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Cuba’s new penal code gives authorities greater power to stifle the freedom of expression and assembly

The 141-page new penal code has replaced the 1987 version and threatens human rights

Cuba’s new criminal penal code became effective on December 1, and it’s ready to impose even more limitations on freedom of expression and assembly. This threatens people who are critical of the country’s authorities.

The Cuban authorities have continuously used the old penal code to silence opposition. The country’s new 141-page penal code is no different — it contains many alarming provisions that give those in power a greater upper hand to further stifle freedom of expression and assembly.

a street with a Cuban flag

Cuba’s new penal code and what it entails

Here are a few critical, alarming key points noted in the new criminal code:

1. Provisions used to silence disorder remain intact

The penal code’s provisions used to silence disorder, resistance, and contempt against the State and the constitution remain with minimum penalties of six months to a year imprisonment or fine. Previously, the penalties included three months to a year of imprisonment or a fine. This can lead to human rights activists being put in prison for a longer time.

2. Penalties for anyone who threatens the constitutional order

According to Article 120.1 of the new criminal code, any individual who threatens the constitutional order of the State can be imprisoned for from four to ten years.

The term “threatens or endangers constitutional order” is vaguely worded and incompatible with international laws on freedom of expression.

3. It criminalizes funding activities against the state and constitution

 Article 143 severely limits the working of organizations, journalists, and activists in the country by banning the receipt of funding for activities against the State and its constitution. Those found guilty will face four to ten years in prison.

4. Restricts the freedom of expression online

Cuba's new penal code now allows those in power to limit the public’s online freedom of expression. Furthermore, anyone who shares fake information knowingly online or offline can face anywhere from six months to two years in prison. Likewise, offending another person through acts, writing, gestures, or drawing comes with six months to a year in prison penalty.

5. Retains the death penalty for severe crimes

The Cuban government retains the death penalty for twenty-three different types of severe crimes.

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