[JURIST] The number of political prisoners in Cuba [JURIST news archive] has declined from 234 in January 2008 to 205, while the number of brief detentions has increased, according to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish] Monday. The CCDHRN report attributed the decline in the number of political prisoners [AP report] to the lack of extended prison terms for those arrested, which was the custom until 2003. Despite the decrease in political prisoners, the country has experienced a significant rise in the number activists that are briefly detained by the government. In 2008, more than 1,500 activists were arbitrarily detained for a short period of time. The CCDHRN, led by Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, is the only independent source of information regarding political arrests in Cuba. The group is considered illegal by the Cuban government, but its existence and operation is tolerated by the regime. The Cuban government officially denies the existence of political prisoners.
Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released its 2009 report [report, text] on Cuba. The report acknowledged some attempts in 2008 by the country to improve its position on human rights, but overall the Cuban government continues to deny its citizens their fundamental rights. In October, Cuba was ranked 169th in the seventh annual Worldwide Index of Freedom [JURIST report] issued by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. In December 2007, Cuba agreed to sign an international human rights pact [JURIST report] and to allow UN human rights of observers into the country beginning this year. The government signed the treaties [JURIST report] in February of 2008. Last year, the CCDHRN reported that the number of political prisoners in Cuba had decreased [JURIST report] from 283 at the end of 2006 to to 234 at the end of 2007, but human rights abuses continued in the communist Caribbean state.