum security prison.
The wave of detentions during Castro’s mandatory mourning period included pro-democracy activist Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator for the Christian Liberation Movement. He was beaten, jailed, and faces up to 15 years in prison for saying Fidel Castro was “hated” by the Cuban people, during a telephone interview with a Spanish radio.
“There are few people in the streets, and lots of police presence. Lots of controls and restrictions. Castro was a man hated and rejected by the Cuban people,” said Cardet while talking to the radio in Spain. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation recorded over 20 arrests during the 9-day mourning period for Fidel Castro, but it is estimated that many more took place in Havana and other parts of the island.
“Cuba’s Department of State Security, which is responsible for most of these arrests, is not an independent authority, but a branch of the dictatorship’s intelligence services often responsible for the summary and violent arrests and, sometimes, the extrajudicialkilling of members of civil society who try to nonviolently and publicly oppose or antagonize the regime in any form,” said Centa B. Rek, international legal associate at HRF. “El Sexto’s arrest is illegal, arbitrary, and falls short of international standards of due process. He should be released immediately,” added Rek.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.