The level of police violence against peaceful dissidents was the highest in recent years," the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said Tuesday in a report focusing on incidents last month.

"In August 2011 we documented at least 243 short-term arrests (some for more than a week) and nine acts of censure organized by the numerous and ubiquitous secret political police," the commission said in a document released to the foreign press in Havana.

The outlawed but tolerated rights panel said that in the first eight months of this year at least 2,221 arrests were made for political reasons, 1,091 more than in the same period in 2010.

It said that the victims of last month's repression were mainly women engaged in "non-violent activities," chiefly in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.

The commission added that "it has no doubt that the order for that brutal repression was decreed or approved by the highest ranks of the neo-Stalinist regime that has ruled Cuba for more than half a century."

The Catholic Church in Cuba said Monday that the government of President Raul Castro told prelates that actions targeting peaceful protesters were not authorized by national officials.

The Ladies in White, a movement working for the release of political prisoners, had asked the church last week for its intervention with the government to stop the harassment against them during their demonstrations.

The rights commission warned Tuesday that the figures in its report are "a statistical indicator showing the sustained deterioration of all civil and political rights in Cuba" more than five years after Raul Castro succeeded ailing older brother Fidel.

It also considers that this trend "is bound to continue in the short and medium term, due to the refusal of the regime to introduce the genuine modernizing reforms that Cuba needs, or to ratify and comply with the great U.N. human rights pacts."

According to the group's figures, some 67 Cubans are currently sentenced to prison for political reasons, of whom 17 are now out on parole.

Between July 2010 and April 2011, Cuban authorities gradually freed 126 political prisoners as part of a Spanish-backed dialogue with the island's Catholic hierarchy.