OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SEVERAL COUNTRIES
Under its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights, the IACHR has been reviewing the status of human rights in the countries of the hemisphere and has drawn up special reports on some of them. These reports have been prepared on the Commission's own initiative, or on instructions from an organ of the Organization of American States, and, in some cases, at the spontaneous request of the country concerned.
The Commission feels that these reports, their later
dissemination, and discussion of them have helped to change the
behavior of particular countries as regards their observance of human
rights, and in some cases, the reports have placed on record that the
behavior of a country is in accord with international commitments it
has undertaken in the field of human rights.
The Commission's Annual Report submitted to the twentieth
regular session of the General Assembly included a chapter with
sections on the status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama and Suriname, from February 1,
1991 to January 31, 1992.
At this time, the Commission considers in this Chapter the
status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Peru.
In order to make the information available to it as complete as
possible, the Commission, on October 1992, requested the countries
mentioned to provide it with any information they deemed appropriate,
but particularly information on how they had complied with the
Commission's previous recommendations; on the progress they had made
and any difficulties they had encountered in effective observance of
human rights; and on the text of any statute enacted or case law that
might have affected the observance of human rights.
Where warranted, the Governments' responses and any other
information from various sources to which the Commission has had
access have been taken into consideration in drafting this chapter.
The Commission reiterates that the inclusion of these sections
is not designed to give an overall and complete description of the
status of human rights in each of the five countries mentioned.
The Commission's intent here is rather to give an update
covering the period of one year since the last general reports.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to
monitor, with particular care, developments in the human rights
situation in Cuba over the course of 1992.
The purpose of this section is to update the information that the
Commission has been examining in the sections devoted to Cuba in its
earlier annual reports and in the seven special reports on Cuba.
During the period covered by this Annual Report, conditions in
Cuba have become worse. As
a result, the State's control over the population is tightening, with
the consequent erosion in the human rights situation.
The response had been to tighten state security controls, make it
easier for people to emigrate to the United States, and find economic
alternatives that compensate for the shortages that Cuba is now
experiencing. Hence, social
conditions are eroding and the government is resorting increasingly to
repressive methods, all of which points to the fact that the existing
problems will likely become worse.
In that scenario, a constitutional amendment was adopted in late
1992 which introduces the most significant reform to come out of the IV
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, held last year, whereby deputies
of the National Assembly of the People's Power are to be elected by
direct ballot and from independent slates.
The possibility of a crack in the Communist Party's political
monopoly is seen by some observers as an opportunity to take the first
steps toward democratization of the system; however, other observers are
skeptical about the chances that the opportunity will actually
materialize given the existing system of control.
When examining this situation, one must bear in mind that there
are numerous human rights groups in existence and that a Cuban
democratic alliance has been established with social democrats,
Christian social democrats and liberals, the goal being a peaceful
transition to a democratic regime that preserves the social advances
PERSONAL LIBERTY, THE RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL AND DUE PROCESS OF
The hard line taken by the Government is evident in the harsh
sentences being given to human rights activists and to individuals who
disagree with the present political system.
According to reports supplied to the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, 250 individuals with ties to human rights organizations
have been detained since 1989; of these, 49 are presently serving
sentences of up to 10 years because of their human rights activities.
The reports also state that other individuals have been detained
and are awaiting trial, while many others have been held in temporary
custody at police or State Security facilities.
The Cuban Government believes that any activity associated with
the defense of human rights is intended to destroy the political system
and serve foreign interests that seek to undermine the political system.
Thus, most human rights activists brought to trial and convicted
are charged with crimes against the security of the State, which are
typified in the Cuban Penal Code as follows:
"enemy propaganda", "dissemination of false
information against international peace", "rebellion",
"contempt", "illegal association", "disturbing
the peace", etc. Human
rights groups have said that the sentences of imprisonment ordered by
the government are particularly severe considering the offenses with
which the individuals concerned are charged; for example, printing and
distributing pro-democratic literature, organizing peaceful
demonstrations, painting slogans on walls, etc.
In effect, according to the information provided, Yndamiro
Restano Díaz, a member of the Executive Board of the Cuban Human Rights
and National Reconciliation Commission and President of the Social
Democratic Harmony Movement [Movimiento Armonía - MAR] was sentenced by
the Havana Provincial Court to 10 years in prison for the crime of
rebellion, in May 1992. Mr. Restano was detained late last year in Havana's Vedado
district, and was allegedly held for several months without benefit of
legal counsel and before any charges were formally brought against him.
The Prosecutor accused Mr. Restano of recruiting supporters and
encouraging activities to destroy, by violent means, the existing regime
in the country. The
organization he heads, it was alleged, was trying to publish a pamphlet
wherein civil disobedience was reportedly encouraged.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also informed
that on January 15, 1992, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, Vice Chairman of the
Cuban Committee for Human Rights, was detained in Havana.
According to the information supplied, three individuals on trial
for trying to enter the country illegally were said to have given the
name of Sebastián Arcos Bergnes and two other members of that
organization--Gustavo Arcos Bergnes and Jesús Yanes Pelletier--as their
contacts if there were any problems.
Though the three were arrested on the same day, Jesús Yañez and
Gustavo Arcos were released the next day.
Sebastián Arcos Bergnes remained in custody, on charges of
rebellion. At the trial
held on October 5, 1992, the prosecutor requested a sentence of six
Dr. Omar del Pozo Marrero, President of the National Civic Union
and a member of the Democratic Convergence, was tried by a Court Martial
in Havana on August 1, 1992, and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on
charges that he had revealed secrets that threatened the security of the
State. According to the reports provided, Dr. del Pozo allegedly
obtained information on certain State Security agents who had
infiltrated human rights groups. In
December, Pablo Reyes Martínez, Vice President of that organization,
was sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment for the crime of enemy
propaganda. According to
the sentence, "Pablo Reyes, age 43, on the pretext of practicing
independent journalism, took it upon himself to circulate false
information concerning alleged human rights violations in Cuba... for
the obvious purpose of discrediting the work of the Revolution and
smearing its leaders..."
Luis Alberto Pita Santos, President of the Political Rights
Defense Association (ADEPO), was arrested on October 9, 1991, and in
April 1992 sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment, convicted on charges of
"contempt", "illegal association" and
"harboring clandestine printed material".
Many of the human rights organizations have been unable to
legalize their status since, according to the reports received, the
Ministry of Justice never responds to their requests.
Moreover, in October 1992, a Havana prosecutor requested a
sentence of 8 years' imprisonment for Marco Antonio Abad Flammand and
Jorge Crespo Díaz, who in late 1991 were arrested and charged with
enemy propaganda for having made a documentary titled Un día
cualquiera, which was given a trial showing in Costa Rica.
According to the report of the Office of the Prosecuting
Attorney, the documentary made repeated attacks on the integrity of the
President of the Council of State and of the Council of Ministers, Fidel
Castro, using expressions regarded as offensive and insulting.
In the 1987 Cuban Penal Code the classification of
"Dangerous" appears in articles 72 and 75, which state the
ARTICLE 72. An
individual shall be regarded as dangerous if said individual is
especially prone to the commission of crimes, as demonstrated by conduct
that is manifestly at odds with the standards of socialist morals.
ARTICLE 75. Anyone
who would not be classified as dangerous under the terms of Article 73
but who has ties or relations with individuals who could pose a danger
to society, to other people and to the social, economic and political
order of the Socialist State that suggest that he/she may be prone to
crime, shall receive a warning from the competent police authority
against engaging in any activities that may be dangerous to society or
As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pointed out in
its Seventh Special Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, the
concept of "dangerous" gives the Government its legal grounds
to enforce security measures both before and after the commission of a
crime. Concerning the
administration of justice and due process, the Inter-American Commission
stated the following:
... the Commission considers that the subordination, in fact and
in law, of the system for the administration of justice to the
executive, affects one of the conditions it considers fundamental for
the observance of that right. It
creates an environment of uncertainty and fear among the populace, which
has further deteriorated by the weakening of procedural guarantees.
This is seen especially in those judicial decisions which refer
to cases which may, directly or indirectly, affect the power structure
that exists today in Cuba.
III. METHODS OF HARASSMENT USED AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
During the period covered by this Annual Report, the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received information on
various forms of harassment and intimidation used by State Security
authorities against persons or organizations that engage in human rights
activities. One of the most
common forms of harassment is to temporarily detain an individual who,
after being interrogated and held incommunicado for several hours or
days, is eventually released, without ever being charged.
For example, Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, a former professor of
philosophy at the University of Havana and Chairman of the Cuban Human
Rights and National Reconciliation Commission, was arrested on March 4,
1992, together with Lázaro Loretto Perea and José Luis Pujol, members
of the Executive Secretariat of the Cuban Democratic Alliance; they were
taken to the Cojimar Police Unit, where they were held incommunicado for
an entire day. According to the reports received, Mr. Sánchez Santa Cruz
was arrested on October 9 and for four days was held in custody at the
police facilities at Cien and Aldavoz streets.
The Inter-American Commission was informed that Sánchez Santa
Cruz was the target of Government harassment again on December 10, 1992,
at around 4:00 p.m., when he was detained by State Security agents while
at the home of a friend in Nuevo Vedado.
According to witnesses, the State Security agents beat Professor
Sánchez until he was unconscious and destroyed the apartment, which
belonged to a member of the organization headed by Sánchez Santa Cruz.
One week later, the official news agency Prensa Latina
transmitted a cable in which it blamed Professor Elizardo Sánchez for
doing things to provoke a group of pro-government civilians.
They gave him a beating, which was broken up by police
authorities, who protected the victim and took him to a military
hospital to receive medical treatment for the wounds he had suffered.
According to the information supplied to the Inter-American
Commission, Sánchez --who
left his home early on the morning of December 10--received news that
since 9:00 that morning his home had been besieged by groups of
civilians whose behavior was authoritarian and hostile and who were
blocking cars from getting to the house. He decided to seek refuge at the home of a member of his
organization. Elizardo Sánchez
Santa Cruz was released on December 19, 1992, after his family posted
bail of $2,000; however, the authorities insist upon instituting
proceedings against him on charges of "contempt" and
"disturbing the peace."
The Commission has also been informed that on September 23, 1992,
at around 6:30 p.m., Rodolfo Gonzáles Gonzáles, Director of the Cuban
Committee for Human Rights, was arrested at his home as part of a
sweeping round-up of dissidents and human rights activists.
According to witnesses, Gonzáles was arrested by four State
Security agents and taken to the Provincial Office of the Technical
Investigations Department (DTI), located at the intersection of Cien and
Aldabo streets. Though released a few days later, he was arrested again on
December 10, 1992, which was the 44th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. According
to the reports, State Security agents entered Gonzáles' home, searched
his belongings and took him away to some unknown destination.
On October 29, 1992, State Security agents arrested a number of
members of the National Civic Union.
According to reports, Orlando Pedrera, Lázaro Dopacio and his 67
year-old mother Ada Jiménez and Marcel de la Cruz Mitjans (Secretary
General of the Civic Union) were detained and released 24 hours later.
However, during their detention they were taken to several police
facilities, held incommunicado and questioned about their activities and
other members of that organization.
Reports have also been received to the effect that Lorenzo García,
a member of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, was detained by State
Security agents as he was investigating the arrest of several young
people on June 25, 1992. Mr.
García was taken to the Police's First Unit and questioned for four
hours by an officer who wanted to force him to sign a warning document.
Under Article 75 of the Cuban Penal Code, a competent police
authority may prepare a written warning for any individual who is
"prone to crime" to deter the individual from engaging in
socially destructive or criminal activities.
The Inter-American Commission has also received information to
the effect that Miguel Angel Ballester Cintas, Director of the National
Council for Civil Rights in Cuba, was detained on July 31, 1992, and
transferred to the State Security Department in Havana on charges of
enemy propaganda. According
to the report, Mr. Ballester was detained after he sent a letter to the
Council of State in April, wherein he renounced the medal he won during
the Angola campaign.
Another form of intimidation used by the government against
individuals opposed to the political regime is to have them fired from
their place of work. According
to the reports that the Inter-American Commission has received, Georgina
Gonzáles Corvo, Rámses Pérez Menéndez, Pedro Rubio Castillo, Rafael
Sariol and Miguel Morales Acosta, teachers at the "José Antonio
Echevarría" Higher Polytechnic Institute, were fired in January
1992 after having signed a letter demanding amnesty for political
prisoners, respect for human rights and democratic reforms.
The Inter-American Commission also received information to the
effect that during the period covered by this report, Antonio Rodríguez
Avila was dismissed from the "Mixed Industry Project"
business, where he was a computer technician.
The grounds for dismissal were Mr. Rodríguez' stated differences
with the official Communist Party line and his support for the proposals
put forth by the Christian Liberation Movement for a bill aimed at
The Commission has also been informed that relatives or other
individuals associated with human rights activists have been fired from
their jobs. On April 13,
1992, Mayra Gonzáles Castellanos, a companion of Sebastián Arcos
Bergnes Vice-Chairman of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and a
political prisoner at the present time was fired from the National
Sugarcane Research Institute. As grounds for the dismissal, the Institute's decision No.
16/92 cited Mrs. Gonzáles' "untrustworthiness" inasmuch as
she had "close relations with a citizen who has turned against
socialism, that she brandishes capitalist ideas above human rights in
Cuba, which is patently at odds with the policy of our Institute."
It has also been reported that for two years now, Professor
Reinaldo Cosano Olam has been continuously harassed by State Security
agents to force him to abandon his campaign for human rights and to
leave the country. After
more than 20 years in teaching, he was dismissed in October 1992.
The Municipal Director of Education for Eastern Havana forwarded
a resolution to Mr. Cosano informing him that he had been permanently
severed from service on the grounds that he was "unqualified"
for the post.
Manuel Sánchez Herrero, a member of the Cuban Democratic
Socialist Trend and an economist by profession, was first dismissed from
his position with the Central Planning Board's Economic Research
Institute, on charges that he had supplied economic data to
"counter-revolutionary groups"; he was then arrested on
December 14, 1992, and held in the General Headquarters of the Political
Police (Villa Marista), though no charges were brought against him.
Also during the period covered by this Annual Report, the
Commission continued to receive petitions concerning the tactics of
repression and intimidation used by the "Rapid Response
Brigades". These are
groups of civilians whose main purpose is to monitor for any sign of
public discontent or "counter-revolutionary demonstration".
The "Rapid Response Brigades" were created in June
1991, at the suggestion of the Office of the Attorney General of the
Republic. According to reports, they enjoy virtual impunity, especially
in cases where they violate the rights of individuals engaged in
protecting and promoting human rights.
In effect, the tactic most often used by the "Rapid Response
Brigades" is the so-called "act of repudiation", where
crowds gather in front of the homes of human rights activists to hurl
insults and shout slogans in favor of the Revolution and the Government.
The Commission has also received reports of physical assaults and
considerable damage to private property.
On January 16, 1992, for example, there was an "act of
repudiation" that lasted over 24 hours, at the home of Elizardo and
Gerardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, members of the Cuban Human Rights and
National Reconciliation Commission.
The Inter-American Commission was also told that María Celina
Rodríguez was physically injured by a mob, violently shoved into a
police vehicle and held for several hours. These events occurred as the victim was on her way to the
home of Elizardo Sánchez.
According to information supplied to the Inter-American
Commission, on January 31, 1992, a mob staged an "act of
repudiation" at the residence of activist Luis Alberto Pita Santos
(ADEPO), who has been in prison since October 1991.
The "Rapid Response Brigades" entered Mr. Pita's home
and, while his belongings were being searched, State Security agents
held the other members of the family in custody for several hours.
Information has also been received to the effect that Francisco
Chaviano Gonzáles, Chairman of the National Council for Civil Rights in
Cuba, was the victim of an "act of repudiation" staged in
front of his home in Jaimanitas, Playa Municipality, Havana.
The events occurred on July 14, 1992, but the next day the Sector
Chief for the Jaimanitas area allegedly began to summon a number of Mr.
Chaviano's young supporters to threaten them that he would open a
dossier on them, listing them as dangerous.
The reports also state that guards were allegedly posted in full
view in front of his home in order to intimidate him; signs were said to
have been posted announcing that Mr. Chaviano was moving.
On October 15, 1992, a "Rapid Response Brigade"
headed--according to the information received--by members of the
Ministry of the Interior, assaulted Mr. Rafael Cabrera of the town of
Calzada de Guines. At the "Garita de Diezmero" bus stop, Mr. Cabrera
criticized the existing regime. In
response, a group gathered around him and began beating him with
anything at hand. When
people from the neighborhood came to the victim's rescue, the assailants
scattered. According to
witnesses, two uniformed officers of the Armed Forces were present at
the scene of the events, but watched passively as Mr. Cabrera was
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received these
reports with grave concern, as they demonstrate that the Cuban
Government's repression of individuals who engage in human rights
activities is on the rise.
One very important aspect that the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights has been examining concerns the situation in Cuban prisons.
The Inter-American Commission has continued to receive
information on the poor conditions in which inmates of Cuban prisons are
kept, especially political prisoners.
According to the information provided, everyday the inmates are
plagued by problems that can be traced to the shortage of food and
medications, unsanitary conditions, physical mistreatment, the chronic
lack of medical attention and the fact that common prisoners are mixed
with political prisoners. Information
has been received to the effect that this situation is generating
protests on the part of prisoners, who, as punishment, are generally
beaten cruelly and confined in punishment areas.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received
information on the delicate state of health of Professor Luis Alberto
Pita Santos, founder of the Political Rights Defense Association (ADEPO),
who is serving his sentence at Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba.
According to the information received, in October 1992, Mr. Pita
was badly beaten in retaliation for having instituted a hunger strike to
protest his prison transfer. The
Commission also received information concerning the delicate state of
activist Jorge Kerr Mitchel who, after several hunger strikes, has lost
movement in his legs. Mr.
Kerr Mitchel was asking to be transferred from the Cinco y Medio Prison
at Pinar del Río to the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana.
It was also reported that Eduardo Vidal, Rigoberto Carcellés and
Jorge Vásquez, members of the Liberation Christian Movement and
political prisoners in Boniato Prison, Santiago de Cuba, were sent to
punishment cells on September 8, 1992, for having conducted a ceremony
in homage to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.
Lenín Cordoba García, Jorge Ruíz Echemandía and Jorge García
Pérez, convicted of the crimes of "contempt", "enemy
propaganda" and "sabotage" to 17, 15 and 8 years
imprisonment, respectively, went on a hunger strike in September because
they were housed with common prisoners at Alambrada Prison in Manacas,
Province of Villa Clara. The Inter-American Commission has received information that
Nicolás Gonzáles Regueiro, age 42, was reportedly murdered at the
Santa Clara prison as he was serving a four-year sentence for having
prepared and circulated announcements against the Government. According to the reports received, Mr. Gonzáles was being
held with other political prisoners at the Manacas prison when he was
transferred to the prison at Motembo, along with common prisoners. In protest and to demand medical attention--he was suffering
from a duodenal ulcer--he went on a hunger strike.
After five days, they gave him medications. However, because they did not relocate him with political
prisoners, he continued his protest.
As a result, prison authorities decided to send him to the prison
at Santa Clara, where he died by hanging on September 16, 1992.
In March 1992--according to the reports received--Rodolfo Gómez
Ramos died after having refused medical attention at the Havana Micro 4
de Alamar Prison, where he was serving out his sentence after having
been convicted of attempting to leave the country illegally.
Mr. Gómez had an ulcer, so that he was constantly asking to be
transferred to a hospital. Nevertheless,
instead of receiving the attention he was requesting, he was transferred
to a more rigorous prison known as Agüica, in the Province of Matanzas.
His death seems to have occurred while he was in transit.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
During the period covered by this Annual Report, the
Inter-American Commission continued to receive complaints of persons who
are prosecuted and then convicted for having attempted to leave the
country. And so, even though in August 1991 the Cuban Government
lowered the age for travelling abroad to 20 for both men and women, many
people continue to leave the country on rafts and crude boats.
The immigration restrictions of some countries, the complicated
legal formalities that the Cuban authorities require and the reprisals
to which these people are subjected, are some of the reasons given by
qualified analysts. It
should be noted that when Cuban immigration authorities deny an exit
visa, that decision cannot be appealed.
It should also be noted that Cubans who attempt to leave the
country illegally and are arrested, face sentences of from one to three
years' imprisonment; if any type of violence is used in the attempt, the
sentence is three to eight years. Under
Article 216 of the Penal Code, it is not just those who are captured
after having embarked upon the trip who face prosecution, but also those
who, it is suspected, might make such an attempt.
According to the reports provided to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, in October 1992, María de los Angeles
Otero, a teacher with 12 years experience, was fired from her job
through decree law No. 34, because she did not report her husband who
was trying to leave the country. Fidel Trujillo, Mrs. Otero's husband, is now in prison
awaiting sentence for having attempted to leave the country. Francisco Mirabal Carbajal, Maury Hernández Ventura, Carlos
Hernández Pedroso and David Merejía were convicted on the same charges
to three years in prison by a Tribunal of the State Security Department
in Santa Clara. A Russian
ship located them and turned them over to the Coast Guard at the port of
Isabela de Sagua.
The Inter-American Commission has also been informed that in
October 1992, Pablo Roseta Fernández, a member of the Association for
the Struggle against National Injustice, was arrested and taken to a
police station as he was leaving the United States Interests Section.
There, he was questioned about why he had gone to the Interests
Section, to which he replied that he was processing the papers to leave
the country because of the harassment to which he and his family had
been subjected. The officer
told him that he would not be harassed if he would cease to engage in
his activities in the organization of which he is coordinator.
Some hours later he was released, but when he arrived home he
found a summons from Officer Nelson Castro of the Technical
Investigations Department. When he went for the meeting, the officer was hostile toward
him, trying to intimidate him into signing a letter of resignation
addressed to the President of the Group, Beatríz García.
His wife, Victoria Sotolongo, was also summoned.
They threatened that they would send her 20 year-old son to
prison unless she abandoned her activities.
According to the reports received, the Fernández couple flatly
refused to sign any document renouncing their activities in the defense
of human rights.
The Commission is also concerned by reports that Mrs. Caridad
Martín Acosta has been denied permission to leave the country.
She is the wife of former political prisoner Mario Chanes de
Armas, who has also been denied permission to leave Cuba after 30 years
in prison. After 35 days of
legal wrangling to secure authorization to leave the country, Mrs.
Caridad Martín Acosta was called by telephone on the night of October
26 and told to go to the Immigration Department the next day with her
passport and other papers. After
being made to wait four hours, the employee at the Ministry of the
Interior asked for her passport and temporary exit card and then told
her that her departure had been postponed "for one or two months or
Also during the period covered by this report, the Commission was
told of cases of individuals whom Cuban authorities have denied
permission to leave the country even though the receiving country has
sent the necessary entry visas. This
is the case of Iván Barrios Vanecillas, a former political prisoner and
member of the Human Rights Party in Cuba, whom the United States
Government granted permission to enter as a political refugee on
December 11, 1991. When the
Cuban Government refused to allow him to leave, he set out by sea on a
crude raft in September 1992 and was subsequently captured.
Mr. Barrios is presently in custody at the provincial offices of
the Ministry of the Interior in Pinar del Río.
POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
As for the present political system, in late 1992 several reforms
to the 1976 Constitution were enacted.
Those reforms were approved by the People's National Assembly at
its XI session, held in July 1992.
As stated at the beginning of this report, the most significant
reform is the one established through Article 71, whereby:
The National Assembly of the People is composed of deputies
elected by a free, direct and secret vote of the electorate, in the
proportion and according to the procedures that the law determines.
Thus, on November 2, 1992, the New Electoral Law was promulgated
for the purpose of regulating the procedure that is to be followed in
future elections. In fact,
the municipal elections conducted on December 20, 1992, were held under
these new legal provisions. According
to the Government, 13,432 delegates were elected nationwide, which would
mean that 96.9% of the population voted in those elections.
However, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has
received information to the effect that in marginal areas especially,
voter turn-out was considerably less, at only 50%, and that the
tabulation took into account only the number of votes obtained by the
candidates, but not the number of null votes or blank ballots.
Articles 67 and 68 of the new Electoral Law provides that
candidates for the office of delegate to one of the Provincial
Assemblies or deputy to the National Assembly of the People's Power must
be nominated by committees made up of grassroots organizations,
including unions and the Committees to Defend the Revolution.
It has been pointed out that these organizations are created and
controlled by the Communist Party, thereby thwarting the kind of
ideological and party pluralism that is one of the bases of the
democratic system of government.
In its Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba,
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights stated the following:
... it is the doctrine of the IACHR that the exercise of the
right to political participation makes possible the right to organize
parties and political associations, which through open discussion and
ideological struggle, can improve the social level and economic
circumstances of the masses and prevent a monopoly on power by any one
group or individual. Furthermore, the Commission has maintained that governments
have, in the face of political rights and the right to political
participation, the obligation to permit and guarantee: the organization
of all political parties and other associations, unless they are
constituted to violate human rights; open debate of the principal themes
of socio-economic development; the celebration of general and free
elections with all the necessary guarantees so that the results
represent the popular will.
One innovation in the present Constitution is the amendment
introduced in Article 42, which penalizes and prohibits any form of
discrimination because of religious belief.
Article 62, however, remains as before:
None of the liberties accorded to the citizens can be exercised
contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and the law, contrary to
the existence and purposes of the socialist state, or contrary to the
Cuban people's decision to build socialism and communism.
Violation of this principle is a punishable offense.
In its seventh report on the Situation of Human Rights in cuba,
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted the following:
To limit the exercise of freedoms if it is contrary to legal and
constitutional provisions or contrary to the existence and purposes of
the state, is justified and, in general, is included in all
constitutions. What is highly questionable is to establish these limitations
as a function of such an imprecise and at the same time comprehensive
criterion such as that of "the decision of the Cuban people to
build socialism and communism".
Interpretation of this criterion lies outside the juridical field
and is clearly placed in the political field; it will therefore be the
organs that exercise power that will decide in each case whether
exercise of a freedom or a right is contrary to this principle.
Any possibility of the defense of the individual vis-a-vis
political power is thus eliminated, and the arbitrary exercise of power
over the citizens is thus constitutionally upheld.
MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE UNITED NATIONS
Finally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must make
some reference to the fact that during the period covered by this Annual
Report, the United Nations Secretary General appointed Mr. Carl-Johan
Groth, a Swedish national, as his Special Representative for Cuba,
replacing Mr. Rafael Rivas Posada who resigned the post on March 18,
1992. The Chairman of the
Human Rights Commission designated Mr. Groth as Special Rapporteur on
August 31, 1992. In
November 1992, the Secretary General presented to the United Nations
General Assembly a report prepared by Mr. Carl-Johan Groth on the human
rights situation in Cuba. In
the final observations in that report, the Special Rapporteur proposed
that the Cuban Government adopt the following measures:
To cease persecuting and punishing citizens for reasons relevant
to the freedom of peaceful expression and association;
To permit legalization of independent groups, especially those
seeking to carry out human rights activities, allowing them to act
within the law but independently;
To respect the guarantees of due process, in accordance with the
provisions set forth in international instruments;
To ensure greater explicitness and guarantees in the prison
system, so as to avoid incidents of excessive violence exercised against
prisoners. In this
connection, to allow independent national groups access to prisons and
to renew the agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross
for the same purposes would be a major achievement;
To review sentences imposed for political offenses and for trying
to leave the country by unlawful means;
To expedite, and to make more explicit, the procedure of applying
for a permit to leave the country, while at the same time avoiding
countermeasures against the applicants. Family reunification cases should be given priority
attention. On this subject,
the Special Rapporteur is aware of the necessity to have visas for entry
into other countries.
It is within that framework that the United Nations General
Assembly passed a resolution on December 4, 1992, wherein the Government
of Cuba was asked to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur to enable him
to establish contacts with Cuban authorities and citizens to discharge
the mission entrusted to him. The
General Assembly also regretted the many unanswered complaints of
violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as described in the
Special Rapporteur's Report. Finally, the Cuban Government was called upon to adopt the
recommendations specified in that report.
Finally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must
express its deep concern over the negative human rights situation in
Cuba. From what has been described in this report, it is obvious
that those in Cuba who question the prevailing political system are
subjected to an increasing number of restrictions.
It is also imperative that progress toward more meaningful change
be made, the kind of change that will gradually bring about a true
representative democracy, which does not exist at the present time.
To that end, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
pointed out, the inter-American community also has its responsibility to
help create those conditions that are conducive to unqualified
observance of human rights in Cuba.