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Oscar Elías Biscet González
Born July 20, 1961
Havana, Cuba
Occupation Medical professional

Oscar Elías Biscet González (born: July 20, 1961 in Havana, Cuba), is a Cuban medical professional and a noted advocate for human rights and democratic freedoms in Cuba. He is also the founder of the Lawton Foundation.

Dr. Biscet is serving a 25-year prison sentence in Cuba for allegedly committing crimes against the sovereignty and the integrity of the Cuban territory.[1] Despite appeals from the United Nations, foreign governments, and international human rights organizations, Cuba has refused to release Dr. Biscet. In recognition of his advocacy efforts for human rights and democracy in Cuba, Dr. Biscet was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 by U.S. President George W. Bush.[2]

Contents

Beginnings

Biscet received a degree in medicine in 1985; the following year he initiated protests which led to his immediate suspension. Starting in 1988, Biscet revealed his political tension with the communist regime through speech. The Cuban government in 1994 officially opened a case file on Biscet, labeling him a counter-revolutionary and "dangerous". In 1997, Biscet founded the Lawton Foundation.

Political and philosophical background

Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr are major influences in Biscet's writing and motivation.[3] Others from whom Biscet has taken inspiration are Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, José Martí, and Frederick Douglass. He is a strong believer in a democratic government[4] and advocates pro-life politics.

Expulsion from the National Health Service

Dr. Biscet was expelled from the Cuban National Health System in February 1998 because of his activism. Biscet's wife, Elsa Morejón was also expelled from nursing (her profession) because of her husband's activities.

1999 arrest

In August 1999, Biscet, along with two dozen other dissidents, were detained by Cuban police for organizing meetings in Havana and Matanzas. He was released five days earlier on August 17, 1999.[5] He claimed that while in custody, the police tortured him by beating, kicking, stripping, and burning him. The government then threatened to detain him longer if he continued promoting his counterrevolutionary activities in Cuba. Later in 1999, he was sent back in prison for a three-year sentence for dishonoring a national symbol, public disorder, and instigating to commit crime, after having protested Cuba's lack of freedom by showing the Cuban flag upside down.[6] He was released from a high-security prison in the Holguín province after having served his entire three-year sentence behind bars.[7]

2002 arrest

One month after recovering his liberty,[6] on December 6, 2002, Biscet was arrested in a private house with 11 other dissidents while discussing a petition drive and human rights.[8] Dr. Biscet's wife later said the activists "were beaten and violently arrested". During their removal from the house they shouted "Long live human rights" and "Freedom for political prisoners".

Biscet was one of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003 by the Cuban authorities for his association with the head of the US Interests Section in Havana, James Cason. He was given a 25-year sentence for "disorderly conduct" and "counter-revolutionary activities", he is currently being held at Combinado del Este Prison in Havana, where he is generally not allowed outside visitors, including medical practitioners and clergy, under conditions described as "wretched".[9] He had previously been imprisoned in the "Cinco Y Medio" prison in Pinar del Río. A replica of his cell while there was displayed at the residence of the head of the U.S. national interests section, James Cason. (Photo at right.) [1]

In 2003, in response to a petition concerning Dr. Biscet and other Cuban prisoners of conscience, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that Dr. Biscet is being held in violation of Articles 9, 10, 19, 20, and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called for his immediate release.

On September 1, 2005, in response to an Urgent Action Appeal filed by Freedom Now on behalf of Dr. Biscet, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Association issued a joint urgent appeal to the Government of the Republic of Cuba calling again for Dr. Biscet's immediate release.

Campaign to release

Freedom Now, a non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C., was retained in 2005 to assist in obtaining Dr. Biscet's release from prison. On September 1, 2005, in response to an Urgent Action Appeal filed by Freedom Now on Dr. Biscet's behalf, the United Nations called on the Government of the Republic of Cuba to immediately release Dr. Biscet. Despite these appeals, Dr. Biscet remains imprisoned. Freedom Now has engaged in extensive outreach efforts to raise international awareness of his case and continues to advocate for his immediate release.

Nat Hentoff has been one of the chief advocates for Dr. Biscet in the United States, penning numerous pleas in his syndicated and Village Voice column calling for his release, and highlighting his plight within the Cuban criminal justice system.

U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart visited Ukraine in December 2005, and there met with President Viktor Yushchenko. Diaz-Balart told Yushchenko, "This Cuban physician was not able to give me his message personally because he is a political prisoner who at this moment suffers in solitary confinement in a cold, damp underground dungeon simply for believing in democracy and human rights. I received his message from his wife, Ms. Elsa Morejón. Dr. Biscet sends you and all of your colleagues of the Orange Revolution, for freedom and democracy in Ukraine, a message of friendship and solidarity. He also expresses his deep gratitude, on behalf of all the political prisoners in Cuba, for your vote and your support at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva for human rights in Cuba."

When Diaz-Balart gave this message to Yushchenko, a Cuban American human rights group, "Mothers and Women Against Repression", gave the president of Ukraine a photograph of Biscet and three other political prisoners. Yuschenko thanked them and replied, "I will never forget this message, this gesture of friendship. I will never forget the Cuban political prisoners."

A webpage exists since 1999 that is dedicated to securing the release of Dr. Biscet from jail and promulgating his ideas. It includes news and columns about Dr. Biscet as well as writings from Dr. Biscet smuggled out from him in prison.

See also

References

  1. ^ "WHITE BOOK 2006 – FIRST PART – CHAPTER 5". Havana, Cuba: CUBAMinRex – Web site of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2006. http://www.cubaminrex.cu/CDH/62cdh/Ingles/White_Book_2006/PartI/Chapter_V.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-23. "...Oscar Elias Biscet, Héctor Palacios Ruiz and José Luis García Paneque ... tried and convicted under Law 88 of 1999, for their mercenary activities at the service of the US policy of hostility and aggressions against Cuba."  
  2. ^ White House Press Release Announcing 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners
  3. ^ Nordlinger, Jay (06/11/2001). Who cares about Cuba?, "National Review", v.53 #11. p.33. Accessed on August 15, 2007.
  4. ^ CUBA: NEWLY FORMED DISSIDENT COALITION COMPETES WITH VARELA PROJECT SUPPORTERS FOR CONTROL OF INTERNAL OPPOSITION, "NotiCen: Central American & Caribbean Affairs", Latin America DataBase, University of New Mexico (11/14/2002). Accessed on August 15, 2007.
  5. ^ "SPECIAL PRESENTATION BY DR. FIDEL CASTRO RUZ, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, AT THE TELEVISED ROUNDTABLE ON RECENT EVENTS IN THE COUNTRY AND THE INCREASE OF AGGRESSIVE ACTIONS BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AGAINST THE CUBAN PEOPLE.". Havana, Cuba: Portal Cuba.cu. 2003-04-25. http://www.cuba.cu/gobierno/discursos/2003/ing/f250403i.html. Retrieved 2009-02-23.  
  6. ^ a b "Cuba: Release: Dr Oscar Elías Biscet González.". Document. 1 Easton Street, WC1X 0DW, London, United Kingdom: Amnesty International, International Secretariat. 2002-11-14. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/010/2002/en/dom-AMR250102002en.html. Retrieved 2009-02-23.  
  7. ^ THE WORLD; IN BRIEF/ CUBA; POLITICAL PRISONER FREED AFTER SERVING 3 YEARS, "Los Angeles Times". page A.4. (November 1, 2002). Accessed on August 15, 2007.
  8. ^ THE WORLD; IN BRIEF/ CUBA; PROMINENT DISSIDENT REARRESTED, WIFE SAYS, "Los Angeles Times", page: A4. (12-08-2002) Accessed on August 15, 2007.
  9. ^ The Myth of Cuban Health Care, "National Review", (07-30-2007) Accessed August 15, 2007.

External links

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