OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SEVERAL COUNTRIES
Under its mandate to promote the observance and defense of
human rights, the IACHR has been reviewing the status of human rights
in the countries of the hemisphere and has drawn up special reports on
some of them. These
reports have been prepared on the Commission's own initiative, or upon
instructions from an organ of the Organization of American States,
and, in some cases, at the spontaneous request of the country
The Commission feels that these reports, their subsequent dissemination and discussion thereof, have helped to change the behavior of particular countries as regards the observance of human rights, and in some cases, the reports have placed on record that the behavior of a country is in accordance with the international commitments it has undertaken in the field of human rights.
The Commission's Annual Report submitted to the twenty-third
regular session of the General Assembly included a chapter with
sections on the status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, and Peru, from February 1 through December 31, 1993.
In this Chapter, the Commission considers the status of human
rights in Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru.
In order to make the information available to it as full and
complete as possible, the Commission, on October 1993, requested that
the above mentioned countries provide it with any information they
deemed appropriate, but particularly information on how they had
complied with the Commission's previous recommendations; on the
progress they had made and any difficulties they had encountered in
effective observance of human rights; and on the text of any statute
enacted or case law that might have affected the observance of human
Where warranted, the Governments' responses and any other
information from various sources to which the Commission has had
access have been taken into consideration in drafting this chapter.
The Commission reiterates that the inclusion of these sections
is not designed to give an overall and complete description of the
status of human rights in each of the five countries mentioned.
The Commission's intent here is rather to give an update
covering the period of one year since the last general reports.
In 1993, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
continued its close monitoring of the human rights situation in Cuba. This report serves as an update on information that has been
studied by the Commission and presented in various
Reports and in the seven special reports.
The information available to the Inter-American Commission
during the period covered by this Annual Report leads it to conclude
that the human rights situation in Cuba has changed little in
comparison to years past. Civil
and political rights are not effectively exercised primarily because
of the concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people
and the absence of the rule of law.
In effect, individuals have no recourse against arbitrary
measures that may be taken by the state.
As a result, the decline in living standards and the repressive
state control of groups not aligned with the regime have led to
repeated and ongoing human rights violations exerted through security
these factors, along with the serious economic and social crisis
attendant, one could only expect the prevailing situation to worsen.
The Cuban Government's vigorous repression of any sort of
independent organization as well as the grave economic difficulties
facing the Cuban people at large, have contributed to a marked decline
of Cuban society in general and of the human rights situation in
PERSONAL FREEDOM, THE RIGHT TO JUSTICE, AND DUE PROCESS
During the period covered by this Annual Report, the Cuban
Government has continued to demonstrate its inflexibility and control
over the population by the imposition of harsh sentences placed on
people it considers "dangerous" under the current Penal
Code. Such people
include those opposed to the regime, who are accused of attempting to
destroy the political system, spreading propaganda against the state
and favoring foreign interests, etc.
The crimes against state security as defined in the Cuban Penal
Code and under which most human rights activists are prosecuted and
convicted include: "enemy
propaganda," "rebellion," "contempt",
"illegal association," "public disturbance," etc.
Under the allegation of these offenses, many are held for
prolonged periods awaiting trial and sentencing.
Information received by the Inter-American Commission indicates
that the total number of persons imprisoned in Cuba for political
reasons through August 1993 is 602.
A breakdown of the same follows:
2. Contempt 52
Illegal association 15
Labor strike 2
5. Defamation of heroes and martyrs
Acts against state security
7. Disclosure of secrets
9. Attempt to obtain asylum 2
11. Espionage 14
12. Rebellion 16
13. Sedition 3
14. Infiltration 1
15. Physical assault
16. Terrorism 15
17. Sabotage 83
The Cuban Penal Code, published in the Official Gazette of Cuba
on December 30, 1987, contains a number of articles the Cuban
authorities cite to justify the detention of opponents of the regime.
The Cuban Penal Code, published in the Official Gazette of Cuba
on December 30, 1987, contains a number of articles the Cuban
authorities cite to justify the detention of opponents of the regime.
Articles 72 and 75 establish the concept of
"dangerous state," a legal definition under which any
citizen can be jailed on the mere presumption that he might later commit
Article 72. A
dangerous state is defined as the special predisposition of a person to
commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly inconsistent
with the norms of socialist ethics.
Article 75. A
person who, though not in one of the dangerous states specified in
Article 73, by virtue of links or dealings with persons potentially
dangerous to society, to others, and to the social, economic, and
political order of the socialist state may be predisposed to crime shall
be warned by the competent police authority as to prevent him or her
from engaging in activities that are dangerous to society or criminal in
For its part, Article 103 of the same Penal Code has been the
legal provision most often used for detention and persecution of
opponents of the regime. This
article sets out the penalties for what has been designated "enemy
penalty of one to eight years of imprisonment shall be incurred by
actions against the social order, international solidarity, or the
socialist state by way of propaganda, whether spoken, written, or in any
distributes, or possesses propaganda of the type mentioned in the
who spreads false news or ill-intentioned predictions intended to cause
alarm or discontent among the population or public disorder incurs
imprisonment for between 7 and 15 years.
3. If the
mass media is used to carry out the acts described in the foregoing
sections, the penalty is imprisonment for between 7 and 15 years.
who permits use of the mass media as specified in the foregoing section
incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between one and four years.
It has been reported that political dissidents may also be
charged under Article 115.
Anyone who spreads false news in order to disturb international
peace, or to jeopardize the prestige of, or discredit, the Cuban state
or its good relations with another state, incurs a penalty of
imprisonment for between one and four years.
who threatens, slanders, defames, insults, wrongs, or in any other way
abuses or offends, whether orally or in writing, the dignity or
propriety of an authority or public official, or of his agents or
assistants, in the performance of his duties or at the time of such
performance or by reason of it incurs a penalty imprisonment for between
three months and one year or a fine of 100 to 300 units or both.
2. If the act
specified in the foregoing section is carried out in connection with the
President of the Council of State, the President of the National
Assembly of People's Power, the members of the Council of State or of
the Council of Ministers, or the deputies of the National Assembly of
People's Power, the penalty is imprisonment between one and three years.
According to data received by the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, during the month of August 1993, 342 prisoners were held
in Cuban jails charged with the offence of "enemy propaganda",
their sentences ranging from approximately one to fifteen years.
Similarly, during the same month, 52 prisoners were held for the
offence of "contempt". Their
sentences ranged between one and three years.
To date, fifty percent of the prison population is held without
A large percentage of Cuban detainees are prosecuted and given
lengthy prison sentences. Reports
indicate that during the first phase of the trial the detainee is kept
at security police facilities for several months, sometimes in a
windowless cell. The detainee is removed only for repeated interrogation
at any hour of the day or night with limited opportunity for visits from
family members or his attorney.
The case of Roberto Robajo Hernández is among the most
significant cases that arose during the period covered by this Annual
Report. Hernández, labor leader, member of the General Union of
Cuban Workers (UGTC) and Secretary General of the Committee of Havana
Province was reportedly arrested on March 11, 1993.
To date, no information as to his whereabouts or reasons for his
arrest has been released. Roberto
Robajo Hernández and other leaders were harassed the day before by
state security for their activities in support of independent labor
The Inter-American Commission has also been informed that in
March 1993 the provincial Court of Santiago, Cuba, sentenced the
following people to 13 years in prison for the crimes of rebellion and
other acts against state security:
Juan José Moreno Reyes, Luis Reyes Reynosa, Benigno Raúl Benoit
Pupo, Eduardo Guzmán Fornaris, Enrique Chamberlays Soler, Lorenzo Cutiño
Bárzaga, Adolfo Durán Figueredo, Wilfredo Galano Matos, Rafael Rivera
Matos, Maritza Santos Rosell, Ramón Mariano Peña Escalona, and Ramón
Fernández Francisco. The
Inter-American Commission has been informed that the charges in this
case were connected with the holding of meetings and with the
preparation and distribution of flyers critical of the government in a
number of municipalities of Holguín Province.
Seven other people received sentences of between one and two
years in connection with those activities.
Twenty people were reportedly arrested and imprisoned for
distributing statements against the government of Cuba and its supreme
leader, Fidel Castro. The
protesters were tried in the town of Moa in Holguín Province at the far
eastern end of the country on March 16, 17, and 18, 1993 and received
sentences ranging from seven months to 13 years.
Juan José Moreno Reyes and Luis Reyes Reinoso were sentenced to
13 years in jail; Benigno Gueroy, Eduardo Fornaris Peña, and Lorenzo
Calzada to 11 years; and Adolfo Durán Figueredo and Rafael Rivero Matos
to 10 years.
It has also been reported that Alfredo García Quesada, an
electrician and a student at the University of Camaguey, was arrested in
April 23, 1993, in Guayabal, Las Tunas, for distributing flyers which
read "down with Fidel" and for painting those words on a white
horse. He is now serving 5
years at the Típico prison in Las Tunas.
According to reports received, Andrés Mora Calderón was
arrested on September 3, 1993, on a charge of "dangerousness."
When his wife, Xiomara Fernández Sánchez, went to the police
station and learned of the charge, she called those who had ordered his
arrest "abusers". For
this, she too was arrested,
on a charge of "contempt for authority."
The Inter-American Commission was informed that the numerous
persons are held awaiting trial. Among
these are: Luis Gustavo Domínguez
Guetiérrez of the group "Peace, Progress, and Freedom," who
is currently detained and charged with "enemy propaganda" for
sending a letter to leader Fidel Castro in which he refused the medals
awarded to him for participation in the War of Angola; Pedro Armentero
Lazo, jailed in the Combinado del Este penal facility; and Orfilio García
Quesada, arrested in El Guayabal in May 1993 for helping to collect
signatures for a petition requesting political changes.
The Inter-American Commission was also informed that writer and
journalist Roberto Alvarez San Martín, age 46, was arrested in
September 1993 on a charge of "enemy propaganda."
Alvarez San Martín had worked for over 30 years at the Cuban
Radio and Television Institute (ICRT), where he directed radio and
television programs which won over 50 international prizes.
Alvarez was barred from practicing his profession in February
1992 when he announced he would be married in the Catholic Church.
Shortly before his arrest, he wrote to his colleagues at the
Union of Cuban Journalists (UNEAC)
denouncing "the most obvious privileges enjoyed by those who belong
to the power elite and the corruption of countless state
It has also been reported that the "security law" was
used to arrest citizen Víctor Betancourt Cartaya and nine residents of
the town of Bauta in Havana Province whose names could not be
ascertained. According to
reports, the detainees are held incommunicado in cells at the state
security detention center under charges of participating in "public
actions against the government."
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports on the
following conclusions reached by the Public Prosecutor's Office in the
case brought against Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, leader of the Cuban
Committee for Human Rights, in October 1992 for the crime of "enemy
propaganda,". The quotation below shows the types of behavior punishable
under this charge:
That Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, in defiance of law, has sent
information to broadcast stations outside the country in order to assist
with to the campaign to discredit Cuba.
That, in violation of the disciplinary rules of the Combinado del
Este Prison, he sent handwritten notes to counterrevolutionary prisoners
to help incite animosity toward the Cuban social system.
That, during an inspection conducted at the Combinado del Este
Prison on December 11, 1991, fragments of paper with ink handwriting
were taken from the inmate, and in one of them the accused, Sebastián
Arcos Bergnes, said "we continually propose democratic changes to
the regime and work towards fostering the national consciousness
necessary for achieving such changes through peaceful but firm civil
resistance on the part of the population.
At present this is our main educational task...then to demand
lunch, transportation, tourism; then amnesty, freedom of speech and of
association, and finally democracy."
That is, to encourage, through systematic propaganda, activities
contrary to our social system.
The exercise of the right to justice in Cuba is further inhibited
by the judiciary's lack of
independence. Under Article
121 of the Constitution, the judiciary is subordinated to the executive
and the legislature, indicated thus:
The courts constitute a system of state organs which are set up
with functional independence from any other and they are only
subordinated to the National Assembly of People's Power and to the
Council of State.
The lack of independence and impartiality in the administration
of justice in Cuba goes beyond that constitutional provision.
The Office of the Attorney General of the Republic --Article 128
of the Constitution-- is subordinated to the National Assembly People's
Power and to the Council of State.
The Attorney General is elected by the National Assembly People's
Power --Article 129-- to which he must report on his activities
--Article 130; and he receives direct instructions from the Council of
State --Article 128.
Moreover, Articles 66, 68, and 121 of the Organizational Law of
the Judiciary System
state that, in order to be a professional judge, lay judge, or public
prosecutor, one must "be actively involved with the revolution";
and this involvement is even required for admission to the study of law.
We should also mention Article 4 of the same law, which states
that one of the main objectives of the administration of justice is:
To raise social awareness of legal matters in terms of strict
adherence to law, including within decisions the necessary statement to
educate citizens as to the conscientious and voluntary fulfillment of
their duties of loyalty to the homeland, to the cause of socialism, and
to of socialist rules coexistence.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received
reports that court-appointed defense attorneys are not primarily engaged
in protecting the interests of their clients, since such interests are
secondary to the interests of the socialist system.
The Inter-American Commission was informed that many people who
had been convicted of political offenses said they had met their defense
attorneys only at the time of oral proceedings, and that the defense
presents a few conventional extenuating circumstances but does not
demonstrate the innocence of the defendant, who is always certain that
he will be convicted. Also,
it is reported that in many cases, neither the defendant nor his family
would receive a copy of the sentence or even a copy of the charges filed
against him. In effect, it
is quite often only at trial through the oral version given by the
Prosecutor - which is the police in the Cuban trial system - would the
defendant find out the details of his indictment.
It should also be pointed out that Articles 160 and 161 of the
Code of Penal Procedures do not grant the accused the right to make
statements in the presence of a defense attorney, whether of his choice
or court-appointed. According
to reports, in most trials for crimes against state security this has
allowed many forms of discrimination against witnesses for the defense
as opposed to witnesses for the prosecution.
This practice reflects the blatant hostility of prosecutors and
the lack of impartiality of the judges who conduct proceedings.
METHODS OF HARASSMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
During the period covered by this Annual Report, the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to receive
information on various forms of harassment and intimidation suffered
upon persons and organizations active in human rights by state security
forces. The Government of
Cuba is apparently of the view that all activities connected with the
protection of human rights are aimed at destroying the political system
and favoring foreign interests. Human rights groups have stated that the prison sentences
given by the government are unduly lengthy given the nature of the
charges brought, such as the printing and distribution of pro-democratic
literature and the organization of peaceful demonstrations, etc.
In 1993, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was
informed that the government of Cuba exerts systematic control over the
daily life of every citizen so as to restrict individual exercise of the
right to freedom of thought and expression.
whether in the workplace, school or neighborhood.
In Cuba, even the education of children has an ideological twist.
Under Article 38 of the Constitution, parents are charged with
the responsibility of actively contributing to the education and
comprehensive training of their children to ensure that they become
productive citizens prepared for life in a socialist society.
Article 39 further stipulates that the State bases its
educational and cultural policy on Marxist thought which promotes the
patriotic education and communist training of new generations.
The Inter-American Commission was also informed that
"cumulative school records" and "work records" are
use to monitor the ideological involvement of the individual virtually
throughout his life. These
files contain not only academic and employment history information, but
also reports of affiliation with mass organizations, functions performed
in such organizations, degree of militancy, ideological characteristics
of family members, infractions committed, etc.
The Inter-American Commission has received complaints that
persons have been expelled from places of study or employment or
otherwise have been subjected to discrimination because they expressed
opinions that differed from the official ideology.
Also on the matter of freedom of expression, the Inter-American
Commission has been informed that restrictions under the Constitution
have prevented many human rights organizations from exercising their
right to freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
In this way, the exercise of their rights is subordinated to the
ideological aims of the state. Article
53 of the Constitution provides that:
Citizens have freedom of speech and of the press in keeping with
the objectives of socialist society.
Material conditions for the exercise of that right are provided
by the fact that the press, radio, television and other organs of the
mass media are state or social property and can never be private
property. This assures
their use at the exclusive service of the working people and in the
interests of society.
The case of Guillermo Fernández Donate is one of the most
significant examples of harassment effected against human rights
activists who attempt to exercise freedom of speech.
Fernández Donate, a militant with the Democratic Socialist
Movement and member of the Committee for Human Rights was arrested in
public on June 29, 1993, on a charge of "enemy propaganda."
According to reports, even before his arrest, Fernández had been
expelled from Projects Enterprise No. 2, where he worked, and from the
Law School of the University of Havana, where he studied, for holding
views contrary to government policy.
On August 18, 1993, a large number of state security agents
carried out operations in the vicinity of the
Holy Spirit Church. Several
members of the Christian Liberation Movement were arrested at the side
door to the church, among them Dagoberto Capote Mesa, leader of the
organization, who was taken to a nearby place, interrogated, and
threatened that he would be expelled from his job if he continued his
human rights activities.
Similarly, Amador Blanco Hernández, President of the José Martí
National Human Rights Commission, and Joel Mesa Morales, Vice President
of that organization, were arrested in December 1992 and January 1993
respectively. Following his
arrest, Amador Blanco Hernández, began a protest hunger strike.
The two men are
accused of having dispatched false reports designed to show the Cuban
population that it lives in an atmosphere of terror and persecution. They were tried on September 3 and according to
preliminary reports, each will be sentenced to eight years in prison.
The arrest of human
rights activist Efraín García Dámaso was also reported during the
period covered by this Annual Report.
He was sentenced to four years in prison on a charge of
"dangerousness" for his work in the promotion and defence of
human rights. García Dámaso
is now confined at El Pitirre.
It has also been reported that on July 30, 1993, three citizens--
Víctor Blanco, Reinaldo Herrero Díaz, and his brother Fernando
Herrero Díaz --were arrested in the town of Calabazar in Havana
Province and accused of participating in an antigovernment demonstration
held there. They were taken
to the Valle Grande prison with an official request for a year in jail
and a 3,000-peso fine.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has further been
informed that on August 22, 1993, Abel Rondán Hernández, member of the
Cuban party for Human Rights, was arrested after two police officers and
four state security agents searched his residence.
As of now he remains disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown.
Another form of intimidation used by the Government against
persons not aligned with the political regime is the use of psychiatry
for nonmedical purposes. Such
measures have a legal basis in Articles 78 and 79 of the current Penal
Code. Article 78
establishes the security measures which the state considers appropriate
in the case of a person declared to be in a "dangerous
state", and Article 79 specifies the therapeutic measures.
They read as follows:
A person found to be in a dangerous state in the appropriate
proceedings may be subjected to the most suitable of the security
measures listed below: a.
therapy; b. reeducation; c. monitoring by agencies of the Revolutionary
The therapeutic measures are: a. internment in a psychiatric or
detoxification treatment facility; b. assignment to a specialized
teaching center, with or without internment; c. outside medical
According to information provided to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, there is widespread fear of being subjected
to "therapeutic" measures among groups not aligned with the
regime and the prison population. On
May 13, 1993, human rights activist Carlos Santana Ochoa was jailed.
He is now confined in the special "Carbó Servía" Room
of the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana.
The Carbó Servía Room has repeatedly been
denounced by human rights organizations in and outside Cuba as a
place used by the State Security Department for the psychiatric torture
Reports indicate that Vice President of the Democratic Civic
Party, Domiciano Torres Roca is confined in a special room of the
Psychiatric Hospital of Havana.
Torres Roca, who is accused of "enemy propaganda," was
publicly arrested on August 13, 1993, and reportedly taken to the
aforementioned Psychiatric Hospital, where he is at the mercy of a
hundred of the most aggressive mentally ill individuals.
Torres Roca, a professor of architecture previously removed from
his academic post, is said to have no psychiatric history.
Other complaints received by the Inter-American Commission
concern persons linked directly or indirectly to human rights
organizations, labor groups, or political groups who say they have been
visited by state security agents at home or at work and threatened with
loss of employment, with prosecution, or with being subjected to
so-called "acts of repudiation"
by the Rapid Response Brigades,"
and have sometimes been attacked in the street by strangers or warned to
leave the country.
Aida Rosa Jiménez and Asalia Ballester Cintas, of the Democratic
Civic Party, and René Contreras Blanch of the Cuban Party for Human
Rights were beaten on March 16, 1993, at the Centro Habana by members of
the police force and sustained serious head injuries.
Another cause of concern for the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights is what happens when persons are summoned to appear before
the police and then are issued warnings or are briefly detained and
subjected to interrogation. It
is reported that threats of reprisals against these persons or their
relatives are made frequently. By
way of example, Roberto Trobajo Hernández, Secretary of the General
Union of Cuban Workers and member of the National Commission of
Independent Unions, was arrested on March 5, 1993, in Guira de Melena
and taken to the San Antonio de los Baños police unit, where he stayed
for four days. He was
thereafter taken to the Technical Investigations Department (DTI) in San
José de las Lajas for three additional days.
The Inter-American Commission was also told that he was
threatened that he would be prosecuted for the crime of enemy propaganda
if he continued to oppose the regime, and that he had in fact lost his
job because of his arrest.
The information received also indicates that Rolando Roque
Malherbe, member of the Democratic Socialist Movement, was threatened
and arrested on September 23, 1993, in an effort to prevent him from
holding a meeting scheduled for the following day at his home.
Roque Malherbe remained in detention until September 27. The meeting was held nonetheless, despite an "act of
repudiation" carried out at the time.
Other cases are those of Hilda Cabrera, Berta Galán, and
Victoria Cruz of the Mothers for Dignity Association, who were
threatened and subjected to interrogation on a number of occasions in
1993. Also, according to
reports, María Valdés Rosado, coordinator of Democratic Civic Action,
and Alicia Suárez of the Cuban Christian Democrat Movement were
arrested in Havana on May 7, 1993, and freed two days later.
On August 4, 1993, Caridad Duarte Gómez of the Martí Youth
Organization was subjected to harsh interrogation for several hours at
the police station of the municipality of Habana Vieja.
This procedure was repeated on May 19, 1993, at the Picota y
Something that still worries the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights and has been studied in a number of reports is the
situation of jails in Cuba. The
Commission has continued to receive copious information on the very poor
conditions endured by inmates of various jails in the country,
especially persons who have been confined for political reasons. The prison population faces daily problems of scarce food and
medication, unhealthy conditions, physical and psychological abuse which
is further exacerbated by the grouping of common criminals with
political prisoners. The
Inter-American Commission has been informed that this situation is met
with protests by inmates, who are usually brutally put down and confined
to punishment areas.
The Inter-American Commission was informed that nutritional and
hygienic conditions and deficient medical care are the most serious
problems facing the prison population.
The most common illnesses include diarrhea, anaemia, skin
diseases, and parasites from contaminated water.
Cases of tuberculosis have also been found in the Manacas and
Combinado del Este prisons, proving fatal to some inmates, such as
Alcides Pérez Rodríguez, who died on March 5, 1993, in the Provincial
Hospital of Cienfuegos as a consequence of a generalized infection. Rodríguez
was arrested in the provincial prison of Cienfuegos and was awaiting
trial. It has also been
reported that Juan Enrique Olano Pérez, who had been confined for two
years in the Quivicán prison, died at the Hermanos Amejeiras Hospital. Apparently, by the time he was taken to the Hospital, he was
already in critical condition.
The Commission received a complaint about the delicate situation
of political prisoners Bienvenida Cúcalo Santana and Aurea Feria Cao.
The two women were sentenced to three and five years in prison
respectively on a charge of "enemy propaganda", and are now at
the Western Women's Prison. Ms.
Cúcalo Santana's health is delicate because of a prolonged hunger
strike in protest of the atrocious living conditions, and because of her
medical history. In July
1992, she was diagnosed with a fibroma and fibromatous nodes in the
Also reported is the critical situation of other female political
prisoners such as María Elena Aparicio, member of the Harmony Movement
held since February 19, 1992. She
was tried on May 20, 1992 together with Yndamiro Restano, President of
that group, and sentenced to eight years in jail for the crime of
"illegal association". At
the Western Women's Prison, she took a stand by removing her prison
uniform to protest new conditions imposed on the prisoners.
Finally she was transferred to the Women's Prison of Villaciara.
These illnesses and the poor medical treatment have provoked
protests by many prisoners, who are quited by brutal beatings.
In other cases, they are confined in punishment cells (small
cells with covered doors through which they see no sunlight for months),
or transferred to prisons far from their family homes, or prevented from
receiving visits from their relatives.
Reprisals also take place when they refuse
"reeducation," which, according to reports, is understood to
be political and ideological training.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed
that Luis Alberto Pita Santos, President of the Association to Defend
Political Rights, was beaten and confined in punishment cells at the
prison of Boniato, Santiago, in late 1992, and was transferred to the
Kilo 8 Prison in Camaguey in early 1993.
A similar case is that of his cellmate Jesús Chambes Ramírez
who ended up with a broken cheekbone and hematomas on various parts of
his body. The
Inter-American Commission was also informed that some prisoners were
transferred to other prisons or confined in punishment cells because
written material denouncing the prison situation was found in
their possession. For
example, Arturo Suárez Ramos, member of the Cuban Committee for Human
Rights, was transferred from the Combinado del Este Prison to the
Boniato prison and locked up in a punishment cell for denouncing the
situation of the prisoners.
According to information received a group of political prisoners
reported brutal beatings, confinement in punishment cells, and a
worsening of health conditions in the Quivicán Prison.
Cecilio Ruíz, age 21, imprisoned for having expressed
disagreement with the policies of the regime, lost a tooth in the
beatings. Activist Sergio
Llanes Martinez of the Party for Human Rights is frequently subjected to
physical abuse and has been taken to punishment cells without medical
care though suffering from hepatitis.
A number of human rights violations were also reported at the
Combinado del Este Prison. On
May 31, 1993, a number of common prisoners were beaten for contacts with
political prisoners. Also,
Gerardo Montes de Oca was beaten by four guards under the direction of
Sergeant Riquelme, chief of the punishment cells, and sent to the
windowless cells for three days to hide the effects of the blows.
In the end he had to be interned in the prison hospital, but not
without being threatened beforehand.
The Inter-American Commission additionally received information
that Alberto Aguilera Guevara, Roberto Muré, Luis Grave de Peralta, Ibrán
Herrera Ramírez, Enrique Gonzales, Rodolfo Gutiérrez, and Robier Rodríguez,
inmates at the Boniato prison, were beaten and transferred to the
higher-security Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey on February 12, 1993, for
conducting a hunger strike to protest the abuse they had received.
It has also been reported that a small group of prisoners were
recently freed on the condition that they leave the country.
Others, such as Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, who is serving a
sentence of four years and eight months at the Ariza prison in
Cienfuegos, and Yndamiro Restano, President of the Harmony Movement, who
was sentenced to ten years in prison, have rejected that proposal.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
The Commission has continued to receive reports that persons are
prosecuted and convicted for trying to leave the country illegally.
Generally, Cubans who try to leave illegally and are arrested
face one to three years in jail, and if violence is employed in the
attempt to leave, the penalty is three to eight years in prison.
According to Article 216 of the Cuban Penal Code, those persons
captured after setting out as well as those suspected of a later escape
attempt are prosecuted.
person who, without observing the legal formalities, leaves or takes
steps to leave national territory incurs a penalty of imprisonment for
between one to three years or a fine of between 300 and 1000 units.
2. If violence or
intimidation of persons is employed or force is used in order to carry
out the act referred to in the previous section, the penalty is
imprisonment for between three and eight years.
3. The crimes
specified in the foregoing sections are punished separately from others
that may be committed for or in the course of their perpetration.
1. A person who
organizes, promotes, or incites the illegal departure of persons from
national territory incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between two and
2. A person who
provides material aid, offers information, or in any way facilitates the
illegal departure of persons from national territory incurs a penalty of
imprisonment for between one to three years or a fine of between 300 and
According to reports, approximately 3,000 people are imprisoned
in Cuban jails for illegal departure from the country.
Sources indicate that 25 people per day try to leave without
meeting the requirements, and that only about one in three succeeds.
It is also estimated that in 1992, 2,975 boat people arrived on
the shores of the United States of America, and 1,600 have done so from
January 1993 to the end of August. It has also been indicated that, apart from political
reasons, one of the primary causes of emigration is economic: the lack of opportunities and options. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must state its
concern over this, since legally irregular departure from the island
entails a serious risk to the lives of those who attempt it.
It has also been reported that on many occasions Cuban coast
guard patrols have fired upon persons who attempt whether by land or
sea, to reach the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay to seek asylum.
This use of force has been highly criticized as being excessive
and unnecessary if the aim is solely to detain these persons.
Similar incidents concerning persons who tried to leave the
country on their own on makeshift rafts have also been reported at other
points along the coast. In
other cases, vessels piloted by United States citizens or residents have
approached Cuban shores to pick up Cuban citizens.
According to information provided to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, Renato Rodríguez Sánchez, who has been
jailed at the Valle Grande prison for a number of months on a charge of
piracy, tried to leave the island on September 16, 1992, along with 11
other people. The boat was
machine-gunned down by border guards stationed in the area.
Jorge Luis Marrero and young Ivette Molina were wounded in the
Other persons are imprisoned under similar charges, such as Armed
Forces Second Lieutenant Gamal Abdel Hernández Torres, arrested on
January 23, 1993, for alleged plans to leave the country illegally.
He was sentenced on May 4 of the same year to two and a half
years in prison, and has now been transferred from the Valle Grande jail
to the higher-security prison in Toledo.
The Inter-American Commission has been informed of the situation
faced by Ms. Nidia Cartaya, President of the Association of Cuban
Hostages. The passport of
Ms. Cartaya, age 55, is being held by immigration authorities, who for
eight years have refused to approve her travel in reprisal for the fact
that her husband was granted asylum nine years ago in the United States.
Another report indicates that internationally known Cuban writer
Norberto Fuentes was arrested by Cuban coast guards on October 10, 1993,
and since that date has been held incommunicado.
Over 2,600 members of the U. S. writers association have asked
the Cuban President to free this renowned intellectual.
A member of the Confederation of Democratic Workers, Benigno
Torralba Sánchez, was arbitrarily arrested and accused of the crime of
intending to leave the country. He
was sentenced to three years in jail on the mere presumption that he
planned to leave the country. Another
case is that of Alejandro Joaquín Fuerte García, a former Interior
Ministry Official, who is being subjected to reprisals in prison.
Fuerte García, age 32, was arrested in 1991 for trying to leave
the country, and is now an inmate at the Cinco y Medio del Pinar del Río
prison. He was sentenced to
Also reported were the cases of Israel Martínez Torvo, Pedro
Luis González, and Angel Díaz, who had been demobilized from military
service and who had tried to leave the country illegally on other
occasions. They were arrested on April 2, 1993, when the truck in which
they were heading for Boca del Mariel was searched and a makeshift raft
was found. They are now in
the Valle Grande prison. The
brothers Jorge and Juan Valladares Salabarría are at Valle Grande for
the same reason. They were arrested on May 21, 1993, and still await trial.
Finally, Pedro Reinaldo Amador, activist with the National
Confederation for Political Rights, has been held on the basis of
criminal proceedings, pending for over a year,
for "attempted" illegal departure.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must express its
deep concern over the continual worsening of the human rights situation
in Cuba. The facts
presented in this report show the extremes to which the Cuban Government
has gone in repressing every form of dissent by using legislation
designed to subordinate the rights of the individual to the requirements
of the state. It is clear
that the Cuban political system continues to give absolute exclusivity
to the Communist Party, which, in practice, constitutes a power higher
than the state itself. This
prevents the healthy plurality of ideologies and parties that is one of
the foundations of democratic government.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights feels it would be
appropriate to cite the second conclusion of its Seventh Report on the
Situation of Human Rights in Cuba as a complement to what was stated in
the preceding paragraph:
The above is reinforced by the Cuban Constitution's use of terms
and concepts taken from political-philosophical doctrines, which serve
little to promote the observance of the rule of law, the guarantee that
protects the rights of citizens against impairment by the State.
A source of particular concern to the IACHR is the Cuban
legislation which establishes limits on the exercise of the recognized
rights and freedoms of its citizens.
According to this formulation of the laws it is the citizen who
must adapt to the purposes set by the State; whereas the concept of
democracy envisions exactly the opposite: it is the State that must limit its action in the face of the
inherent rights of man and may interfere only to bring about the full
observance of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of
those governed. The
subordination of the individual to the State is further entrenched in
Cuba by the nonexistence of a separation of governmental powers, which
results in the dependence of the system for the administration of
justice on the executive.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is of the view that
the arguments set forth in the Seventh Report are still valid, since the
facts presented in this section of the Annual Report show that exercise
of the right to justice and due process is greatly impaired by the de
facto and legislative subordination of the administration of justice to
the executive. This continues to foster an overall feeling of uncertainty
and trepidation among citizens, and is further aggravated by the
weakness of procedural guarantees, especially in trials that may
directly or indirectly affect the power structure that still remains in
As for freedom of speech, it is clear that the Government and
Party still maintain absolute control and repression of any political or
ideological dissent. Consequently,
the Inter-American Commission remains of the opinion that in Cuba there
is no freedom of expression that would allow the political dissent
essential to democratic government.
With respect to the right to freedom and personal safety, there
persists a lack of guarantees against arbitrary arrest.
In addition, the Inter-American Commission must express its
concern over the poor prison conditions, which are even worse
for political prisoners. The
deliberately harsh and degrading conditions give rise to more frequent
and severe human rights violations, not only in themselves, but also
because protests are often put down with physical abuse, that threatens
the lives of the inmates.
Concerning freedom of movement, the Inter-American Commission is
of the view that, despite changes made, the exercise of this right is still
highly restricted in practice and by law.
This is by virtue of Articles 216 and 217 of the Cuban Penal
Code, which punishes not only those persons who are captured after
having initiated a legally irregular trip but also those
suspected of a propensity to attempt such a trip.
In addition, persons who have taken positions critical of the
government at some point and have later attempted to leave the country
have been subjected to harsher restrictions and reprisals by the
In light of these conclusions, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights considers it appropriate to quote a comprehensive pastoral
letter issued by the Bishops of Cuba in early 1993:
We feel that, along with certain economic changes that are
beginning to be implemented, certain political irritants should be
eliminated from Cuban society, and that this unquestionably would bring
relief and provide the nation with a source of hope:
1. The exclusive and
omnipresent nature of official ideology, which involves the pairing of
terms which cannot be equated, such as homeland and socialism, state and
government, authority and power, legality and morality, Cuban and
revolutionary. This centralizing and all-encompassing role of ideology makes
the repeated directives and slogans tiresome.
2. The restrictions placed
not only on the exercise of certain freedoms, which might be acceptable
under some circumstances, but on freedom itself.
A substantial change in this position would guarantee, among
other things, the independent administration of justice, which would
place us on a stable path toward building a fully de jure state.
3. Excessive control by the
state security agencies, which sometimes touches even the strictly
personal life of individuals. This
explains the fear that one feels but cannot clearly define, which seems
to be evoked by something ineffable.
4. The large number of
imprisonments for acts that could either be decriminalized or be
reconsidered so that many people who are serving time for economic,
political, or similar reasons could be freed.
5. Discrimination for
reasons of philosophical or political ideas or religious belief, whose
effective elimination would encourage participation in Cuban society by
all Cubans without distinction.
The continuing refusal of the Cuban regime to recognize
fundamental human rights, together with the profound socio-economic
crisis in that country, creates a dangerous potential for societal
crisis. The Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights will continue to watch the Cuban domestic
situation closely, pursuant to its mandate to protect and promote human
rights in each country of the hemisphere.
The "Rapid Response Brigades" were created in June
1991 by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic.
These units are made up of civilians whose mission is to
monitor any sign of public discontent or "counterrevolutionary
to information received by the IACHR, they act with impunity,
especially when they violate the rights of people who work to
promote and protect human rights.
The most common tactic of the "Rapid Response
Brigades" is the "acts of repudiation," in crowds
which gather in front of the homes of human rights activists and
shout all sorts of abusive remarks and slogans supporting the
revolution and the Government.
It has been reported that restrictions imposed by immigration
rules in some countries, the complicated legal procedures required
by the Cuban authorities, and the reprisals to which such persons
are subjected are some of the reasons for which many people continue
to leave the country on rafts and makeshift boats.
We should note that when the Cuban immigration authorities
deny a visa this decision is not subject to appeal.