2012 saw a dramatic increase in violations of religious freedoms in Cuba, says Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The Cuban government has reportedly cracked down on religious organisations and believers in the last year.
CSW documented 120 reported cases of religious freedom in 2012, up from a total of 30 in 2011.
The number does not include those arrested and detained during Pope Benedict XVI's visit last March - estimated at 200.
Church leaders across Cuba reported ongoing violations in the final weeks of December.
An unregistered Protestant church affiliated with the Apostolic
Movement in Camaguey was threatened with demolition on 29 December. The
following day, nine women affiliated with the Ladies in White movement
in Holguin were arrested in the early hours of the morning and held in
prison until Sunday morning Mass had ended.
The crackdown has affected mainly Roman Catholic churches, but other denominations have also been hit.
Government officials refused to register some groups, including the fast-growing Protestant network the “Apostolic Movement”.
Pentecostal pastor, Reutilio Columbie, was badly beaten in Moa early
in the year, and suffered permanent brain damage as a result. He
believes local Communist Party officials were behind the attack, which
has yet to be investigated.
CSW is calling on the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, to ensure that
significant improvements are made in upholding religious freedom in
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: “We are deeply concerned
by the rapid deterioration in religious freedom over the past year in
Cuba. Despite promises of privileges to some religious groups, Sunday
after Sunday the government continues to violate the most basic of
rights: the right to freely participate in religious services and form
part of a religious community without interference. Unregistered religious groups and registered groups that have
resisted government pressure have come under intense pressure, been
subjected to harassment and in the worst cases come under physical
attack or seen their buildings confiscated. The Cuban government’s claims of reform and respect for human rights
cannot be taken seriously unless these violations are addressed and
real protections for religious freedom for all put in place. We urge
Raul Castro to make this a priority of the government in 2013.”