THE VIOLATION OF POLITICAL RIGHTS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO
ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
examining the status of human rights in different countries, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights has had to look at the organic relationship between
violating the right to physical security on one hand, and neglecting economic
and social rights and suppressing political participation on the other.
And that relationship, as has been made clear, is largely a cause and
effect relationship. In other words, neglecting economic and social rights,
especially when political participation is suppressed at the same time, produces
the type of social polarization that leads in turn to acts of violence by the
government and against it. In that
context, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated:
A life free of fear and need inevitably leads to a guarantee of civil and
political rights since, when people at large participate--the very ones who are
the targets of denied economic and social rights--they participate in the
decisions that pertain to the allocation of national resources and the
establishment of social, educational and health programs.
Popular participation, the objective of representative democracy,
guarantees that all social sectors participate in the formulation, application
and revision of national programs. And
while it can be asserted that political participation affords greater protection
of economic, social and cultural rights, it is also true that the application of
those rights creates the conditions that enable the people in general to be
competent, that is, to be healthy and educated so they are able to participate
actively and productively in the process of taking political decisions.
32. In this
order of ideas, the Commission must repeat that the absence of the right to
participate politically--understood as the right to organize political parties
and associations and the right to hold free, open and competitive elections to
exercise the right to elect and be elected--has been one of the major factors
contributing to the economic crisis in Cuba.
the period covered by this annual report, two elections took place in Cuba, and
open debate and the clash of ideologies were missing in both.
In October 1997, Cuba held municipal elections to elect the deputies of
the Municipal Assembles of Popular Power and on January 11, 1998, the country
elected deputies from the National Assemblies and the Provincial Assemblies.
Both processes had a common denominator, all the candidates came from a
single political party: the Communist Party of Cuba.
In other words, the Cuban state did not allow other political parties to
compete--as part of a healthy ideological pluralism--with the Cuban Communist
example of this is the information provided to the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights on the attempt by six prospective candidates from the Pro-Human
Rights Party of Cuba in the provinces of Cienfuegos and Camaguey to secure
support among the electorate by gathering signatures to endorse their
candidacies for the Municipal Assemblies of Popular Power.
In the end, these candidates were arrested and warned to abandon their
to the official version of the Communist Party of Cuba, there was a "98.35%
attendance at the election polls of all registered Cubans; only 3.36% of the
votes were left blank and 1.66% of the ballots were disqualified; 94.45% opted
for the unified vote, not merely as token approval but on the basis of
conscience which is the main thing."
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that state agents
exerted pressures in many ways to get people to vote.
As reported, there were threats of job reprisals against teachers, health
personnel, office employees of state enterprises, wage earners in the field of
culture, press, sports and state tourism. Also
threatened were individuals authorized to work with foreign companies, sugar,
tobacco and nickel workers, and public transportation system employees
throughout the country.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also received information from the
island that Cuban state agents, through the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution, made house-to-house visits to hint that the authorities had ways of
knowing who voted against the Communist Party in their voting documents.
These acts of coercion implied the threat of firing anyone who nullified
his ballot and jailing anyone who wrote words of opposition on their ballots for
spreading "enemy propaganda."
monopoly on power by a single group is shown, for example, in the exercise of
self-employment--so important for many Cuban citizens--which is regulated by the
Regulations on the Exercise of Self-Employment.
provide, "the Municipal Office of Labor and Social Security processes and
obtains an endorsement from the Chairman of the Popular Council for the area
where the applicant resides, with the assessment as to whether or not it is
feasible to authorize the person to be self-employed, bearing in mind the
activity he seeks to undertake, the need to supplement state activity and the
socio-labor conditions of the applicant."
These socio-labor characteristics are interpreted in Cuba, again
based on information provided--as an allusion to whether the applicant does or
does not have "revolutionary integration," that is, whether or not he
expressly supports the current political system and whether or not he
participates in political and mass organizations.
question that generates concern on the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights
is the status of workers in foreign capital enterprises.
According to information that has reached the Commission, there is no
collective bargaining, that is, the hiring, payment of wages, termination of a
contract and other aspects of the employment relationship is not conducted in a
direct manner between the business and the employee, but through an employment
agency designated by the state. As
has been indicated, the same discriminatory criteria based on ideological
motives that are in effect for other areas also apply to these businesses and
thus the state secures its control over the workers.
addition, the Commission was told that the wages from the foreign companies do
not go directly to the workers, but to the state employment agency which
receives the wages in hard currency and then pays the worker in national
currency. The difference between
the wages paid by the company and the wages actually paid to the worker by the
employment agency is considerable. This
enables the Cuban state to obtain large earnings while the worker receives less
than he should. The law also
provides that when mixed enterprises or wholly-owned foreign capital enterprises
consider that a certain worker does not meet their demands on the job, they may
request the employment agency to replace the person with another, and the worker
has no legal recourse.
lack of legal protection is also seen in the absence of free and independent
trade unions that defend the labor rights of workers. In this context, it is pertinent to mention one of the
recommendations made by the Trade Freedom Committee within the framework of
application of Agreement No. 87 (Trade Union Freedom and Protection of Trade
Unions) on the relationships between the Workers Central of Cuba (CTC) and the
. . .the Committee must not fail to take into account that Cuba has only
one trade union central that is officially recognized and mentioned in the
legislation, and that on previous occasions it has received complaints about the
absence of any officially recognized trade union organization beyond the
officially recognized present union structure.
In addition, in its last report, the Mission of Experts on Application of
Agreements and Recommendations requested the government to guarantee in the
legislation and in practice the right of all workers and employers, without
distinction, to establish truly independent trade organizations that are outside
the existing union structure, if they so desire (Article 2 of the Convention),
as well as free election of their representatives (Article 3 of the Convention).
recommendations of the Trade Union Freedom Committee not only went unimplemented
by the Cuban state but the state also launched a series of actions aimed at
harassing the few organizations that attempted to organize formally a free and
independent union in Cuba. On April
4, 1997, the International Confederation of Free Trade Organizations (CIOSL)
filed a complaint to the Cuban state through the Trade Union Freedom Committee
with respect to the following events:
In early January 1997, members of the National Executive Committee of the
Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba (CTDC) personally delivered to the
offices of the Department of Associations of the Ministry of Justice of Cuba an
official document in which they requested (for the sixth consecutive year,
according to their information) legal recognition as an independent trade union
On February 19, 1997, the CTDC issued a call to all organizations, trade
unions, committees, institutes, unions and any others, regardless of name,
involved in the trade union struggle, to join the Independent Workers Parliament
for the defense of all Cuban workers. What
followed this call was a wave of repression by the government that led to the
arrest or detention of several trade unionists.
Specifically, on February 21, 1997, José Orlando Gonzales Budon, the
President of National Executive Committee of the CTDC, was arrested.
He was held without charges being pressed from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
On February 22, 1997, he was arrested once again and freed on February
25, 1997. Also detained on February 23, 1997, were Gustavo Toirac
Gonzáles, the Secretary General, and Rafael García Suárez, the Secretary of
the organization, and both of the CTDC executive committee.
They were released on February 25, 1997.
examining the positions of the parties, the Trade Union Freedom Committee
recommended to the Cuban state, "to guarantee free operation of the
Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba (CTDC) and to have the authorities
refrain from any intervention that would restrain this organization in the
fundamental rights recognized in Convention No. 87 and the exercise of the human
rights associated with the exercise of trade union rights, including the
guarantee to not be subject to measures involving loss of freedom for conducting
legitimate activities, and deplored the detentions for several days of three
leaders of the CTDC in February 1997 for calling upon social organizations to
join the Independent Workers Parliament. The
Committee calls the attention of the government to the principle that measures
aimed at depriving trade unionists of their freedom, on grounds related to their
trade union activities, can constitute an obstacle in the way of exercising
trade union rights even though they might be minor, short-term measures.
The Committee asked the government to take steps to ensure that the
competent authorities do not repeat similar freedom-restricting measures for
legitimate trade union activities."
the recommendations of the Trade Union Freedom Committee, the Cuban state
continued harassing the Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba (CTDC).
In effect, on May 9, 1997, the CTDC issued a press release in which it
charged "ongoing hounding and harassment carried out by the political
police of the regime against this independent trade union organization."
According to the press release issued in Havana, José Orlando Gonzáles
Bridón, the CTDC President, was arrest on May 1, 1997, when the State Security
department conducted a major operation to prevent Gonzáles Bridón and other
trade union activists from attending the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Havana.
On that occasion, Gonzáles Bridón was held for four days at Villa
Marista, the general headquarters of State Security.
On May 8, 1997, during the morning hours, several security agents
appeared at his house and arrested him once again.
The CTDC indicated in its press release, "Bridon is seriously ill
and the State Security department is conducting these operations for the purpose
of harming his health even more, attempting in that way to get him to abandon
his trade union activities."
44. In that
context, the Inter-American Commission recalls that Article 33 of the OAS
Charter holds, "equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth
and income, and the full participation of their peoples in decisions relating to
their own development are, among others, basic objectives of integral
development." In the judgment
of the Commission, poverty is partly the result of insufficient state dedication
and organization to protect and promote economic, social and cultural rights.
When the state does not guarantee these rights, it is also indicating an
absence of civil and political guarantees.
The ability to participate in society entails civil and political rights
along with economic, social and cultural rights.
From this it is logically clear that if there is no progress in the area
of economic and social rights, civil and political rights achieved with great
effort and human sacrifice continue being a mere aspiration for poorer and less
well educated segments of the population. In
the final analysis, the consolidation of representative democracy involves the
exercise of full participation by all members of society.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated, "when the weakest
sectors of society do not have access to the basic tools of survival that enable
them to get out of their situation, the right to be free from all discrimination
and the principles of equality of access and equity in distribution are being
contravened voluntarily or the contravention is being condoned, as is the
general commitment to protect the weakest elements of society.
In addition, unless those basic needs are satisfied, the very survival of
the individual is directly threatened, and this implies the right to life,
personal security and, as indicated before, the right to participate in
political and economic processes."
46. For its
part, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States established a
principle which holds
the ideal of the free human being, free of fear and poverty, can only
come about if the conditions are created to enable every person to enjoy his
economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.
47. In that
context, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights believes that it is
urgent and necessary to move ahead on the road toward democratization and
respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Cuba. These changes require however, the right conditions and it is
the basic responsibility of the Cuban state to create those conditions.
For its part, the inter-American community also has the responsibility to
contribute to the establishment of those conditions that lead to unrestricted
effect of human rights in Cuba. In
this sense, the adverse effects stemming from economic sanctions and other
measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime do not appear to be the most
appropriate way to create the conditions to bring about a peaceful and gradual
transition to a pluralistic and civil society.
Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Committee examined the
effect of economic conditions on Cuba in his latest report:
the permanence of the United States embargo continues contributing to the
absence of any change in the system currently in force in Cuba.
The embargo is an easy excuse for keeping the people under heavy control
and to punish or persecute in different ways those who call for political
changes or social space for the individual.
Also, the embargo is a major contribution to the dramatic shortages of
material goods that have characterized the Cuba of the 1990s and have put the
people in a very difficult position.
49. For its
part, on June 4, 1996, the General Assembly of the Organization of American
States issued during its twenty-sixth regular session a resolution entitled,
"Freedom of Trade and Investment in the Hemisphere."
In this resolution it instructed the Inter-American Juridical Committee
"in its upcoming session, and on a priority basis, to examine, conclude and
present its opinion to the Permanent Council on the validity under international
law of the Helms-Burton legislation,"
known as the Act for Cuban Freedom and Democratic Solidarity--the Freedom
Law. The purpose of this law--which
took effect on March 12, 1996--is to increase the economic pressure on the Cuban
state by penalizing foreign companies that seek to invest in properties
confiscated by the state from United States citizens.
The law further seeks to make demands on foreigners who use United States
property confiscated in Cuba, and Title IV of that law empowers the United
States to deny a visa to any foreigner who trafficks with property confiscated
from United States citizens. The
Inter-American Juridical Committee issued its opinion on this law in a regular
session held on August 23, 1996. In addition to other points, it stated,
"the grounds and the later application covered in this Opinion in the
significant areas described above are not consistent with international
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also informed that the United
States Congress is concerned about the effects the embargo is having on the
Cuban people. As a result of this
several Congressmen presented a bill called the Cuban Humanitarian Trade Act of
whose basic purpose is to make an exception to the trade embargo to
allow the export of food, medicines and medical equipment to Cuba.
non-profit organization, American Association for World Health, issued a report
in March 1997 on the impact of the United States trade embargo on health and
nutrition in Cuba. This report,
quoted by the Special United Nations Rapporteur for Cuba that is entitled,
"Denial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health and
Nutrition in Cuba," mentions, in addition to other points, "for
several decades the embargo imposed a heavy economic burden on the Cuban health
system, but since 1992 there has been a marked increase in needs not met; there
are patients who do not have essential medicines and physicians who have to work
without adequate equipment. This
trend is directly related to the hardening in 1992 of the United States trade
embargo which is one of the strictest, and prohibits the sale of food and
restricts greatly the amount of drugs and medical equipment following the
approval of the Cuban Democracy Act."
report by the American Association for World Health also gives important
statistics that help to calculate the cost of the embargo for the Cuban people.
The number of surgical operations fell from 885,790 in 1990 to 536,547 in
1995. These numbers indicate
clearly the decline in hospital resources.
Surgical services have to deal with the shortage of most anesthesia and
modern equipment, special catheters, third generation antibiotics and other
essential medications, sutures, instruments, operating arena garments, air
conditioning equipment and disposable material;
The deteriorating water supply in Cuba has increased the incidence of
water-borne illnesses such as typhoid fever, dysentery and viral hepatitis.
For example, the mortality caused by acute diarrhea rose from 2.7 per
100,000 inhabitants in 1989 to 6.7 per 100,000 in 1994. The rate of illness from amoebic and bacillary dysenteries
showed a sharp increase during the same time;
The Unites States embargo restricts Cuban AIDS patients from having
access to a variety of medicines. The
experts of the Association discovered that as a direct consequence of the
embargo, there were delays on six occasions in AZT treatment for a total of 176
carriers of HIV in Cuba when AZT was the only medication authorized to stop the
advance of the virus. In the words
of a person who works with AIDS patients, "the problem is that our patients
The representatives of the Association visited a pediatrics ward that had
been without methochlopromide HCL for 22 days, a substance which in combination
with others such as betametasone, is used in infantile chemotherapy.
Without this treatment to prevent nausea, the 35 children in the ward
vomited 28 to 30 times per day on average;
Cardiac illnesses constitute the leading cause of death in Cuba.
Mortality rates in men and women have risen since 1989: 189.3 deaths per
100,000 inhabitants in 1989 and 199.8 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 1995.
There was one patient who a Cuban cardiologist diagnosed as having had an
infarct produced by ventricular arrhythmia who needed a pacemaker implant to
live. Although the United States company, CPI, which at that time
had a virtual monopoly on the device, expressed that it was willing to make the
sale, the United States government denied the license. The patient died two months later.
In 1993, the United States Treasury Department denied, ostensibly for
reasons of foreign policy, a license requested by the German affiliate of Pfizer
to sell to Cuba a pound of the principal active ingredient methotrexate, that
would be used to test a medication against cancer;
Approximately 48% of the 215 new United States medicines that are in the
1-111 phase of testing under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995 are
specific for breast cancer, but Cuban women will not have full access to any of
them for as long as the embargo lasts;
Cuban children suffering from leukemia are denied access to many drugs
that would prolong their life expectancy. For
example, the FDA has already authorized Oncaspar (pegaspargaso), patented by the
Enzon company of the United States and used for patients who are allergic to
L-Spar (I-asparaginase). Both
medications produce a longer remission when they are used in the treatment of
lymphoblastic leukemia. However,
the L-Spar produces allergic reactions in 40% of the patients who receive it for
the first time and 70% in patients with recurring lymphoblastic leukemia. In addition, the administration of Oncaspar is less traumatic
for children who suffer from this disease since this drug takes only one-sixth
the number of injections that are necessary for L-Spar. However, the embargo deprives Cuban children of this
innovation. If this type of
leukemia goes untreated, it causes death within two or three months.
In general, the embargo prevents as a practical matter Cuba from
acquiring almost half of all the new medications available in the world market.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must reiterate once again that Cuba,
as a member state of the Organization of American States, needs changes so that
it can proceed along the road toward democratization and respect for fundamental
rights and liberties. These changes
require the right conditions, and it is the responsibility of the Cuban state to
create these conditions. Nevertheless,
the inter-American community also has the responsibility to help create the
conditions that will lead to unrestricted effect of human rights in Cuba.
addition, in this delicate and difficult matter of promoting and protecting
economic, social and cultural rights, the Commission must at least recognize
that just as it is the obligation of each state to struggle to increase its
national wealth and to achieve thorough distribution so that each and everyone
of the inhabitants of the state are beneficiaries, the more developed states
also have an obligation to the less developed.
Inter-American Commission on HumanRights has always expressed its concern
regarding the prison situation in the Hemisphere. Thus, one of the special rapporteurs appointed by the
Commission is preparing a report on this subject.
Furthermore, the Commission is currently processing a number of
individual cases related to this matter, and pays particular attention to prison
conditions during its in loco visits.
this context, the problem of arbitrary detentions and jailings for political
reasons and the hard conditions that prisoners face have constituted one of the
major concerns of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with respect to
Cuba. This explains why many of its
earlier reports have been aimed at examining the situation of political
prisoners and also that several of those reports have dealt exclusively with
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended to the Cuban state in its
last report that it, "Comply with minimal international rules for the
treatment of prisoners, and improve the living conditions of the prison
population in Cuba. It is also
imperative that the Cuban state adopt urgent measures to prevent the prison
authorities from continuing to violate the right to personal integrity of the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must note its concern that not only
have its recommendations not been complied with but that jail conditions
continue being deplorable. In
effect, the lack of medicines to treat the illnesses of the prisoners, the
refusal of prison authorities to receive medicine from family members who bring
them to the prisons, the refusal of the authorities to permit prisoners to
receive religious care, mistreatment by guards and even by the physicians
themselves at the prison infirmaries, beatings, overcrowding, dark punishment
cells, meetings between family members and the prisoners in the presence of
State Security agents and prison authorities, and the harassment of family
members of prisoners are some of the conditions that prevail today in Cuban
59. The last
report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cuba describes by way of
example the conditions in the Southern Matanzas Combined Facility.
These are transmitted below:
Prisoners are forced to get their own plastic sheets to keep them dry
while they are sleeping because the buildings are in such a state of disrepair
that the roofs leak badly from the build-up of rainwater; the supply warehouses
and the areas where foods are prepared have an incalculable number of mice.
It is impossible to be in the dining room when food is served because of
the large number of flies; overcrowding at time reaches twice the capacity of
the installations since cells designed for three persons frequently hold up to
six; the amount of food is insufficient, lacks vitamins and protein and
frequently consists of tasteless broths and breakfasts of hot water; there is a
lack of drugs, and medical care is systematically denied.
As a result of this situation, infections and epidemics have spread,
among them mange and amoebic dysentery, and almost all the prisoners are under
weight. Added to the foregoing are
cruel and degrading treatment consisting of brutal beatings, and disrespect in
the form of obscenities, shouts, pushes and kicks.
The prisoners are the objects of constant searches and the privacy of
correspondence is systematically violated.
60. On June
12, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received testimony from
a Cuban political prisoner held at the Aguica prison.
This is transcribed below:
four months we have not had any light in the cell.
was left to fend for myself while having a heart attack and I was given help for
only four hours. They prevented me
from receiving any medication and they kept on throwing me to the floor to take
off my clothes.
political prisoner, Raúl Carnell de la Rosa, sentenced to 30 years of prison,
has been in solitary confinement for 4 years, and I have been in 5 years.
handed in poems containing complaints to a criminal inspector but they did not
pay any attention to me and they took away poems and stories that I had made.
Miguel A. Planas Meléndez, Luis Gonzáles Madrazo and Javier Céspedes
Cárdenas are still being beaten. All
of them from Havana were savagely beaten. The
last of these had his head fractured and his ribs broken: Emilio Cruz, Gilberto
la Calle, Tolón, José and Vicente Galindo were the aggressors.
Carlo San Martín Maguez from Cárdenas, Matanzas, gave a letter of complaint to
an inspector and no one paid attention to him; he was stabbed in the stomach
with a knife (142 stitches).
is a cell for prisoners on hunger strike. They
put them in there naked, without water, without a mattress, without anything.
Pérez Cano, another prisoner, who is very sick from optical neuritis, has been
sick for six days without any medical care.
These cells were created by a henchman who is the Chief of Internal
Order, Emilio Cruz Díaz.
testimony given above does nothing but confirm to the Inter-American Commission
of Human Rights that the Cuban state systematically violates the principles and
rules set out in the Minimal Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
and the Code of Conduct for Officials Responsible for Enforcing the
and even the provisions set out in Cuba's own Criminal Code on the
punishment of loss of freedom (Articles 30 and 31).
addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed in May,
1997, by the Coordinator of Political Prisoners on the island that a number of
prisoners in the province of Granma were "malnourished, medicines were in
short supply and the minimum conditions necessary for recovery were
lacking." According to the
letter received, the following prisoners are in a poor state of health:
1) Antonio Seguedo Labrada: sentenced to six years of loss of freedom in
1993, charged for the crime of enemy propaganda.
He is now in prison with pneumothorax, he has suffered considerable loss
of weight and several episodes of pneumonia and runs the risk of contracting
tuberculosis; 2) José Antonio Frandin Grive: sentenced to 12 years of prison in
1993, for the supposed crimes of "rebellion" and "enemy
propaganda." He is suffering
from a duodenal ulcer and is going blind as a result of glaucoma;
3) Félix Ramírez Tiburcio: has been serving a sentence of 8 years of
loss of freedom since 1992 for supposed "enemy propaganda."
He is suffering from severe malnutrition and neuropathy in an advanced
state; 4) Cecilio Sambra Haber: has served four of the ten years of imprisonment
for conviction in a case of "rebellion" and has been kept in jail
despite showing severe cardiac problems; 5) Raúl Silot Sánchez: sentenced to
20 years of loss of freedom for sabotage and has a severe heart condition and
high blood pressure; 6) José Ramón Batista Pérez: has been serving 8 years of
prison for the crime of "rebellion" since 1993 and now has a bleeding
ulcer, loss of vision and loss of weight, as well as generalized arthrosis and
prostate problems. This prisoner has already had three heart attacks and his
heart is very compromised; 7) Wilfredo Galanos Matos: has been serving a
sentence of 9 years since 1993. He
has had two heart attacks and he now has dis-compensated heart trouble; 8) Raúl
Ayarde Herrera: sentenced to 10 years of jail in 1991 for espionage.
Has already been operated on for an intestinal blockage.
He suffered from chronic diarrhea and from gastritis and digestive
upsets; 9) Tomás Ramos Rodríguez: has been serving a sentence since 1991 for
"terrorism" and "rebellion."
He suffers from Parkinson's disease and nervous disorders.
63. Omar del
Pozo Marrero, founder and active member of the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Committee,
the National Unity Committee and the National Civic Union, was arrested on April
19, 1992 and tried and sentenced by a military court to 15 years of imprisonment
for "revealing secrets concerning state security."
According to the information that was provided, Omar del Pozo has been
placed into punishment cells on many occasions and one time he was left there
for four months. It has also been
pointed out that Omar del Pozo is seriously ill with a stomach ulcer, heart
disease and renal deficiency. All
of these have brought about severe weight loss and he has also lost large
amounts of hair and his teeth.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hopes the Cuban state will keep its
promise--following the visit of His Holiness John Paul II--to set a number of
political prisoners free. The
Commission believes that the Cuban state should give priority to those
prisoners--whose names have been mentioned in this report--who are in poor
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must state that the situation of
these political prisoners who have been sentenced to loss of freedom after
having been arrested arbitrarily and subjected to trials, in which guarantees of
due process were missing, is still one of extreme seriousness and is
incompatible with the principles embodied in the Charter of the Organization of
American States, the American Convention on Human Rights and the American and
Universal Declarations of Human Rights.
Based on what has been said throughout this report, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights has reached the following conclusions:
measures adopted by the Cuban state in the area of human rights during the
period covered by this report constitute progress that deserves mention.
There have been certain signs of openness in the areas of personal
freedom, religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of movement.
The visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba is an historic event that needs to
be mentioned, not only because of the fact itself but also because of the
message that it conveys and the possible positive consequences that it will have
for the Cuban people. In that
context, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agrees with the Supreme
Pontiff that it is urgently necessary to move ahead on the road toward democracy
and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Cuba.
These changes require, however, the right conditions and it is the
fundamental responsibility of the Cuban state to create those conditions.
For its part, the inter-American community also has the responsibility to
help create those conditions that would lead to unrestricted effect of human
rights in Cuba. In this sense, the
adverse effects stemming from the economic sanctions and other measures aimed at
isolating the Cuban regime do not appear to be the most appropriate way to
create the conditions to achieve a peaceful and gradual transition to a
pluralistic and civil society.
the civil and political rights of the Cuban population continue being seriously
jeopardized by the state. In this
way, discrimination on political grounds and systematic violations of freedom of
expression and association continue being a policy of the state to repress any
position that is critical of the regime or the political situation of the
country. The harassment of groups
that advocate human rights or advance a political or trade union orientation
becomes sentences involving loss of freedom, temporary detentions, threats, loss
of job, adoption of disciplinary actions both before and after the crime, house
searches and other restrictions.
does not have a freedom of press that allows political dissent, a fundamental
condition for a democratic system of government. The spoken, written and televised press continue being the
tools of ideological struggle, they follow the directives of the group in power
and serve to convey the messages of that group to grassroots and intermediate
levels. The Cuban state, by
illegally restraining an individual's freedom of press, is not only violating
the right of that person but also violating the right of others to receive
information. The regulations for
the exercise of the foreign press in Cuba and Law 80, also known as the Law of
Reaffirmation of Dignity and Sovereignty have enabled the Cuban state to use
them as a mechanism for self-censorship or prior censorship because of an
atmosphere based on fear of arbitrary punishment and unjust punishment.
are no signs of any interest by the Cuban state in bringing about substantive
reform for full enjoyment and exercise of the right to political participation
as embodied in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties
of Man. This would be, in other
words, a reform allowing ideological and party pluralism and the holding of
free, open and competitive elections--abiding by internationally accepted
standards--to exercise the right of electing and being elected. This presupposes the right to be freely nominated by parties
or political groups, which is one of the keystones of a democratic system of
Cuban state has once again failed to comply with minimal international
regulations for the treatment of prisoners and with its own legislation in the
The lack of medical
care for prisoners, many of whom are sick as a result of poor diet and hygiene,
added to the scarcity of food and drugs, the refusal to give medical care,
unhealthy conditions and physical mistreatment are some of the prevailing
conditions in Cuban jails. The
Commission has the hope that the Cuban state--as requested by Pope John Paul
II--will continue conducting an exhaustive review of the cases of individuals
who are serving time for crimes with political overtones, as well as those who
are in a poor state of health, in order to set them free without conditions.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, based on the conclusions
of this report, formulates the following recommendations to the Cuban state:
continue adopting positive measures to guarantee fully the rights and freedoms
embodied in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
In that context, it would be most helpful to establish institutions with
the specific task of promoting and protecting human rights.
72. To cease
the harassment, persecution and punishment of groups that defend human rights or
have other political orientations, and allow them to be legal.
an exhaustive investigation into the events in which the right to life has been
violated for the purpose of identifying those responsible, sentencing them to
the appropriate punishment and extending to the victims' families adequate
reparations and indemnity.
urgent measures to continue releasing--unconditionally--persons who are serving
time for crimes with political and similar connotations.
from criminal legislation all criminal descriptions that punish internationally
accepted democratic standards, freedom of expression, association and meeting.
In the area of freedom of the press, repeal all rules that help create
mechanisms for self-censorship or prior censorship.
from the Penal Code all provisions on dangerous state, pre-crime security
measures and the terms, "socialist legality," "socially
dangerous," "standards of socialist life," since their
imprecision and their subjective nature constitute a factor of legal insecurity
that creates the conditions enabling the Cuban authorities to take arbitrary
action. In addition, eliminate the
penal rule that refers to the "official warning" which is used to
threaten with punishment individuals who have "ties or relations with
persons who are potentially dangerous for society."
urgent measures to carry out a reform of the country's penitentiary system for
the purpose of improving the living conditions of the prison population.
The Cuban state must conduct an exhaustive examination of the background
of penitentiary authorities before assigning them to the different penal
establishments in the country so as to avoid mistreatment and abuses of
prisoners. In this sense, it would
be advisable for the Cuban state to create a set of rules with guidelines to be
followed by those authorities so that they do not exceed the limits of their
the necessary measures to permit ideological and party pluralism for the full
exercise of the right to political participation, in accordance with Article XX
of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
VIII. PROCESSING OF THE REPORT
draft report on the situation of human rights in Cuba was approved by the
Commission during its 98º period of sessions.
It was sent to the State on March 5, 1998, pursuant to Article 63 (h) of
the Commission's Regulations, in order to allow for the submission of
observations within thirty days.
Cuban State failed to present observations within the time limit provided.
81. On April 7, 1998 the Commission approved this report and its publication within Chapter V of the present Annual Report.
International Labour Organisation Council of Administration, Seventh
Topic, Order of the Day, 308th Report of the Trade Union Freedom Committee,
par. 228, GB.270/7, 270th Meeting, Geneva, November 1997.
Extracts from the report of the American Association for World Health,
Denial of Food and Medicine: The
Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health and Nutrition in Cuba, cited by the
United Nations Rapporteur for Cuba, Idem, p.16.
Adopted by the First United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and
Treatment of Criminals, and adopted by the Economic and Social Council in
Resolutions 663C (XXIV) of July 31, 1957, and 2076 (LXII) of May 13, 1977.
Loss of Freedom. ARTICLE
30. (1) The punishment of loss of
freedom may not exceed the term of twenty years.
However, with respect to crimes for which there is an alternative
punishment such as death, the court can extend the term to as long as thirty
years. The time served in
detention or provisional imprisonment of the prisoner is credited in full to
the term of the sentence. (2) The punishment of loss of freedom is carried out in the
penitentiary establishments provided by the law and its regulations.
(3) The characteristics of
those establishments and the minimum periods for which the prisoners must
remain in each one are determined in the appropriate regulations.
(4) Those punished to loss
of freedom serve their sentence by being sorted into groups and only in
specific cases provided for in the regulations can they be ordered to serve
the sentence in isolation. (5)
Men and women serve their time of loss of freedom in different
establishments or in separate sections of the same establishment.
(6) Juveniles younger than
20 years of age serve their sentence in establishments set aside specifically
for them or in sections separate from those who are older.
Nevertheless, persons 20 to 27 years of age may be ordered to serve
their sentence on the same conditions as the former. (7) Penitentiary
establishments will use the progressive system as the method for counting time
served for sentences involving the loss of freedom and as the foundation for
parole on conditional release that is established in the Code.
(8) The sentenced person
may not be the object of corporal punishment nor may any measure involving
humiliation or resulting in loss of dignity be used against him.
(9) During the time that
the sentence is being served, sentenced persons who are able to work shall
perform useful labor and shall agree to it.
ARTICLE 31. (1) Persons
sentenced to loss of freedom who are held in penitentiary establishments: a)
shall be paid for the socially useful labor they perform.
From that remuneration shall be deducted all necessary amounts to cover
the cost of their maintenance, to subsidize the needs of their family, and to
satisfy the civil responsibilities declared in the sentence, as well as any
other obligations legally established; b) they shall be provided clothing,
footwear and appropriate articles of essential use; c) they shall be given
daily normal rest and one day of rest per week; ch) they shall be given
medical and hospital care if sick; d) they shall be given the right to obtain
long-term social security benefits in cases of total disability arising from
work accidents. If, for the same
reason, the prisoner shall die, his family shall receive the corresponding
pension; e) they shall be given the opportunity to receive and expand their
cultural and technical skills; f) pursuant to the provisions of the
Regulations, they shall be afforded the opportunity to exchange correspondence
with persons not held in penitentiary facilities and receive visits and
consumer goods; they shall be authorized to use the conjugal facility; they
shall be given leave permits from the penitentiary establishment for limited
times; they shall be given the opportunity and the means to enjoy recreation
and to play sports in accordance with the activities scheduled by the
penitentiary establishment and they shall be promoted to better penitentiary
The sentencing court may extend to those who have been sentenced to
loss of freedom, for justified reasons and upon request, extra-penal leave for
as mush time as is considered necessary.
In addition, the minister of interior may extend the same for special
reasons, and shall communicate it to the President of the Popular Supreme
Persons younger than 27 years of age held in penitentiary
establishments shall receive technical instruction or shall be trained in the
performance of a trade in accordance with capacity and level of schooling.
(4) The time of the
extra-penal leave and of the leave permits from the penitentiary establishment
shall be credited to the time of the sentence that involves loss of freedom
provided that the sentenced person has displayed good conduct during the
enjoyment of the permit or the leave. In
addition, any reductions of time that have been granted to the sentenced
person during the time the sentence is being served shall be credited to that
The time that the sentenced person remains in a hospital establishment
because of alcoholism or habitual addiction that requires treatment shall be
counted in the time of the sentence imposed.
As for the sentenced person held in a penitentiary establishment who
has been the object of security measures as a result of symptoms of mental
disturbance, that person shall be subject to the provisions of the Law on
Penal Procedures for the purposes of counting the time that he is in such a
The Communist Party Manifesto issued during the V Congress held in
October 1997 mentions, among others, the following: Cuba will never restore capitalism because the Revolution
will never be overthrown. Cuba
continues living a socialist existence and will continue being socialist.
The Revolution must remain alert and mobilize ever more our people in
the struggle for the legality and the ethics of socialism.
The press, which went from the hands of the oligarchy into the hands of
the people through the Revolution to become truly free, has a vital role to
play in ideological struggle. The
mass communications media as well as educational and cultural establishments
have a great challenge before them: to
guarantee the continuity of the socialist, patriotic, anti-imperialist ideals
and values of the Revolution itself for future generations of Cubans.
The United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur, op.cit., p.12,