1.       The last report on the human rights situation in Cuba was approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during its 106th regular session.  The draft report had previously been transmitted to the Cuban State for its observations on March 1, 2000, pursuant to Article 63(h) of the Commission’s Regulations. The Cuban State refrained from submitting observations and, on April 13, 1999, the Commission adopted the final report, and decided to publish it in Chapter IV of the Annual Report for 1999.


2.       The Commission has continued to observe closely the way in which the human rights situation has evolved in the Republic of Cuba.  This report examines the most significant human rights-related events that have occurred in Cuba during the year 2000, and in the period leading up to the publication of this Annual Report.  It also includes an analysis of positive legislation adopted in Cuba, to determine whether it is compatible with the principles enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


3.       This report is divided into seven main sections.  The first section covers progress recorded or positive measures adopted by the Cuban State in the area of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  The second section contains a general assessment of the situation of human and political rights in Cuba, and the most significant events relating to freedom of expression, association and assembly, as well as the prevailing situation with respect to the right to justice and due process.  The third section analyzes economic, social and cultural rights in Cuba, while the fourth section (which is of particular importance to the Commission) examines the situation of the country's prison population.  In the fifth section, the Commission refers to economic sanctions and the need to suspend them definitively, in order to ensure full enjoyment of economic and social rights by the Cuban people, and a peaceful transition to a democratic system of government.  The conclusions and recommendations of the report are found in the sixth section.


4.       The Commission drew upon a variety of sources in preparing this report, including testimony given before the Commission at its regular sessions by alleged victims of human rights violations; complaints lodged against the Cuban State for alleged violations of the rights enshrined in the American Declaration; information provided by nongovernmental organizations, both in Cuba and abroad; reports from intergovernmental organizations; and publications of international academic institutions based on visits to Cuba. 





5.       One of the most important measures adopted by the Cuban State with respect to individual liberty was the release from prison of three of the four leaders of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna (Internal Dissidents' Working Group), who were sentenced to various prison terms in March 1999 for the crime of sedition.  These persons wrote and published a manifesto entitled "La Patria es de Todos" (The Homeland Belongs to All of Us), criticizing the thesis of the Fifth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), and analyzing the status of the economy, human rights and democracy in Cuba. The economist Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, the lawyer René Gómez Manzano, and the engineering professor Félix Bonne Carcasés were given conditional release in May 2000, but the former Cuban Air Force pilot, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, remains in prison.  The three dissidents who were released issued a communiqué on May 30, 2000, which included the following declaration:


When our group was imprisoned, the result of proceedings was the same for all of us, and we were sentenced for acts carried out jointly by the four of us.  Although there was no substantial difference between our individual actions, the penalties varied between 3 1/2 and 5 years.


It is clear that we could have been given conditional release more than a year ago, and this would certainly have happened if we had been given the same sentence.  Nevertheless, we recognize this gesture as positive, but we cannot consider it complete until our colleague is released from prison.


We do not believe there are any grounds for treating Vladimiro Roca Antúnez differently from the rest, and we request the Cuban authorities to release him, as an act that is just and necessary.[2]


It should be noted that the four members of the Internal Dissidents' Working Group (GTDI) were held in provisional confinement for 19 months.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has taken note of the imprisonment of these three dissidents, and hopes that the Cuban State will take the measures necessary for Vladimiro Roca Antúnez to be released immediately and unconditionally.


6.       With respect to the right to freedom of religion and worship, the State displayed greater tolerance during the period covered by this report.  It is important to note that the Head of the Catholic Church, John Paul II, designated July 9 as the day for worldwide celebration of the Jubilee in Prisons, and this took place in Cuba on July 9, 2000.  Cardinal Ortega celebrated the Jubilee in Prisons in the church of Caridad del Cobre in Havana.  Msgr. Ortega expressed his hope that in future he could say mass in any one of the country's 200 prisons.  The religious celebration was attended by several mothers of political prisoners, and by more than 100 dissidents, representing some 30 different groups.  An important fact is that the best-known dissidents had never before met in a church.  Among those attending the homily were Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, Osvaldo Payá Sardiñas, Aida Valdés Santana, and the recently released leaders of the Internal Dissidents' Working Group: Martha Beatríz Roque Cabello, René Gómez Manzano and Félix Bonne Carcassés.[3]  In Santiago de Cuba, as well, Bishop Pedro Meurice Estiú held a mass for the Jubilee in Prisons, in the Church of San Francisco de Asís, in which he asked the Cuban Government to declare an amnesty for political prisoners. Among the groups attending were the Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia [Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy], the Club de Presos y ex-Presos Políticos [Political Prisoners’ and Ex-Prisoners’ Club], the Frente de Perseguidos Políticos [Victims of Political Persecution], the Movimiento Seguidores de Chibás ]Chibas Monitors’ Movement] and the Forum Feminista [Feminist Forum].  A further sign of openness was the permission given by the Cuban State for more than a thousand children to take their First Communion at a mass celebrated on December 9, 2000, in front of the San Carlos Seminary, in Old Havana.  Mass was said by the Bishop of the city of Cienfuegos, Msgr. Emilio Aramburem; for the event, an altar was set up and folding chairs were placed in the La Maestranza Park.  Nearly 3000 believers attended the ceremony. As well, in September 2000, hundreds of believers paraded around several blocks in the center of Havana, following the procession of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the Patroness of Cuba, led by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana.  This procession, which began at the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, was the third to be held since the statue was returned in September 1998 following the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba.  During the year 2000, according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (COC), public processions marking this date on the Cuban religious calendar were also held in Cienfuegos and Santa Clara, in the center of the island, and in the eastern districts of Camaguey, Ciego de Ávila, Bayamo and Manzanillo.


7.       With respect to religious freedoms, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, an international academic institution that has been working with Cuba since 1996 on human rights promotion and education, expanded its efforts to promote human rights in the field of religion.  During the period covered by this report, it held a conference on human rights and dispute settlement, with some 50 religious and lay representatives.  The event was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Havana and was held in the capital, with the participation of the Executive Director of the IIHR, Roberto Cuellar, accompanied by Ligia Bolívar, consultant, Daniel Baldizón and Ronalth Ochaeta, program officers of the IIHR.  The event took place in a free and open atmosphere, and generated hopes that both the IIHR and the Cuban Catholic Church could expand their two-way cooperation.  As well, the IIHR sent a mission to Cuba in December 1999 to attend the symposium on "Apostolic Exhortation: Anthropological, Economic and Social Implications in Cuba”, hosted by the Cuban Catholic Church in Havana, December 1 to 3.  The IIHR took advantage of this occasion to participate in the "First Regional Seminar for Teachers”, sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Cuban Red Cross, which was attended by more than 40 university teachers from the Caribbean and Central America.[4]


8.       With respect to freedom of assembly, the Cuban State allowed dissidents to meet on December 15 and 16, 2000, for the "Seminar on the Present and Future of the Cuban Economy from the Viewpoint of Civil Society".  This academic event was hosted by the Cátedra de Estudios Sociales y Humanísticos Padre Félix Varela, and was intended to foster thinking and debate and offer viable solutions to current and future problems of the Cuban economy, as seen by civil society, taking into account both cultural heritage and universal experience.  The seminar discussions had an academic focus, and related to the following issues: 1) conceptual problems with the various forms of ownership; 2) the importance of family remittances in the Cuban economy; 3) small and medium-scale enterprises: business ownership; 4) repercussions of the current situation on the family economy; and 5) the Cuban and world economies: globalization and integration.


9.       Under the aegis of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, visited Cuba from June 7 to 12, 1999, in response to an invitation from the Cuban government issued on August 17, 1998.  This fact in itself constituted a positive step forward, since, as the Special Rapporteur noted, "this was the first time that the government had issued an invitation to a United Nations human rights body.  Government representatives welcomed the Special Rapporteur warmly, and the Ministry of Foreign Relations and its Vice Minister, in particular, indicated that her visit would set a precedent for possible future invitations to other special rapporteurs that had asked to visit Cuba".[5] In her report, issued on February 8, 2000, the Special Rapporteur examined the situation of violence against women in Cuba, from the viewpoint of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and concluded that there was a need for other human rights agencies to conduct a more detailed study of the human rights situation in Cuba.  In this respect, among the positive measures adopted by the Cuban State, the report notes that “the Cuban revolution of 1959 was cited by all the Special Rapporteur’s interlocutors as the turning point for Cuban women. It is held that women’s full participation in development and in society has been gradually achieved in the past 40 years, since the revolution. Women’s liberation has progressed in the professional sphere, in urban life and in rural areas. According to statistics provided to the Special Rapporteur, women in Cuba represent 58 per cent of university graduates, and occupy 65.5 per cent of professional and technical positions in the country and 30.5 per cent of management positions. Currently, 27.6 per cent of parliamentarians are women. The Special Rapporteur was pleased with the feminization of the judiciary: 70 per cent of judicial professionals and 60.2 per cent of judges in Cuba are women. Cuba is one country where the progress of women has resulted in the need to consider quotas for men in certain university disciplines, such as medicine. The Cuban revolution has resulted in a great deal of benefit for women. This was a conclusion that was rarely contested by any party, group or individual the Special Rapporteur spoke to.”[6]




A.      Discrimination on political grounds in relation to the lack of freedom of expression, association, and assembly


10.     The Inter-American Commission has continued to receive numerous complaints of persons who have been imprisoned arbitrarily for attempting to exercise peacefully their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Commission was informed that on the days preceding February 24, 2001, agents of the Cuban State Security department throughout the island moved to block activities scheduled in commemoration of the downing of aircraft of the organization “Hermanos al Rescate” ["Brothers to the Rescue"], which took place in international airspace and in which four civilian pilots died at the hands of the Cuban Air Force (FAC).


11.     According to information provided, Ricardo González, a member of the Liberal Party, had programmed the activity for the afternoon of February 23, 2001.  Yet on the morning of that day, State Security agents deployed near his home blocked the arrival of participants.  On the morning of February 24, 2001, Joaquín Iglesias Torres, President of the Democratic Movement for Human Rights [Movimiento Democrático Pro Derechos Humanos] was arrested at his home by an officer of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and a State Security agent, Miguel Echenique.  That same morning Roger Morales Rey, Yunier Iglesias Silva and Jesús Jersen Garcés were arrested on the Puerto Padre pier, as they attempted to toss flowers into the sea in commemoration of the event.  These persons were taken to the police station and their flowers were confiscated.  They were released an hour later.


12.     On the afternoon February 24, 2001, the home of Leonardo Bruzón Avila was surrounded by State Security officers, who blocked the arrival of human rights activists.  Avila had scheduled a commemorative ceremony for eight o'clock that night.  In the town of Santa Clara, the home of Lester González was besieged by eight State Security officers, who prevented him from leaving his house.  Lester González was arrested at 5 PM and taken by two officers in a taxi, license plate VC 2009, for a distance of some 70 kilometers from the town of Santa Clara.  On the way, the victim was threatened and physically mistreated by the officers, because of his human rights activities.  González was released at 7 PM, three kilometers from his home.


13.     On the same day, two human rights activists, Aida Valdé Santana and Eddie Espinosa Franco, were arrested at their homes.  Antonio Alfonso Mesa was intercepted by State Security agents as he was driving to the home of Leonardo Bruzón Avila, President of the Movimiento 24 de Febrero, to commemorate that day.  Mesa was obliged to leave the vicinity.  On February 22, 2001, Ricardo González, an independent journalist, and Pedro Crespo, a priest of the Orthodox church, were also detained.  On February 22, as well, Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, president of the Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional [Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation], and Héctor Palacios Ruíz, of the Center for Social Studies, where taken from their homes by State Security agents and driven to the police station at Seventh Avenue and 62nd Street in the town of Playa.


14.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is profoundly concerned by these events, because they violate rights enshrined in the American Convention on the Rights and Duties of Man.  In fact, Article XXV of that instrument provides that “No person may be deprived of his liberty except in the cases and according to the procedures established by pre-existing law.  "No person may be deprived of liberty for nonfulfillment of obligations of a purely civil character…  Every individual who has been deprived of his liberty has the right to have the legality of his detention ascertained without delay by a court, and the right to be tried without undue delay or, otherwise, to be released."  The Commission also considers that all persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Cuban State must enjoy the rights to the freedom of expression, association and assembly enshrined in Articles IV, XXI and XXII of the American Declaration.  The persons arrested by the Cuban State were attempting to exercise those rights in a peaceful manner and, therefore, the restrictions to which they were subjected may be deemed to constitute violations of their human rights.


15.     Another extremely serious case that came to the Commission's attention recently was the arrest of two citizens of the Czech Republic, who were held for 23 days.  The former Minister of Finance and current Parliamentary Deputy Ivan Pilip, and the former student leader and current representative of a nongovernmental organization in the Czech Republic, Jan Bubenik, were arrested in the province of Avila on January 12, 2001, and accused of sedition and acts contrary to State Security, crimes stipulated in Articles 99 and 124 of the Cuban Penal Code.  The crime that these Czech citizens had committed was to meet, in a peaceful manner, with Antonio Femenías, an independent journalist of the Patria news agency, and Roberto Valdivia, a member of the Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos.  Yet the Cuban State issued a statement in the official press on January 16, 2001, indicating, among other things, that "those who so grossly violate our laws and attempt to conspire against the revolution have no right to impunity whatever, regardless of their position or rank (…) their visit had nothing to do with tourism, and their real purposes were to make contact with counterrevolutionary elements, give them instructions and deliver them resources (…) was to maintain subversive contact with members of counterrevolutionary groups (…) the Czech agents will be turned over to the courts, which will decide what measures to take."  The Czech Republic, together with Poland, cosponsored a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Commission condemning the human rights situation in Cuba, and this was issued in April 2000, in Geneva.  On April 18, 2000, the Cuban authorities organized a march of the "fighting people" in front of the diplomatic office of the Czech Republic in Havana, as a protest against the United Nations resolution.  The two Czech citizens were released on February 5, 2001.


16.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights draws attention to the international obligation of the Cuban State with respect to the rights of assembly and association, enshrined in Articles XXI and XXII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  As well, it reiterates the principle enshrined in Article XXVI of that international instrument, which reads: “Every accused person is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty," and therefore the public accusations in the official press against the Czech citizens could have constituted pre-judgment of the alleged crimes, before those persons were tried by the Cuban courts.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that the State has the obligation to ensure that any person subject to its jurisdiction, and accused of a crime, has a fair trial.  A press campaign, in media that are dominated by the State, can have an adverse effect on the fairness of the process, particularly when such a campaign is promoted by one of the organs of that same State.


17.     This is not an isolated event in the history of human rights in Cuba.  Several international human rights organizations categorize the year 2000 as one that showed no progress in respect to civil and human rights.  Thus for example, the organization Human Rights Watch/Americas declared that,


despite a few positive developments over the course of the year, the Cuban government's human rights practices were generally arbitrary and repressive. Hundreds of peaceful opponents of the government remained behind bars, and many more were subject to short-term detentions, house arrest, surveillance, arbitrary searches, evictions, travel restrictions, politically-motivated dismissals from employment, threats, and other forms of harassment. (…) Cuba's repressive human rights practices were undergirded by the country's legal and institutional structure. The rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and of the press remained restricted under Cuban law. By criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of "unauthorized news," and the insulting of patriotic symbols, the government effectively denied freedom of speech under the guise of protecting State Security. The authorities also imprisoned or ordered the surveillance of individuals who had committed no illegal act, relying upon laws penalizing "dangerousness" (estado peligroso) and allowing for "official warning" (advertencia oficial).[7]


18.     With respect to the freedom of expression, the organization Reporters Sans Frontières, in its Annual Report 2000, concluded the following:


Cuba is today the only Latin American country with a government that, in decreeing that freedom of the press must "conform to the objectives of a socialist society”, exercises total control over the information that reaches its people.  It is also the only country in the region where journalists are put in jail.  To maintain this state of affairs, the authorities rely not only on outright repression but also on social isolation of independent journalists.  The government has many repressive tools at its disposal, from confiscating materials and erecting other obstacles to the work of independent journalists, to arresting them and sentencing them to long prison terms.  The department of State Security is the principal agency for executing this policy, the purpose of which is to give journalists the choice between prison or exile.[8]


19.     The Inter-American Press Association, in its report on "Freedom of the Press 2000", referred to the case of the independent journalists Bernabé Arévalo Padrón, Joel de Jesús Díaz Hernández and Manuel González Castellanos, “who are in prison without having committed any crime, but for just exercising the human right of free expression through the modest means available to independent journalists in Cuba”. In this respect, the IAPA resolved as follows:


To raise its voice in protest at the more than 41 years of silence imposed on the Cuban press through the general seizure of all independent media, which has no precedent in Latin America; to reiterate its condemnation of the totalitarian government of Cuba for the jailing, repression and harassment of independent journalists; to demand that the Cuban government release the three journalists jailed for exercising the human right of free expression; to reiterate the request made at the Midyear Meeting in Cancún, Mexico, that member newspapers of the IAPA publish news from the independent Cuban news agencies and that when their correspondents travel to the island they visit the independent journalists as a sign of solidarity.”[9]


20.     In another report, presented during the mid-year meeting of the IAPA in Cancun, Mexico, the organization noted that “the government has stepped up efforts to close the openings to freedom that independent journalists have defended against all odds. Harassment, intimidation and jail are some of the weapons most frequently used by the authorities to suppress the right of dissident journalists to inform and express themselves.  Within this framework, the Cuban regime has put into effect what appears to be a new mode of controlling the press: a sort of de facto house arrest that has been applied to more than 10 reporters just as they were about to cover events potentially uncomfortable for the government. (…)  The opening months of the new year have brought more repression for Cuban journalists. The IAPA regional vice chairman for Cuba, Raúl Rivero, has described this period as ‘one of the most critical and somber for the independent press movement’. The regime has attacked the Cuban journalists in different ways, abusing them physically, arresting them and confiscating their equipment-all with the purpose of preventing them from doing their work freely.”[10] The report presented to the General Assembly of the IAPA, in Santiago, Chile, in October 2000, declared that:


The government maintains its hard-line control of independent journalists and press. Among noteworthy incidents were the arrest and expulsion of foreign correspondents visiting Cuba and intensification of political propaganda in the official media.  In August, three Swedish journalists were arrested, interrogated and deported from the country and a French journalist was questioned when she was about to board a plane to return home. In both cases, the journalists had met with representatives of the independent press in Cuba. While propaganda campaigns in the media are nothing new, it is worth noting that the current daily barrage of TV programs, rallies, round tables and political slogans has significantly reduced the time for news programs.[11]


21.     Amnesty International reported the following in its Annual Report for the year 2000:


Dissidents, who included journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders, suffered severe harassment during the year. Several hundred people remained imprisoned for political offences, some of whom were recognized by AI as prisoners of conscience. Some trials of prisoners of conscience took place which did not conform to international standards. (…) There were some reports of ill-treatment. Prisoners were sometimes subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. (…)  Freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be severely limited in law and in practice. Those who attempted to organize meetings, express views or form organizations that conflicted with government policy were subjected to punitive measures and harassment. These included short-term detention, interrogation, threats, intimidation, eviction, loss of employment, restrictions on travel, house searches, house arrests, phone bugging and physical and verbal acts of aggression carried out by government supporters.[12]


22.     The testimony of these organizations points to a continuation of the pattern of human rights violations from previous years and, in particular, in the year 2000.  It is clear that the changes made in 1998, in light of the visit of His Holiness John Paul II to Cuba, at a time when expectations were running high, have been progressively diluted and must be considered merely interim measures.  The Commission must express its concern over repressive actions against peaceful opponents, journalists and human rights activists who, year after year, suffer harassment and discrimination for political reasons at the hands of the Cuban authorities.  Violations of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association have been legitimized in the Constitution and in criminal law, in a manner completely incompatible with the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and institutionalized by the State in order to restrict and prevent the exercise of those public freedoms.  The constitutional and criminal law provisions relating to such concepts as "enemy propaganda", "contempt for authority", "illegal association", "clandestine printing", “dangerousness", "rebellion", "acts against State security", "official warning", "pre-crime and post-crime security measures", "links or relationships to persons potentially dangerous to society", "socialist legality", "socially dangerous", are incompatible with the American Declaration and with the universal principles for the protection of human rights[13].  The Commission will continue in its reports to insist that these measures be withdrawn.


23.     Harassment, disciplinary measures, accusations, temporary arrests, dismissals from work, official warnings, and prison sentences against peaceful opponents, journalists, labor unionists and human rights activists have sparked various reactions in the international community.  On April 18, 2000, the United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a resolution condemning Cuba for violations of human rights.  In that resolution, the Commission, inter alia,  “reiterates its concern about the continued repression of members of the political opposition and about the detention of dissidents, including the members of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna”, and “calls upon the Government of Cuba to release all the persons detained or imprisoned for peacefully expressing their political, religious and social views and for exercising their rights to full and equal participation in public affairs.”  It also urges “the Government of Cuba to open a dialogue with the political opposition” and “to afford the country full and open contact with other countries, in order to ensure the enjoyment of all human rights for all Cuban people by utilizing international cooperation, by allowing a freer flow of people and ideas and by drawing on the experience and support of other nations.” [14] At the beginning of this report, the Commission referred to the visit to Cuba of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and her comments on positive measures taken by the Cuban State in favor of women.  The Special Rapporteur, however, had observations for the Cuban State with respect to discrimination against Cuban women for political reasons.  In this respect, she declared, inter alia, that "one vulnerable group of women in Cuba are the women whose political views are not acceptable to the Government.  The refusal to accept independent political and civil organizations that would act as watchdogs vis‑à‑vis the Government is the main cause of this vulnerability.  The Special Rapporteur received allegations and information about many cases of women being arbitrarily detained for political or journalistic activism.  The Special Rapporteur entered into a dialogue with the Attorney General about two compelling cases.  The Special Rapporteur was told that she could meet the woman detained in one of these cases when she visited the prison, but when she arrived she was told that the woman in question was unwell and in hospital.  The problem of arbitrary detention remains one of the most serious violations of human rights in Cuba, even with regard to cases involving violence against women.”[15]


24.     For its part, the European Union has made no change in its Common Position, which conditioned full economic cooperation with Cuba on improvements in its respect for human rights and fundamental liberties. This Common Position was adopted in 1996, with a request to the Cuban State to reform its national legislation relating to civil and political rights, including the Cuban Criminal Code and, consequently, to put an end to political imprisonment and to cease the harassment and repression against dissidents. But in February 2000 Cuba formally requested integration into the multilateral grouping established under the Lomé Convention, a trade and aid agreement linking the European Union to African, Caribbean and Pacific States. The application sparked considerable debate about whether Cuba's association would be consistent with the agreement's criteria on democracy and human rights. In April, however, the debate was mooted by Cuba's decision to withdraw its application, because several members of the European Community had supported the United Nations resolution condemning Cuba for human rights violations. The Cuban government also cancelled a visit planned for late April by senior EU officials. Yet in August, Cuba expressed renewed interest in associating with the EU's aid pact, now called the Cotonou Agreement.[16]


25.     The analysis in the preceding paragraphs is confirmed by the many complaints received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during the period covered by this report, claiming discrimination on political grounds and systematic violations of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly by the Cuban State.  Following is a summary of the most notable complaints.


a.       A new form of harassment and intimidation against human rights activists and dissidents has been introduced by the Cuban State Security department.  On the morning of January 12, 2001, State Security agents in Havana arrested León Padrón Ascuy, and left him several hours later in an area well beyond the city.  He was seized and bundled into a car and taken to the outskirts of the Cuban capital.  On the way, the victim was subjected to psychological pressures and interrogated about his relationship with a dissident named Héctor Palacio Ruíz.  Padrón Ascuy lives in the city of El Vedado and works with the Center of Social Studies directed by Héctor Palacio.  After having been subjected to all kinds of threats and verbal abuses, Padrón Ascuy was thrown out of the car at a point far from his residence.  This procedure of the State Security forces is used to create an atmosphere of intimidation, while leaving no record of arbitrary arrest.


b.       Maritza Lugo Fernández, 37 years old, president of the Democratic Party, and resident of Finca Baraguá, Town of San Miguel del Padrón, was arrested on December 15, 2000, on charges of "inciting to crime".  This dissident is still confined to the women's prison of Manto Negro, renamed by the Cuban State the "New Dawn” prison.  Maritza Lugo is ill with chronic gastritis, she suffers from a fibroma, and she has lost considerable weight.  In the past she has received prison sentences of five months and as long as two years.  She has been arbitrarily arrested more than ten times, and has been held together with common criminals and persons with highly dangerous mental illnesses.  On some occasions she was held in cells without access to light, and with no medical attention, and subjected to psychological torture in interrogations directed by the State Security department.  Because of her defense of human rights, Marietta has been listed as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.  This dissident is the leader of an opposition group that is seeking peaceful means for the transition to democracy in Cuba, through resistance and civil disobedience.  She is married to Rafael Ibarra, a political prisoner who was sentenced to 20 years for his efforts on behalf of democracy and human rights in Cuba, and she is the mother of two young girls.  It should be noted that her home, which is the headquarters of the Democratic Party, was taken over by the police on August 25 to 27, 2000, in order to prevent political opposition workshops from being held.  In the course of this operation, Maritza Lugo was detained and questioned for some three hours at State Security offices in Villa Marista by Col. Soroa, who threatened her, saying that “her days were over” if she did not turn over some videos.


c.       On December 7, 2000, the Fraternidad de Ciegos Independientes de Cuba [Independent Blind Fraternity of Cuba] (FRACIC) reported two cases in which officials of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT) mistreated blind Cubans, one in the capital and the other in the city of Avila.  The first of these persons, Luis Fuentes Alvarez, a member of FRACIC, was arrested on December 1 as he was preparing to take part in a peaceful protest against the congress of the pro-government National Association of the Blind (ANCI) in Havana.  Hours later the political police released him.  The other person, Arquímedes Quintana Aguilar, a deputy delegate of FRACIC, was intercepted by an unknown person at the bus station in Avila.  He was selling candies, which was his only way of making a living, when he was accosted and insulted by the stranger.  The Commission has been informed that, over the last months, Quintana Aguilar has been mistreated, insulted and threatened on various opportunities by persons who refused to identify themselves.  Both the National Revolutionary Police and the State Security department are organs of the Ministry of the Interior.  As well, information has been received that the Rapid Action Brigades, dressed in civilian clothing, are used by the State to repress peaceful opposition.


d.       Freedom of expression was also severely repressed during the period covered by this report.  The Inter-American Press Association described several cases in its October 2000 report, including that of Luis Alberto Rivera, who leads a small group of journalists in the Prensa Libre Oriental news agency, in the city of Santiago de Cuba.  During August and September 2000, Rivera was the object of a series of direct repressive acts, including arrests, interrogations, physical searches in public places, threats of imprisonment and constant harassment, including a search of his home and surveillance over his movements.  The pressures against independent journalists continued, under many guises and forms, throughout the country, but went to the extreme in Havana.  Gabriela Céspedes, the two-year-old daughter of the journalist Dorka Céspedes, of the Havana Press Agency, was expelled from her childcare center in September, on orders of State Security agents, who told the center's managers to expel her because "her mother engages in counterrevolutionary activities".  In early October 2000, Jaime Leigonier Fernández, an independent journalist with the NotiCuba agency, was arrested and held for three hours in the State Security department, and threatened with application of Law 88[17].  This 46-year-old journalist was taken from his home in Santos Suarez at about 2:45 PM by agents of the State Security department, who failed to inform his relatives as to where or why they were taking them.  After he was released, at around 5:00 that same day, Leigonier Fernández said that they took him to a house in an area of Havana and threatened to charge him under Law 88 because of his information activities.  A month before this event, he had been questioned at NotiCuba, a fact that reinforces the view that the political police have targeted people involved in independent journalism. It is said that these actions are intended to prevent the group from re-forming and becoming stronger, after many of its journalists were forced into exile.[18]


e.       On August 9, 2000, agents of the State Security department, posing as journalists for Cuba Press penetrated the offices of the agency and took away boxes, files, office materials, magazines, books on journalism and general documentation about the agency.  On September 15, 2000, the journalist Iría Rodiles, who had founded the independent journalism movement under the pseudonym of Ernestina Rosell, was questioned for four hours by State Security agents.  On July 13, 2000, when a group of peaceful opponents were commemorating the sinking of the tugboat "13 de Marzo" by placing a floral wreath in the sea, a group of independent journalists were attacked by State Security agents.  The police interrupted the ceremony violently, and the reporters Marilyn Lahera and José Antonio Reinier of Santiago Press, who were covering the event, were injured.  Days earlier, on July 7, 2000, the journalist Carmelo Diaz, director of the Sindicatos Libres [Free Labor Unions] Agency, was visited at his home in Havana by a State Security officer who threatened to take him to prison if he continued to give out information on labor issues.  On July 15, 2000, officers of the Ministry of the Interior took the journalist Ricardo González Alfonso to a house on the outskirts of the city, where they questioned him for six hours and attempted to persuade him to become a secret agent for the Cuban State within the ranks of alternative journalism.  González publicly denounced this proposition.  On July 16 of that year, two other journalists, José Antonio Fornaris and Osvaldo Céspedes, were detained by police as they were going to mass at a church in downtown Havana, where dozens of opposition members had congregated to commemorate the Jubilee in the Prisons, in accordance with the Catholic calendar.[19]


f.       In late January 2000, two presumed employees of the "Antonio Masao" airport of Santiago de Cuba subjected the opposition leader Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina to a search, and attempted to implicate him in drug trafficking.  Rodriguez Lobaina, 34 years old, is president of the Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia [Young Cubans for Democracy Movement] and the champion of a plan to reform the country's universities.  The pair, dressed as employees of the airport in Santiago de Cuba, intercepted Rodríguez Lobaina and took him into one of the bathrooms, where they searched him and attempted to incriminate him for carrying an envelope containing a small quantity of white powder, which one of the employees said was cocaine.  Shortly afterwards, a Customs officials showed up with a portable laboratory, and after a brief analysis determined that the powder was not cocaine. Rodríguez Lobaina, upon arrival at José Martí airport in Havana, called customs officials and asked them to search his luggage, fearing that someone in Santiago could have hidden some narcotic in his bags. No such substance was found, but there were some personal belongings missing, which Rodríguez reported.  A month earlier, Rodríguez Lobaina was taken in a car about 25 kilometers outside of Santiago, and after what the dissident called a "simulated execution" was left by himself in the middle of nowhere. In the past, Rodríguez Lobaina has served two sentences, one of two years and the other of 18 months, for posing a social danger and for displaying disrespect to the Cuban leader.


g.       In March 2000, agents of the State Security department (DSE) conducted a campaign of harassment against farmers in the province of Santiago de Cuba, who had declared themselves independent and had set up a cooperative not subject to the socialist State.  On the morning of March 4, DSE Capt. Armando Saburén and another officer showed up in Jutinicu and threatened the president of the National Alliance of Independent Farmers of Cuba (ANAIC), Antonio Alonso Pérez.  On the pretext of holding a "conversation" with Alonso, the two agents urged him to withdraw from the independent cooperatives project, arguing that "it is a sound and viable plan, but only if it works hand-in-hand with the revolution and not with people who are trying to run these initiatives from outside".  The president of the ANAIC refused these arguments, and rejected the conditions put forward by the State Security agents.  In addition, Alonso told them that, through independent cooperatives, farmers were finding real solutions to their problems.  At that point, the security agents threatened the cooperative leader.  In another incident, the day before, National Police officers arrested the ANAIC coordinator for the eastern region, Humberto Melo Arias, and confiscated his identity card in order to prevent him from moving about the region.  The law prohibits the confiscation of this document.  Both Alonso and Melo declared that the authorities took this step because of the obvious example that was being set by the prosperous independent cooperative movement and the benefits it offered farmers of the province.


h.       In March 2000, again, a member of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, Adel Jiménez Cintra, and his family members were threatened by officers of the Rapid Action Brigades, who told him "if you continue with your counterrevolutionary activities we're going to beat you up."  A few days earlier, this dissident was summoned by the local police chief, Florisbel Acosta, who is also the "People's Power" delegate for the district, and he too told Jiménez that he would be beaten if he continued to oppose the government of Fidel Castro, because "in Cuba the streets belong to the revolutionaries".  A similar event took place in the province of Matanzas, against the Sigler-Amaya family.  On that occasion, several members of the family were severely injured and later arrested by officers of the State Security Department.  The attackers were never detained by the police, and there is no record that they were ever formally charged.  On May 21, 2000, members of the Rapid Action Brigades surrounded the church of Jesús del Monte and kept it under surveillance while an interdenominational youth choir performed.  The choir members, whose ages were between 17 and 18 years, were students completing their final high-school year and living in San Francisco, U.S.A.  The parishioners expressed their surprise and disgust at the fact that they were being kept under constant surveillance by a group of some 20 officers, who, when mass was over and the youth choir was leaving, entered the church and mingled with the worshipers.[20]


i.        The Human Rights Watch/Americas organization revealed in its latest report that Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, a long-time government opponent who wrote for the Union of Independent Cuban Journalists and Writers (Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes), was sentenced on January 25 to six months of imprisonment for "hoarding" toys. Police had confiscated toys that he had planned to give away to poor children in his area; they had been paid for by Cuban exiles in Miami. Just after Arroyo's trial, the Cuban authorities freed another independent journalist, Leonardo de Varona González, who had served a sixteen-month sentence for "insulting" President Fidel Castro. At least three other independent journalists remained incarcerated: Bernardo Arévalo Padrón and Manuel Antonio González Castellanos, serving sentences of six years and of two years and seven months, respectively, for "insulting" Castro; and Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández, serving four years for "dangerousness," who was reportedly held in solitary confinement until early August. On October 16, after his release from prison, Arroyo was reportedly beaten and insulted by State Security agents. He and another dissident were picked up from a friend's house, driven to the police station in Güines, beaten en route, and then driven dozens of miles away and released after being beaten again.[21]


j.        The same organization reported that foreign journalists, too, faced government harassment if they attempted to work with or assist their Cuban colleagues. Italian freelance journalist Carmen Butta was reportedly detained by police on June 18 after meeting with independent journalists as part of her research for a story on the Cuban independent press. In August, three Swedish journalists were arrested in Havana by State Security agents. They had traveled to Cuba on tourist visas but had held a seminar on press freedom for independent journalists. The three were deported after spending two days in detention. Earlier that same month, French journalist Martine Jacot was detained and interrogated at the Havana airport by six members of the Cuban security forces. She had spent a week in Cuba interviewing independent journalists and family members of incarcerated journalists. Jacot's equipment, including a video camera, was seized, as were some documents.[22]


26.     The evidence examined in this section of the report leads the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conclude that the Cuban State has not amended the repressive pattern of behavior employed in previous years against persons or groups seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, without censure or restrictions.  It is also clear that, far from promulgating laws consistent with international human rights standards, the Cuban State has issued new rules that restrict fundamental freedoms even further.  Official elements of the Cuban State have declared their view that any activity in defense of human rights must be intended to destroy the political system and promote foreign interests.  These groups are not only systematically harassed, but deprecated as "counterrevolutionaries" and "factions".  The Commission reiterates that these groups not only have the right to free exercise of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, but constitute a form of pluralism that is essential to guaranteeing the rights recognized in the various international human rights instruments.


27.     There is considerable testimony and evidence of systematic control over the daily life of every citizen, through the State apparatus, intended to restrict the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association.  Such control is often exercised through the workplace, the schools, or the neighborhood.  According to Article 38 of the Cuban Constitution, education has an ideological orientation, and parents have the duty to contribute actively to the education and comprehensive training of their children as useful citizens prepared for life in a socialist society, while Article 39 provides that the State must base its education and culture policy on Marxist ideals and must encourage patriotic education and communist training for new generations.  A respected dissident, Osvaldo Payá Sardinas, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, issued a declaration from Havana on how people's rights are being stifled by the State-controlled media:


Today the government of Cuba and its journalists speak of the war of ideas, but what they do best is to wage war against ideas, through the use of force, a war in which those who have other opinions are not allowed to express them, a war that fills the air with half-truths and prevents citizens from speaking, debating and proposing solutions to the great problems affecting the country.  A war against the ideas of freedom.  Rights are stifled, those who defend rights are persecuted and their intentions distorted.  We dissidents are defending all rights, for all Cubans.


The violation and silencing of these rights is the primary cause of most of the serious problems that Cubans are suffering.  The lack of freedom of expression and association leaves the citizen and the various sectors of society without any means to defend their interests, to protest, to criticize, to propose and to exercise popular sovereignty.  These rights are crushed beneath a structure of absolute and totalitarian power, where the majority are poor and many of those in power have privileges.  Poverty, humiliation, the culture of fear and confiscation of our people's future rely and persist on the basis of a regime where there are no rights.


We demand that the mass media give publicity to human rights, so that Cubans can discover them -- or are they afraid?  The so-called roundtables must deal with issues affecting Cuba, and people and ideas of all kinds must participate in them.  We can debate with people of the government and its press on issues that they are always talking about, and we may agree more or less, but we have to speak out about what they never talk of: the silenced rights of Cubans, solutions, about why it is that a few are now rich because of political power, but above all about what is vital and urgent for the people.  We must speak then about the need to "discover rights in Cuba".  And if there are any doubts, we must ask the people in a Popular Referendum.  This is what the Varela Project asks: give the people what is theirs, what no government or party can take from, because only God can give it: freedom[23].


28.     This evidence again demonstrates how the Cuban State is completely ignoring its international obligations in relation to freedom of expression, assembly and association, rights enshrined in Articles IV, XXI, and XXII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.[24] The Commission considers, as well, that the systematic violations of the rights of assembly and association prevent Cuban citizens from being free to associate with whom they choose, without being subject to sanctions in the exercise of their other civil, political, economic and social rights, as a consequence of such association.  In Cuba, the State, by means of Article 54 of the Constitution[25], guarantees the right to association, in theory.  Nevertheless, in practice, the law[26] and regulations[27] on associations allow for systematic violation of this right, since they prevent any association that is truly independent from gaining legal recognition.  Human Rights Watch/Americas noted in its last publication on Cuba that “Cuba's Justice Ministry can only grant legal status to associations willing to accept broad State interference in their activities and arbitrary State authority to shut them down. Under the Associations Law, members of human rights groups, professional organizations of doctors, economists, and teachers, independent labor unions, women's rights groups, and other independent organizations risk prosecution simply for belonging to their group or for carrying out any activities without authorization. (…)  Persons involved in unauthorized associations risk criminal sanctions ranging from three months to a year, plus fines. Several other criminal code provisions also restrict the freedom of association.”[28]


29.     The same organization also notes that in the approval process, “the first-level review of a potential association is carried out by highly politicized government bodies. If aspiring groups seek to function at the municipal or provincial level, then the local Executive Committee of the Assembly of Popular Power reviews their application. If a group plans work on the national level, then it must present its application to the ‘State organ, organism, or dependency that is related to the objectives and activities that the association will carry out.  The first review must be completed in ninety days, after which the Justice Ministry has sixty days to accept or reject the prospective application.  Government reviewers have ample authority to reject aspiring associations for arbitrary or politicized reasons.”[29]  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women confirms this, as follows:


While the Special Rapporteur was pleased to see the interest taken by the Government of Cuba in the economic and social rights of women, the Special Rapporteur, along with many of her counterparts, remains concerned about the enjoyment of civil and political liberties within Cuba.  Certain aspects of human rights are considered the legacy of bourgeois liberal democracy.  The Cuban Government is of the view that individuals enjoy full civic and political rights within a socialist framework.  Although members of the Government and its sympathizers are well taken care of, there is no real opposition outside that framework.  There is limited freedom of association, and freedom of speech is restricted to certain political parameters.  In this sense, women’s general political and civil rights are not respected.  Although there is vibrant discussion within the officially accepted civil organizations, the lack of organizations that are financially and ideologically independent of government denies the possibility of a watchful, creative civil society.  The need for civil and political rights to be extended must be emphasized, if women are to have full participation in civil society and government.[30]


30.     The juridical framework used by the Cuban authorities to repress those who dare to exercise the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly has its origins in the Cuban Constitution itself:


Article 62. None of the freedoms recognized to vest in citizens may be exercised against what is established in the Constitution and the laws, nor against the existence and aims of the socialist State, nor against the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Any infraction of this principle is punishable.


31.     This last phrase of Article 62 of the Cuban Constitution--"any infraction of this principle is punishable"--is applied by the Cuban authorities, together with the Cuban Criminal Code, to repress any type of peaceful opposition to the regime in power.  In effect, there are many provisions of criminal law that specifically forbid the exercise of fundamental freedoms, while others are of such imprecision and subjectivity that they offer broad room for discretion on the part of State agents in repressing any dissent against official policy.  Thus, crimes against State Security, as codified in the Cuban Criminal Code and applied against most human rights activists, labor unionists and independent journalists, and peaceful opponents of the regime in general, include: "enemy propaganda", "social dangerousness", "rebellion", "contempt of authority", "illegal association", "defamation of heroes and martyrs", "public disorder", "sedition", etc.


32.     The crime of enemy propaganda is codified in Article 103 of the Criminal Code[31] and provides direct punishment for the exercise of the freedom of expression and association, by establishing a penalty of 1 to 8 years for anyone who: "insights against the social order, international solidarity for the socialist State, by means of oral, written or any other form of propaganda; produces, distributes or possesses propaganda of the kind mentioned in the preceding clause".  This same Article also provides that those who "disseminate false news or malicious predictions tending to cause alarm or discontent among the population, or public disorder are liable to prison terms of 7 to 15 years.  If, in the exercise of the acts described in the previous sections, the mass media are used, the penalty will be imprisonment for 7 to 15 years.  Anyone who allows the mass media to be used in the ways referred to above is liable to imprisonment of 1 to 4 years."  Human Rights Watch has commented on this Article as follows:


The crime of enemy propaganda clearly infringes on the universally recognized rights to free speech, free exchange of information, and free association. The particularly heavy sanctions for the crime work as a powerful deterrent to the free expression of ideas. A prohibition on enemy propaganda might be acceptable in times of war, if narrowly defined. Yet, the broadly-defined Cuban provision does not allow for such an exception, undercutting Cuban claims that restrictions on free speech are legitimate in the struggle against the United States. Cuba perpetuates shocking injustices under the guise of prosecuting counter-revolutionaries who engage in enemy propaganda.[32]


33.     The crime of clandestine printing [Clandestinidad de impresos] codified in Article 210 of the Criminal Code is also used by the Cuban authorities to violate the right to freedom of expression, in particular with respect to independent journalists.  That Article provides that “anyone who produces, disseminates, or directs the circulation of publications without indicating the printer or the place where it was printed, or without following the established rules for the identification of the author or origin, or reproduces, stores, or transports such publications, is liable to from three months to one year in prison or a fine of 300 ‘quotas’”.  Another crime that is used by State agents to punish nonviolent opposition to the government is that of sedition, defined in Article 100 of the Criminal Code. It provides that “those who disrupt the socialist order or the celebration of elections or referendums, or impede the completion of any sentence, legal disposition or measure dictated by the government, or by a civil or military authority in the exercise of their respective functions, or refuse to obey them" can face from ten to twenty years in prison, even if they do so "without relying on arms or employing violence.”


34.     The crime of contempt for authority (desacato), defined in Article 144 of the Criminal Code, is used by the Cuban authorities to violate the human rights of independent labor unionists, journalists and human rights defenders.  That provision penalizes anyone who "threatens, libels or slanders, defames, affronts (injuria) or in any other way insults (ultraje) or offends, with the spoken word or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public functionary, or his agents or auxiliaries," with imprisonment of three months to one year, plus a fine. If the target of such contempt is the leader, the penalty is even more severe.  In effect, if the act is committed against "the President of the Council of the State, the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the members of the Council of State or the Council of Ministers, or the Deputies of the National Assembly of the Popular Power, the sanction is deprivation of liberty for one to three years." It has also been noted that, “while the crime of contempt for authority existed in Cuba prior to the 1959 revolution, the Castro government expanded the definition to cover the broadest possible range of speech and to apply explicitly to the government's highest authorities. More troubling still, the Castro government also eliminated a pre-revolutionary provision that allowed those charged with contempt to invoke the truthfulness of their statements as a defense.  Cuba has prosecuted scores of Cubans for contempt, including several prisoners who were tried on the basis of having criticized prison conditions and abuses.”[33] In a similar vein, Article 203 of the Criminal Code punishes "anyone who insults or with other acts shows disrespect to the Flag, the [National] Anthem, or the National Seal," with three months to one year of imprisonment. The Commission has also been informed that in past years, the government used this provision against Cuba's community of Jehovah's Witnesses, whose religion bars them from swearing allegiance to any flag.


35.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has developed a broad doctrine on criminal provisions for protecting the honor of public officials acting in their official capacity.  Thus for example, with respect to laws on contempt, the Commission has declared "the use of desacato laws to protect the honor of public functionaries acting in their official capacities unjustifiably grants a right to protection to public officials that is not available to other members of society. This distinction inverts the fundamental principle in a democratic system that holds the Government subject to controls, such as public scrutiny, in order to preclude or control abuse of its coercive powers. If we consider that public functionaries acting in their official capacity are the Government for all intents and purposes, then it must be the individual and the public’s right to criticize and scrutinize the officials’ actions and attitudes in so far as they relate to public office.”[34]  The Cuban State, by using prosecution for contempt as a means of silencing peaceful opposition and in general any group or person proposing alternatives to government policy, is violating the right of that country's people to exercise their freedom of expression.  Political and public figures must be more, not less, open to public scrutiny and criticism. Open and wide-ranging public debate, which is at the core of a democratic society, necessarily embraces those persons who are involved in devising and implementing public policy. Since these persons are at the center of public debate, they knowingly expose themselves to public scrutiny and thus must display a greater degree of tolerance for criticism. This principle of a distinction in the level of protection granted to public and private persons is also recognized by the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Lingens vs. Austria:


The limits of acceptable criticism are … wider as regards a politician as such than as regards a private individual. Unlike the latter, the former inevitably and knowingly lays himself open to close scrutiny of his every word and deed by both journalists and the public at large, and he must consequently display a greater degree of tolerance.[35]


36.     The Cuban State has also used the broadness and vagueness of the crimes of insult, slander and defamation to violate the freedom of expression systematically. Within the parameters of the State, the crime of insult applies to someone who, "by written or spoken word, through pictures, gestures or acts, offends the honor of another," and results in a three-month to one-year sanction.[36] Slander applies to an "individual who knowingly divulges untruths that excessively discredit an individual," with six months to two years of imprisonment.[37] Defamation or libel is said to occur when a person "before a third party, accuses someone of conduct, an act, or a characteristic that is dishonorable, and which could damage the person's social reputation, diminish the public's opinion of him/her, or expose him/her to the loss of the confidence necessary for him/her to carry out his/her job, profession, or social function.[38]" Defamation results in sanctions of three months to one year of imprisonment.


37.     The OAS Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression referred in its last report to the laws on slander and defamation, noting that such laws just “are often used not so much to protect a person’s honor as to attack –or, better said, silence- speech that is considered critical of government. As for criminal law, the Office of the Rapporteur recommends to derogate slander and libel laws, when the circumstances described above are present.”[39] The Commission shares this view, since when due regard is paid to the consequences of criminal sanctions and the inevitably inhibiting effect that they have on freedom of expression, criminalization of any kind of oral or written expression may only be applied in exceptional circumstances, where there is an evident and direct threat of violence.  In conclusion, the Commission considers that in the Cuban case, the use of such powers to limit freedom of expression lends itself to abuse, as a means of suppressing unpopular ideas and opinions, and thereby restricting debate, which is essential for the effective functioning of institutions.  Laws that penalize the expression of ideas other than those inciting to violence are incompatible with the freedom of expression and opinion enshrined in Article IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


38.     Another crime used by the Cuban State to silence peaceful opposition is that of “dangerousness” (estado peligroso), as defined in Article 72 ff of the Cuban Criminal Code.  The Commission has referred in previous reports to the serious consequences of maintaining and applying these rules, which are incompatible with international human rights standards, and in particular with the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  Application of these rules by the Cuban State violates universal principles of legality, presumption of innocence and judicial guarantees enshrined in Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration, because they provide legal justification for security measures to be taken before the commission of a crime, and after it, which restrictions include imprisonment in work camps and penitentiaries for a period of up to four years.


39.     As far as the Cuban authorities are concerned, a person may be deemed to be "dangerous" if he has "a special proclivity to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is observed to be in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality."[40] Article 73 (1) supplements this rule by indicating that the signs of dangerousness include "habitual drunkenness and dipsomania, drug addiction, and antisocial conduct."  Antisocial conduct is defined as the behavior of anyone who "habitually breaks the rules of social comity through acts of violence, provocation, or who violates the rights of others, or who by his general comportment damages the rules of comity or upsets the order of the community, or lives as a social parasite from the work of others, or exploits or practices socially reprehensible vices.”[41] It has been noted that this concept of antisocial conduct has been used to suppress the vast majority of dissidents and human rights activists in Cuba, and if a worker is dismissed for his political ideas he is immediately regarded by the Cuban State as a social parasite.


40.     Chapter II of the Criminal Code provides for "official warning", which for the Cuban State means:


Anyone who, without falling into any of the dangerous circumstances referred to in Article 73, by his links or relationships with persons potentially dangerous to society, to other persons and to the social, economic and political order of the socialist State, may be considered to have a proclivity to crime, will be issued a warning by the competent police authority, as a preventive measure against engaging in socially dangerous or criminal activities.  Such warning shall be given in all cases through an official record expressly stating that reasons for which it is being issued, and the response of the person so warned, which must be signed by that person and by the issuer.[42]


41.     If a person is deemed to fall under any of the types of dangerousness cited above, so-called security measures may be taken against him, and these may be either "pre-criminal" or "post-criminal”.  According to the Criminal Code, "security measures may be decreed to prevent the commission of crimes or by reason of their commission."[43]  In the case of pre-crime security measures, Article 78 provides that a person declared to be dangerous may be subjected to therapeutic measures, re-education or surveillance by the Revolutionary National Police.  One therapeutic measure, according to Article 79, consists of internment in a social, psychiatric or detoxification Institute.  Article 80 provides that re-education measures are to be applied to antisocial individuals, consisting of internment in a specialized work or study institute, and delivery to a labor collective for control and guidance of their dangerous conduct.  The term of these measures ranges from one year to four years.  In addition, the Revolutionary National Police, according to Article 81, have a surveillance system consisting of "guidance and control over the conduct of a dangerous person."  This measure may also last for a period of one to four years.  Article 82 provides that the security measures may include the imprisonment of a person "depending on the degree of danger he presents and the possibilities of his re-education."


42.     With respect to the procedure to be followed, the Cuban Criminal Code grants extraordinary powers to the courts, whereby "at any time during execution of a pre-criminal security measure, it may change the classification or duration of that measure, or suspend it, at the request of the body responsible for its execution, or ex officio.  In the latter case, the court will request a report from that executing body".  The court must also report "to the prevention organs of the National Revolutionary Police on the pre-criminal security measures ordered, which are to be fulfilled at liberty, for purposes of their execution".[44] Decree No. 128, issued by the State in 1991, provides that a declaration of "pre-criminal dangerousness" must be decided in summary manner.  According to that decree, the National Revolutionary Police prepares a file with the report of the responsible agent and the testimony of neighbors demonstrating "dangerous conduct", and submits it to the municipal prosecutor, who will decide, within five working days, whether further investigation is necessary.  If the court considers the file complete, it will set a date for a hearing where the parties will appear.  Twenty-four hours after that hearing, the Municipal Court must issue its ruling.[45]


43.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must declare its profound concern over the existence and application of these rules which, from every light, violate the judicial guarantees enshrined in the American Declaration.  As well, the Commission regrets that Cuba is the only Latin American country, at the beginning of the 21st century, to have on its statutes crimes that punish a person with imprisonment for the mere presumption that he will commit a crime, and not for having actually done so.  Criminal law should punish crimes, or perhaps a frustrated attempt at a crime, but it should never punish attitudes or presumptions of attitudes.  "Dangerousness" is a subjective concept in the mind of the interpreter, and its lack of precision constitutes a factor of juridical insecurity.  The lack of precision in crimes of this type affects the juridical situation of the accused in many respects: the court hearing the charges, the nature of the proceedings, the type of crime and the penalty applicable.  The qualification of acts as an indicator of dangerousness is decided by a court that is dependent on the political power, that judges the accused under summary proceedings, with few guarantees, and that can apply a penalty of up to four years imprisonment on the basis of a crime that is subjective and imprecise. 


44.     As well, the Inter-American Commission considers that the assumption of an individual's dangerousness, under the system of pre-criminal dangerousness established by the Cuban Criminal Code, violates the principle of legality and is plainly arbitrary, because it is not based on objective data of clear criminological significance, but rather relies on subjective elements on the part of those in power.  In this way, the determination of dangerousness is left to the discretion of the competent authority.  The declaration of pre-criminal dangerousness is based on an assessment of probability, in light of the current circumstances of a person who, it is presumed, will commit a crime in the future.


45.     In this respect, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has indicated that "in defining crimes it is essential to use strict and unequivocal terms, which clearly relate to punishable conduct, giving full meaning to the principle of criminal legality.  This implies a clear definition of the criminal conduct, identifying its elements and making it possible to distinguish such conduct from behavior that is not illicit or punishable as a crime.  The ambiguity in the definition of crimes generates doubts and opens the way to arbitrary proceedings, which are particularly undesirable when it comes to establishing the criminal responsibility of an individual, and imposing punishment that severely affects life or liberty.  Rules that fail to provide for strict delimitation of criminal conduct violate the principle of legality".[46]


46.     These repressive criminal provisions, taken together, have imposed a very high human cost on Cuba.  For years, the Cuban government has taken advantage of the subjectivity, vagueness and ambiguity of these Criminal Code rules to silence any attempt of peaceful opposition members to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.  Cuba has refused to reform this legislation, invoking reasons of national security, which the Commission finds unacceptable.  The Johannesburg Principles of the United Nations on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information have established that it is illegitimate to invoke the interests of State Security “to protect a government from embarrassment or exposure of wrongdoing, or to conceal information about the functioning of its public institutions, or to entrench a particular ideology, or to suppress industrial unrest.”[47]

47.     These principles also establish that certain types of expression must be protected, including for example criticisms or insults directed at the State and its symbols, the defense of non-violent change of government or a governing party, and the communication of information on human rights.[48] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that the existence and enforcement of the criminal provisions examined in this report violate the above-sighted principles, because they place severe restrictions on the fundamental rights of all persons subject to the jurisdiction of the Cuban State.




48.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has examined the status of the right to justice and due process in Cuba, in previous reports.  Recalling that, during the period covered by this report, the Cuban State has made no changes that would allow, either in practice or in law, the unrestricted validity of judicial guarantees, the Commission reiterates to the State the need to make substantial reforms in its juridical system, to render it compatible with the principles enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  The right to justice and to due process is enshrined in Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration.  Article XVIII provides that "every person may resort to the courts to ensure respect for his legal rights. There should likewise be available to him a simple, brief procedure whereby the courts will protect him from acts of authority that, to his prejudice, violate any fundamental constitutional rights.” Article XXVI declares that “every accused person is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty. Every person accused of an offense has the right to be given an impartial and public hearing, and to be tried by courts previously established in accordance with pre-existing laws, and not to receive cruel, infamous or unusual punishment.”


49.     During the period covered by this report, several international human rights organizations have declared that Cuba does not guarantee its citizens, and especially those charged with political crimes, that they will have a fair trial, with due guarantees, before an independent and impartial court.  Thus, for example, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, who had the opportunity to make a personal inspection of the prevailing situation in Cuba, has reported as follows:


The Special Rapporteur is also concerned that the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba establishes a direct line of authority and subordination to the National Assembly and the Council of State, which can have serious implications for the independence and impartiality of the courts, potentially affecting the right to a fair trial.  In addition, the Special Rapporteur has received reports of arbitrary arrests, prolonged pre-trial detention and restrictions on the rights to adequate defense. Similarly, the Special Rapporteur is concerned that the Constitution provides that the National Assembly of People’s Power has the authority to select and to dismiss the People’s Supreme Court, the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorneys General (Articles 75, 126 and 129).  In accordance with Article 128 of the Constitution, the Office of the Attorney-General is subordinate to the National Assembly and the Council of State, and Article 130 orders the Attorney General to render account of his work to the National Assembly.  All these provisions further impede the impartiality and independence of the Cuban judiciary, thereby restricting the fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of Cuban women and men.[49]


50.     In this context, Amnesty International has also reported that “some trials of prisoners of conscience took place which did not conform to international standards”[50] and Human Rights Watch/Americas has noted that “the government-controlled courts undermined the right to a fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently failed to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under the law.”[51] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also informed that ex officio defense attorneys do not see their primary objective as defending the interests of their clients, since they are subordinate to the interests of the socialist system.  In this respect, many persons who were convicted of political crimes declared that they never met their defense lawyer until the time of the trial, since the defense consisted in presenting conventional mitigating circumstances, but not in demonstrating the innocence of the accused, who always knows that he is going to be convicted.  In many cases, no copy of the court ruling is sent to the defendant or to his family, and the prosecutor’s charges are often not provided either, which means that the accused, when standing trial, has only the oral version given by the instructing prosecutor--which in the Cuban system is the National Revolutionary Police--as to the legal classification of the alleged crimes.[52]


51.     The preceding analysis finds its legal basis in the Cuban Constitution, which does not provide for a separation of powers such as would guarantee independence in the administration of justice. The Commission recognizes that the mere constitutional stipulation of the independence of the judicial organs with respect to the political power is a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure the proper administration of justice. Article 121 of the Cuban Constitution provides that:


The courts constitute a system of State organs structured with functional independence with respect to any other, and subordinated hierarchically to the National Assembly of People's Power and to the Council of State [emphasis added].


52.     Article 128 of the Constitution provides that "the Attorney General receives direct instructions from the Council of State."  It is clear that the subordination of the courts of justice to the National Assembly of People's' Power and, in particular, to the Council of State, establishes a relation of dependency with respect to the Executive Branch.  This relationship of dependency is reinforced by the power of the Council of State "to give a general and binding interpretation, where necessary, to existing legislation".[53] In addition, the Constitution sets broad margins within which that interpretation may be rendered, in Article 62, analyzed above.[54]


53.     As has been indicated, the courts of justice in Cuba are subordinated to the Council of State, and Article 74 of the Constitution provides: "The President of the Council of State is the Head of State and Head of Government." In other words, the head of state of Cuba has concentrated, in himself, all the state organs. Thus, the Council of State is the political organ that should render the official interpretation of how such vague terms as "the existence and aims of the socialist state" and "the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism" are to be understood. Subordinated to that interpretation are all the "freedoms citizens are recognized to have"; and it is the administration of justice that is charged with applying the interpretations to particular cases. This ideological and political bias is reinforced by the functions that the Constitution grants to the courts and other State organs:


All the state organs, their leaders, officers, and employees act within the bounds of their respective competencies and have the obligation to observe socialist legality strictly and to ensure its respect in the life of the entire society [emphasis added].[55]



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[1] Ambassador Peter Laurie of Barbados did not participate in the discussion and voting on this report, pursuant to Article 19(2)(a) of the Regulations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

[2] City of Havana, May 30, 2000, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, René Gómez Manzano, and Félix Bonne Carcasés.

[3] The following dissident groups participated in the Jubilee in Prisons:  Partido Democrático 30 de Noviembre; Unión Nacional de Opositores; Movimiento 24 de Febrero; Movimiento Cristiano Liberación; Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna; Grupo de Apoyo a la Disidencia Interna Arroyo Naranjo; Confederación de Trabajadores Democráticos de Cuba; Movimiento Paz y Amor “Pedro Luis Boitel”; Partido Pro-Derechos Humanos de Cuba, affiliated with the Zajarov; Movimiento Hermandad Cívica; Liga Cívica Martiana; Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional; Partido Solidaridad Democrática; Joven Cuba; Movimiento Agenda Nacionalista; Partido Ortodoxo; Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba; Movimiento Independiente de Estudios Martianos; Comité Martiano Pro-Derechos del Hombre; Unidad Femenina Cubana; Comité de Madres Pro-Amnistía Presos Políticos “Leonor Pérez”; Movimiento Acción Nacionalista Democrático Independiente; Coordinadora Nacional de Presos y Ex Presos Políticos; Movimiento 6 de Enero; Movimiento Hermanos Fraternales por la Dignidad; Confederación de Trabajadores Democráticos de Cuba “Félix Varela”; and Movimiento Opción Alternativa and Movimiento Humanitario Seguidores de Cristo Rey.

[4]  News bulltein of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, San José, Costa Rica.

[5] United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective, Violence Against Women, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, submitted in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1997/44. Report on the Mission to Cuba. Human Rights Commission, 56th session, Agenda item 12(a), E/CN.4/2000/68/Add.2, February 8, 2000, para. 6.

[6] Idem, para. 10.

[7] Human Rights Watch, Annual Report 2001, page 25.

[8] Reporters Sans Frontières, Annual Report 2000, digital version, pp. 11 and 12

[9] Inter-American Press Association, Freedom of the Press Report 2001, digital version, pp. 1 2.

[10] Inter-American Press Association, report presented to the mid-year meeting, Cancun, Mexico, March 2000, Cuba, page 1.

[11] Inter-American Press Association, report presented to the General Assembly of the IAPA, Santiago, Chile, Oct. 2000, page 1.

[12] Amnesty International, Annual Report 2000, digital version, pages 1 and 3.

[13] While the inclusion of crimes against State security and rebellion in the Criminal Code is not, in itself, incompatible with the American Declaration, the application of those concepts by the Cuban State against human rights activists, independent labor leaders and peaceful opponents of the regime violates that international instrument.  As Human Rights Watch/Americas has observed, “Cuba prosecutes crimes against State security to repress nonviolent government opponents. While the crime of enemy propaganda explicitly violates the fundamental freedoms of expression and association, other State security crimes include objectionable references to preserving the socialist system and are defined in elastic terms that frequently have been used to punish the exercise of fundamental rights. (…) Under the law, Cuban authorities may conduct warrantless arrests of any person accused of a State security crime, must hold the accused in pretrial detention, and must try the person in a closed trial in a special State security tribunal. In order to increase the likelihood that officials will take action against the crimes of rebellion or sedition, which the Criminal Code defines to include nonviolent acts, officials failing to do so risk three-to eight-year prison terms for ‘violation of the duty to resist’ (infracción de los deberes de resistencia)”. Human Rights Watch, Cuba’s Repressive Machinery, Human Rights, Forty Years after the Revolution, 1999, page 43.

[14] United Nations Economic and Social Council, Human Rights Commission, 56th Session, Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, Human Rights Situation in Cuba, E/CN.4/RES/2000/25, April 18, 2000.

[15] United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, op. cit., para. 14.

[16] European Union, 1996 Common Position, in Human Rights Watch/Americas, Annual Report 2001, page 28. 

[17] Law No. 88 (Protection of National Independence and the Economy) was issued by the Cuban State in February 1999.  Its first provision makes it a crime to commit "any act intended to support, facilitate or collaborate with the Helms Burton Act, the blockade, the economic war against Cuba, subversion and other similar measures intended to undermine, damage or imperil the independence, sovereignty and integrity of the Cuban State.  It is a crime to supply, seek or obtain information and to introduce subversive materials into the country, or to reproduce or distribute them.  Equally, it is a crime to collaborate, directly or through third parties, with radio and television broadcasters, newspapers, magazines and other mass media for the purposes indicated in the law".  This law provides penalties of imprisonment of up to 20 years for persons responsible for such acts, and for their accomplices.

[18] Inter-American Press Association, Report to the General Assembly of the IAPA, Santiago, Chile, October 2000, Cuba, page 2.

[19] Idem, pages 2 and 3.

[20] The "Rapid Action Brigades" were created in June, 1991, by the Attorney General's Office.  These detachments are made up of civilians, and their job is to watch for any sign of public discontent or "counterrevolutionary manifestation".  According to information provided to the Commission, they enjoy impunity in their actions, especially when it comes to violating the rights of persons dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights.  The most common means used by the brigades are the so-called "acts of repudiation", where a mob is assembled in front of a human rights activist's home to hurl insults and chant slogans in favor of the Revolution and the government.  In I-ACHR, Annual Report 1993, the Human Rights Situation in Cuba, Chapter IV, OEA/Ser.L/VII.85, Doc. 8 rev., February 11 1994, page 415, footnote 2.

[21] Human Rights Watch/Americas, Annual Report 2001, op.cit, Page 27.

[22] Idem.

[23] Osvaldo Payá Sardinas, Christian Liberation Movement, Declaration on how rights are silenced by the mass media, under the control of the State, Havana, Cuba, January 25, 2001, in La Palestra Civica No. 18, Information Office of the Cuban Human Rights Movement.

[24] American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man: Article IV. Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever; Article XXI. Every person has the right to assemble peaceably with others in a formal public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature; Article XXII. Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.

[25] Article 54 of the Political Constitution of Cuba: The rights of assembly, demonstration and association are exercised by the workers, laborers and intellectuals, peasants, women, students and other sectors of the working people, for which purpose they shall have the necessary means.  Social organizations of the masses shall have all the facilities for conducting such activities, in which their members enjoy the broadest freedom of speech and opinion, based on the unrestricted right to initiative and criticism.

[26] Associations Law Nº 54, 1985.

[27] Regulations to the Associations Law, 1986.

[28] Human Rights Watch, Cuba’s Repressive Machinery, Human Rights, Forty Years after the Revolution, 1999, pages 69 and 70.

[29] Idem, page 20.

[30] United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, op. cit., para. 66.

[31] In order to demonstrate the type of conduct that can be punished under the crime of Enemy Propaganda, the Commission considers it useful to reproduce the conclusions reached by the Cuban Public Prosecutor's Office in the case brought against Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, leader of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, in October 1992: “That Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, in defiance of law, has sent information to broadcast stations outside the country in order to assist with 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."

[32] Idem, page 44.

[33] Ofelia Nardo Cruz, El Delito de Desacato en Cuba, Cuba Press, June 25, 1998, in Human Rights Watch/Americas, Cuba’s Repressive Machinery, op. cit., pages 51.

[34] I-ACHR, Annual Report 1998, Vol. III, Report of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, page 158, OEA/Ser.L/VIII.102.Doc.6 rev., April 16, 1999.

[35] Lingen vs. Austria, 1981, European Court of Human Rights, Res. No. 0081/82.

[36] Article 320(1) of the Cuban Criminal Code.

[37] Article 319(1) of the Cuban Criminal Code.

[38] Article 318(1) of the Cuban Criminal Code.

[39] I-ACHR, Annual Report 1998, Vol. III, Report of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, page 22, OEA/Ser.L/VIII.102.Doc.6 rev., April 16, 1999.

[40] Article 72 of the Cuban Criminal Code.

[41] Article 73(2) of the Cuban Criminal Code.

[42] Chapter II, Official Warning, Article 75(1) and 75(2) of the Criminal Code.

[43] Chapter III, Security Measures, Section 1, General Provisions, Article 76(1) of the Criminal Code.

[44] Articles 83 and 84 of the Criminal Code.

[45] Various sources agree that the summary nature of the proceedings prevents the accused from having adequate legal defense, since the time limits set are not sufficient for contacting a lawyer or preparing a defense.  Consequently, by means of these so-called "dangerousness files", the State can control any suspicious activity contrary to the official ideology, with imprisonment of up to four years.

[46] I-A Court, Castillo Petruzzi and Others vs. Republic of Peru, Judgment of May 30, 1999, para. 121.

[47] An international team of legal scholars, diplomats, and UN rights specialists, meeting at a 1995 conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, drafted a set of principles that provide further guidance regarding permissible justifications for restricting rights. In particular, the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate invocations of national security interests. The full text of those principles can be found in The New World Order and Human Rights in the Post-Cold War Era: National Security vs. Human Security, published by the International Conference on National Security Law in Asia-Pacific, November 1995 (Korea Human Rights Network, 1996), in Human Rights Watch/Americas, Cuba's Repressive Machinery, op.cit., pages 40 and 41.

[48] Idem, page 41.

[49] United Nations, "Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women", op. cit., para. 67.

[50] Amnesty International, Annual Report, op. cit., pages 1 and 3.

[51] Human Rights Watch/Americas, Annual Report 2001, op. cit., page 25.

[52] Articles 160 and 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedures do not give the accused the right to present statements in the presence of a defense attorney, either of his own choice or State-provided.  This has meant that, in most trials for crimes against State security, there have been many instances of discrimination in the treatment accorded to witnesses for the defense and to those for the prosecution, an attitude that reflects clear aggressiveness on the part of the prosecutor and a lack of impartiality on the part of the judges hearing the case.

[53] Article 90 (ch) of the Cuban Constitution.

[54] See paras. 30 and 31 of this report.

[55] Article 10 of the Cuban Constitution.