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Cuba 'systematically' abused demonstrators, says human rights group

Various arms of Cuba's government have "systematically" jailed and abused demonstrators who took part in July protests against the government, according to Human Rights Watch.

"The Cuban government has systematically engaged in arbitrary detention, ill-treatment of detainees, and abuse-ridden criminal prosecutions in response to overwhelmingly peaceful anti-government protests in July 2021," the group said.

"Officers routinely subjected many of them to brutal abuses, including gender-based violence, in detention, and prosecuted dozens in trials that violated basic due process guarantees," it said.

Thousands of Cubans turned out for protests against the communist regime due to food shortages, a festering economic crisis and its response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Human Rights Watch found the abuses were committed by the intelligence services, the military, the national police and the national brigade of the Interior Ministry.

The group interviewed 150 people and was able to document at least 130 cases of abuse or denial of due process rights.

"Some were forced to squat naked, apparently deliberately deprived of sleep, brutally beaten, and held in cells without natural light where they say they lost track of time. Others were threatened with reprisals against them or their families for protesting," the report reads.

Cuba was condemned internationally for its crackdown on the protests this summer. 

The government recently denied another request for a civil liberties protest, saying it aimed to overthrow the government.

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