52.              The authority of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to observe the human rights situation in Cuba derives from the wording of the OAS Charter, from its own Statute and its Rules of Procedure.  Under the Charter, all member states undertake to respect fundamental individual rights, which, in the case of States not parties to the Convention, are the rights established in the American Declaration, a source of binding international obligations.[76]  The Statute charges the Commission with paying special attention to the observance of human rights recognized in Articles I (right to life, to liberty, to security and humane treatment), XVIII (right to a fair trial) and XXVI (right to due process of law) of the Declaration when exercising its jurisdiction vis-à-vis countries that are not parties.[77]


53.              On January 26th of 2007 the Commission transmitted to the State of Cuba[78] a copy of the instant report and requested the submission of the State’s comments to the IACHR within the inextensible term of one month.


54.              Cuba is a member state of the Organization of American States since July 16, 1952, when it deposited its instrument of ratification of the OAS Charter.  The Commission has maintained that the Cuban State "is juridically answerable to the Inter-American Commission in matters that concern human rights" inasmuch as it " is party to the first international instruments established in the American hemisphere to protect human rights" and because "Resolution VI of the Eight Meeting of Consultation[79] excluded the Government of Cuba, not the State, from participating in the intra-American system."[80]  In this connection the IACHR stated:


"(...) it was not the intention of the Organization of American States to leave the Cuban people without protection.  That Government’s exclusion from the regional system in no way means that it is no longer bound by its international human rights obligations.[81]


55.              The IACHR has observed and evaluated the status of human rights in Cuba in 2006, during which period it received, in particular, information on violations of freedom of expression; on the detention conditions of political dissidents; the systematic practice of actions to repudiate political opponents; and the violation of labor and labor-union rights.


56.              In the exercise of its authority, the IACHR decided to include in this chapter considerations on the status of human rights in Cuba, particularly on the above-mentioned topics, and refer specifically to the need for ending economic and commercial sanctions against the Government of Cuba, inasmuch as they tend to aggravate restrictions on the actual exercise of economic, social and cultural rights by the Cuban people.


57.              Restrictions on political rights, freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas have amounted for decades to a permanent and systematic violation of the fundamental rights of Cuban citizens, a situation that is made worse, in particular, by the lack of independence of the judiciary.


58.              The Commission finds it necessary to reiterate that the absence of free and fair elections based on universal secret suffrage as the sovereign expression of the people[82] violates the right to political participation established in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which provides: " Every person having legal capacity is entitled to participate in the government of his country, directly or through his representatives, and to take part in popular elections, which shall be by secret ballot, and shall be honest, periodic and free." For its part, Article 3 of the Democratic charter signed in Lima, Peru, on September 11, 2001, defines as follows the components of a democratic system of government:


"Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government."


59.              All the same, and before discussing the 2006 highlights in the area of human rights, the Commission wishes to stress positive developments noted by various international organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme-UNDP- whose 2006 Report on Human Development shows a high index of human development in Cuba.[83]  Likewise, of the 8 millennium development goals proposed in 2000 at the UN Millennium Summit, it was established in 2005 that Cuba has met the goals of reducing infant mortality, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, and achieving universal primary education, among others.[84]  The Inter-American Commission values these accomplishments.




60.              The Commission has paid close attention to the situation of political dissidents in Cuba.  In this chapter the IACHR will address the limitations on the right to freedom of expression, the detention conditions of political dissidents, and the actions taken to repudiate and harass opponents of the Cuban government in 2006.


            A.         Freedom of expression


61.              On November 1, 2006, the Commission conveyed to Cuba and the petitioners its Report 67/06[85] on 78 political dissidents arrested and tried in 2003, under Article 91 of the Criminal Code and Law 88, for events connected with the exercise of fundamental freedoms such as freedom of thought, conscience, opinion and expression, the right to peacefully assemble and freedom of association.


62.              Both the American Declaration, in Article IV, and Principle 1 of the IACHR's Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression refer to the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas as a right inherent to every human being.


63.              Although freedom of expression is not an absolute right and may, as pointed out by the Inter-American Cord, be curtailed, such restrictions must be provided by law and intended to protect legitimate interests.  In addition, the Court has indicated it that the social dimension of freedom of expression is a means to exchange ideas and information among people; this includes their right to try to communicate their viewpoint to others, but also the right of all to hear opinions, accounts and news from third parties.[86]


64.              The Commission deems it necessary to insist that peaceful expression of opinions differing from those of the Cuban government may not be criminalized.


            B.         Detention conditions


65.              Under the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, every individual is entitled to humane treatment while in detention.[87]  The Inter-American Court has repeatedly held that all persons in custody has the right to live in detention conditions consistent with their personal dignity and the State must guarantee their right to life and personal safety.[88]  It has also ruled that, because the State is responsible for detention facilities, it must guarantee to the inmates conditions that respect their rights.[89]  The Commission has referred in several reports to the subject of detention conditions in Cuba.[90]


66.              In particular, the Commission continues to receive information on the precarious detention conditions of members of the group of 79 leaders of the Cuban dissident movement sentenced to prison in April 2003,[91] as well as on the situation of other political prisoners.


67.              The Commission has learned that several persons detained have been physically mistreated by prison authorities and even subjected to a long periods of isolation, causing serious deterioration in their physical and mental health.  Such is the case of Mr. José Gabriel Ramón Castillo,[92] said to have remained in isolation for 15 months in a punishment cell within the Villa Clara Prison for Juveniles and to be suffering, as a result, from disorders of the central nervous system, besides other pathologies.


68.              The Inter-American Court, consistently with the Minimum Rules on Treatment of Prisoners, has held that isolation or punishment cells must be used only as a disciplinary measure or to protect people for the length of time that is strictly necessary and strictly in line with rationality, need and legality standards. Such places must meet minimum standards of habitability, space and ventilation and may be used only when a physician certifies that the prisoner can withstand [such confinement].[93]


69.              Likewise, the Commission has continued receiving information about mistreatment of political dissidents in Cuban jails by guards and other persons, with the authorities acquiescing to or condoning such mistreatment.[94]  There is information, in particular, on Mr. Jorge Luis García Pérez-Antúnez, imprisoned since 1990 and nearing the end of his prison term.  According to reports, the authorities have threatened Mr. García Pérez-Antúnez that he will not be leaving the Kilo 7 prison at Camaguey alive, and he has suffered frequent beatings at the hands of other inmates.


70.              As regards health conditions, the Commission has already voiced its concern over the large number of convicts, some of them older than 60, who are said to be suffering from chronic visual, kidney, heart and lung ailments without receiving proper medical care.  On the contrary, the IACHR has learned that prison officials have prevented families of imprisoned political dissidents from delivering medications they need, which are not provided by the State, to treat their ailments.      


C.         Acts of repudiation


71.              Also highly worrisome to the Commission are the "acts of repudiation" against political dissidents who are not in jailed.  These actions consist of harassment and intimidation carried out by groups of government supporters, among them the Committees to Defend the Revolution and the People's Rapid Response Outposts against people they consider "counterrevolutionaries."[95]


72.              Among the reported cases of acts of repudiation in 2006 are those of Martha Beatriz Roque, Miguel Valdés Tamayo, Juan Carlos González Leyva, Pedro Arturo Hernández Cabrera and Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya.


73.              In January 2006 the chairman of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, Juan Carlos González Leiva as well as persons visiting him, were prevented from leaving his home for several days while water, power and telephone service was cut off and a group of persons blasted music supporting the revolution outside.[96]  A similar treatment was given to Miguel Valdés Tamayo, president of the group called Brothers for Dignity and a member of the Assembly to Promotes Civil Society in Cuba.  On October 27, 2006, Mr. Valdés Tamayo had to remain in his home in Havana while a large group of persons outside insulted him and physically attacked him when he tried to come out.[97]


74.              Former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque, who was one of the political dissidents arrested in 2003 and was paroled under supervision, reported various acts of harassment and attacks against her in 2006.


75.              In addition, according to information received by the Commission on February 3, 2006, the chairman of the Health Care Commission, Pedro Arturo Hernández Cabrera, was attacked by a mob that entered his house and, after insulting him and seizing letters and other personal items, took him to the Revolutionary National Police Unit.  According to reports from Amnesty International, when he returned from the police station his residence was surrounded by some 300 people insulting him.


76.              In light of this situation, it needs to be understood that these kinds of repudiation actions against political dissidents, involving persons connected with the Government of Cuba, run counter to the American Declaration, inasmuch as they ignore human dignity and the freedom all persons are entitled to irrespective of their political ideas.


            II.         The death penalty


77.              The Commission has repeatedly ruled that courts must apply the closest scrutiny to cases where there is a possibility of imposing the death penalty.  Since life is the supreme right of every human being and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of any other right, the death penalty, if imposed, must be limited to the most extreme cases and must strictly comply with the requirements of inter-American treaties on human rights, including the American Declaration.


78.              The Commission is aware that judicial proceedings cannot last indefinitely and must be pressed forward with the proper diligence within a reasonable time frame, but this should not lead to deadlines being shortened to the point where they affect due process safeguards such as the right to defend oneself, especially when a person's life is at stake.


79.              On November 1, 2006, the IACHR provided Cuba and the petitioners with Report on the Merits No.  68/06 on case 12477 (Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo et al.).  In this report the Commission concluded that Cuba was responsible for violating Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration, having tried and applied the death penalty to three persons without proper procedural safeguards, inasmuch as Messrs. Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac were executed by a firing squad after an extremely summary procedure that did not satisfy due process, impartiality and judicial independence, among other requirements.


80.              The Commission observes that Cuba is not applying the ultima ratio principle, since death is the penalty established in its Criminal Code for a large number of offenses.  No legislative change has been detected that will in practice limit the death penalty in practice to the most extreme offenses or guarantee due process to defendants when it is applied.


            III.        Labor rights and union freedom


81.              Under the American Declaration every person has the right to work,[98] to peacefully meet[99] and associate with other persons for the purpose of promoting, exercising and protecting their legitimate interests.[100]  The Court has determined that the scope of the right to freely associate in the labor area translates into:[101] the ability to set up labor organizations and set in motion their internal structure, activities and action programs without government authorities limiting or hampering the exercise of that right. Furthermore this freedom assumes that all persons may freely determine, without coercion of any kind, whether they wish to join the association. It is, therefore, the fundamental right to join together to achieve a common lawful end without pressures or interference that may alter or distort that end.[102]


82.              In 2006 the IACHR continued receiving information on the human rights status of workers and labor union leaders in Cuba.  The information deals primarily with restrictions on union freedom.[103]


83.              Concerning freedom of association, the Commission reiterates its concern over the existence of a single labor organization officially recognized and mentioned in the laws of Cuba, which has attracted permanent attention from the International Labor Organization.  The Commission stresses that one of the guiding principles of the ILO Charter, of which Cuba is a signatory, includes recognition of the principle of labor union freedom as a prerequisite for "universal peace and harmony."  The Commission believes that acts of harassment against union leaders who try to defend union freedom are contrary to human rights.


            IV.        Economic sanctions


84.              The need to put an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo placed on Cuba for more than 40 years has been recognized by the international community within the United Nations General Assembly.[104]


85.              The IACHR, in turn, has repeatedly pointed out the serious consequences that such economic sanctions have on the economic and social rights of the Cuban people and has insisted that the embargo must end.  Even though the economic embargo imposed on Cuba does not excuse the State from complying with its international obligations, the Commission also reiterates the responsibility of the inter-American community in creating the external conditions needed for Cuban society to overcome its present situation and attain full respect for human rights, inasmuch as it believes that "the adverse effects of the economic sanctions and other unilateral measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime constitute an obstacle to creating those conditions that are so necessary for achieving a peaceful and gradual transition to a democratic form of government."[105]


[76] I/A Court H.R., Advisory Opinion OC-10/89 of July 14, 1989, Interpretation of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man within the framework of Article 64 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Ser. A No. 10, para. 43-46.

[77] Statute of the IACHR, Article 20.a.

[78] The IACHR note of January 26th of 2007 was notified to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba and the Chief of the Section of Interests of Cuba in Washington, District of Columbia.

[79] The complete text of Resolution VI may be found in "Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs acting as Organ of Consultation in application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, Punta del Este, Uruguay, January 22-31, 1962, Documents of the Meeting," Organization of American States, OEA/Ser.F/II.8, doc. 68, pp. 17-19.

[80] IACHR, 2002 Annual Report, Chapter IV, Cuba, para. 3-7.  See also IACHR, 2001 Annual Report, Chapter IV, Cuba, para. 3-7.  IACHR, Report on the Status of Human Rights in Cuba, Seventh Report, 1983, para. 16-46.

[81] IACHR, 2002 Annual Report, Chapter IV, Cuba, para. 7.a.

[82] Article 3 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter provides that one of the essential elements of representative democracy is the holding of periodic, free and fair elections based on universal secret suffrage, as an expression of the sovereignty of the people; and a system of plurality of political parties and organizations.

[83] 2006 Summary Report on Human Development, p.  48.  Available at

[84] Millennium Development Goals - Cuba.  Second Report, July 2005.

[85] Report by which the IACHR reiterates the conclusions and recommendations made on the 51/06 report concerning the merits of case 12476 (Oscar Elías Biscet et al).  The Commission concluded that Cuba was responsible for violating Articles I, II, IV, VI, XX, XXI, XXII, XXV and XXVI of the American Declaration, to the detriment of the victims in this case.

[86] I/A Court H. R., Case of Ricardo Canese. Judgment of August 31, 2004. Series C No. 111, para. 71.

[87] American Declaration, Article XXV.

[88] I/A Court H. R., Case of the “Juvenile Reeducation Institute”. Judgment of September 2, 2004. Series C No. 112, para. 151; I/A Court H.R., Castillo Petruzzi et al. Case. Judgment of May 30, 1999. Series C No. 52, para. 195; I/A Court H.R., Neira Alegría et al. Case. Judgment of January 19, 1995. Series C No. 20, para. 60.

[89] I/A Court H. R., Case of Tibi. Judgment of September 7, 2004. Series C No. 114, para. 150; I/A Court H. R., Case of Bulacio. Judgment of September 18, 2003. Series C No. 100, para. 126.

[90] IACHR, 1995 Annual Report, Chapter V, para. 71; IACHR, 1994 Annual Report, Chapter IV, p. 168; IACHR, 2004 Annual Report, Chapter IV, para. 59-66; IACHR, 2005 Annual Report, Chapter IV, para. 76-81.

[91] See IACHR, Report on the Merits 67/06, October 21, 2006.

[92] José Gabriel Ramón Castillo is part of the group of 78 political dissidents the IACHR discussed in its Report on the Merits 67-06.  See also Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by the First UN Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders held in Geneva in 1955, approved by the Economic and Social Council in resolutions 663C (XXIV) of July 31, 1957 and 2076 (LXIII) of May 13, 1977, Articles 31 and 32.1.

[93] I/A Court H. R., Case of Montero Aranguren et al. (Detention Center of Catia). Judgment of July 5, 2006. Series C No. 150, para. 94.

[94] "Acción Democrática Cubana," Press Article, May 18, 2006. Available at:

[95] The Committees to Defend the Revolution and the People's Rapid Response Outposts are made up of a large number of people who collectively guard against counterrevolutionary activities and confront any sign of opposition to the government.

[96] Amnesty International, "Cuba: continúan los ataques contra las libertades fundamentales" [Cuba, attacks against fundamental liberties continue], March 17, 2006, Index AI: AMR 25/001/2006.

[97] Amnesty International, Fear for safety/fear of torture/Intimidation/Harassment, November 8, 2006.  Index AI: AMR 25/002/2006.

[98] American Declaration, Article XIV.

[99] Id. Article XXI.

[100] Id. Article XXII.

[101] I/A Court H.R., Baena Ricardo et al. Case. Judgment of February 2, 2001. Series C No. 72, para. 156.

[102] Cuba ratified ILO Agreement 87 on labor union freedom and protection of the right to form labor unions on June 25, 1952, and ratified ILO Agreement 98 on the right to join labor unions and collective bargaining on April 29, 1952.

[103] Part of the information is based on a comparative study "La Realidad Laboral en Cuba y la Responsabilidad Social de los Inversores Extranjeros" [Labor Reality and Cuba and the Social Responsibility of Foreign Investors], Jesús R. Mercader Uguina, Ed. Tirant Lo Blanch (Valencia, 2006).

[104] On November 8, 2006 the UN General Assembly approved Resolution 61/11 reiterating for the 15th time the call to the United States of America to end its embargo on Cuba.  That resolution was adopted with 183 votes in favor, 4 against and 1 abstention.

[105] IACHR, 1999 Annual Report, Status of Human Rights in Cuba, Chapter IV, para 64, OEA/Ser.L/II .106, Doc. 3 rev., April 13, 2000; IACHR, 2000 Annual Report, Status of Human Rights in Cuba, Chapter IV, para. 92, OEA/Ser.L/II.  111, doc. 20 rev., April 16, 2001.