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Consistent with its authority under relevant provisions of the Charter of the Organization of American States, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Statute and Regulations of the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights, it continues its practice of including in its annual report to the General Assembly a chapter on the human rights situations in various member states. The purpose of this practice has been to provide the Organization with updated information on the evolution of human rights in countries which had been the special focus of Commission attention; to assess and report upon compliance by member states with its various recommendations; and in some cases, to report on a situation emerging or developing at the close of its reporting cycle.

In this chapter, the Commission reiterates its interest in receiving cooperation from member states in order to identify the measures adopted by them to demonstrate a commitment to improving respect for human rights. Without prejudice to this consideration, the Commission, in various chapters of this report, has noted the positive steps in the field of human rights taken by various states of the Hemisphere.


In its Annual Report for 1997, the Commission set forth five pre-established criteria to identify the member states of the OAS whose practices in the field of human rights merited special attention, and hence, inclusion in chapter V of that report. An additional new criterion regarding inclusion in this chapter has been added by the Commission.

1. The first criterion in which the Commission believes that special reporting is warranted obtains in states which are ruled by governments which have not been chosen by secret ballot in honest, periodic and free popular elections in accordance with accepted international standards and principles. The Commission has repeatedly pointed out the centrality of representative democracy and democratically constituted systems in achieving the rule of law and respect for human rights. With respect to states in which the political rights set forth in the American Convention and Declaration are not respected, the Commission complies with its duty to inform other OAS member states regarding the situation of human rights of its inhabitants.

2. The second criterion concerns states where the free exercise of rights contained in the American Convention or Declaration have been effectively suspended, in whole or part, by virtue of the imposition of exceptional measures, such as a state of emergency, suspension of guarantees, state of siege, prompt exceptional security measures, and the like.

3. The third criterion which could justify a particular state's inclusion in this chapter is where there are serious accusations that a state is engaging in mass and gross violations of human rights set forth in the American Convention and/or Declaration or other applicable human rights instruments. Of particular concern here are violations of non-derogable fundamental rights, such as extrajudicial executions, torture and forced disappearance. Thus, where the Commission receives credible communications denouncing such violations by a particular state which are attested to or corroborated by the reports or findings of other governmental or intergovernmental bodies and/or of respected national and international human rights organizations, the Commission believes that it has a duty to bring such situations to the attention of the Organization and its member states.

4. The fourth criterion concerns those states which are in a process of transition from any of the above three situations.

5. The fifth criterion regards structural or temporary situations that may appear in member states confronted, for various reasons, with situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention or the American Declaration. This criterion includes, for example: grave situations of violence that prevent the proper application of the rule of law; serious institutional crises; processes of institutional change which have negative consequences on human rights; or grave omissions in the adoption of the necessary measures which would provide for the effective exercise of fundamental rights.




1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights analyzed the general human rights situation in Cuba during its 98th regular session, held in Washington, D.C., and adopted a draft report, which was transmitted to the Cuban state on March 5, 1998, pursuant to Article 63(h) of its Regulations, so that it might submit its observations within one month.

2. The Cuban state refrained from submitting observations, and once the period lapsed, the Commission adopted the final report on April 7, 1997, and its publication in Chapter V of the 1997 Annual Report.

3. After the above-noted final report, the Commission has continued to receive communications from individuals and organizations alleging numerous specific violations of the rights enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Also during this period, several non-governmental organizations have appeared in hearings before the Commission to report on different aspects of the human rights situation in Cuba, such as prison conditions and the situation of independent journalists, among others. In addition, it has received other informational communications which, together with the copious documentation in the Commission's files, reflect continuity in the pattern of human rights violations with respect to prior years.

4. During the period covered by this report, some positive steps have also been taken on human rights; these shall also be discussed by the Commission, following the practice established in its 1996 and 1997 reports.


5. According to the information provided to the Commission, during the period covered by this report the Cuban state adopted certain measures with respect to freedom of religion and worship. In effect, in November 1998 the Cuban state authorized the entry into Cuba of 19 priests and another 21 Catholic church workers. It was also reported that there are 54 Protestant institutions with over 200 representatives in Cuba's 14 provinces. Approximately 75 Catholic orders with 900 priest and nuns of 32 different nationalities now work in Cuba. During the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party, by Decision No. 13, the Party accepted a proposal that believers be allowed to be Party members; this decision has already been implemented.

6. As occurred in December 1997, in the wake of the visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba, Christmas 1998 was also declared a non-working holiday. In an extensive statement by the Politburo of the Cuban Communist Party, it is noted, inter alia, that "The Socialist Constitution of Cuba ... reaffirms the secular nature of the State and clearly and categorically establishes in Article 8 that the State recognizes, respects, and guarantees freedom of religion.... The Communist Party proposes to the Council of State that as of this year, each December 25 be considered, henceforth, a holiday for Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers."1 In the wake of this decision by the Cuban state, the Vatican spokesperson, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, issued a press release indicating that "This announcement, which reflects a just desire of the people and the Catholic church in Cuba, was received with great satisfaction in the Holy See and I don't think it will go unnoticed by the international community."2

7. In addition, during the period covered by this report certain changes have been made to the Cuban Criminal Code. These reforms are as follows: (a) The crime of being in possession of foreign currency in Cuban territory has been struck from the Criminal Code. (b) With respect to sentences entailing deprivation of liberty, the Code now provides for alternative forms of punishment, such as community work, and restrictions on the freedom of movement have replaced prison sentences of up to five years for certain offenses. (c) Measures have also been adopted to combat racism and xenophobia. Thus, pursuant to Article 295 of the Criminal Code, persons accused of discrimination or of inciting others to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, color, or national origin are subject to imprisonment of six months to two years and/or a fine (Article 120 of the Criminal Code punishes the crime of apartheid). (d) There are similar punishments for disseminating ideas based on racial superiority or racial hatred and for inciting acts of racial or ethnic violence. The amount of the fines depends on the offender's income.

8. The Inter-American Commission has been informed that at the different levels of education in the Cuban educational system, reforms are being adopted to offer courses that include human rights issues, as well as an analysis and condemnation of racial discrimination. It has been noted that the course in civics given in primary school and secondary school introduces Cuban boys and girls to respect for human rights. The Commission was further informed that in those schools associated with UNESCO, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was being taught, including the fundamental concepts in the struggle against racial discrimination; and that in university education, public international law and treaty law are given in the various programs, with an emphasis on international human rights instruments. In addition, the Commission was informed that Cuban judges, prosecutors, and lawyers are receiving training in national, regional, and international institutions involved in the protection and promotion of human rights. In addition, in the framework of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a wide-ranging national plan is being developed in Cuba that encompasses both the governmental and nongovernmental spheres, with activities such as a recent interdisciplinary seminar sponsored by the United Nations, focussed exclusively on racism and racial discrimination.

9. Also in 1998, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIDH), an independent international organization based in San José, Costa Rica, carried out four missions to Havana to undertake new human rights promotion and education activities with its Cuban counterparts in 1998 and 1999. These were mainly working meetings with the Unión Nacional de Juristas de Cuba (UNJC: National Union of Jurists of Cuba) and the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (FMC: Federation of Cuban Women) to discuss gender and human rights. In addition to these four missions, on November 24, 1998, the Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos (IIDH), in cooperation with the Unión Nacional de Juristas de Cuba (UNJC), presented the Cuban public its book entitled "Elecciones y Derechos Humanos en Cuba y en América Latina" (Elections and Human Rights in Cuba and Latin America), which includes the proceedings of the November 1997 seminar. On this occasion, a delegation from the IIDH met with several Cuban authorities as well as members of the legal community and Catholic Church officials. On the occasion of the presentation of the book "Elecciones y Derechos Humanos en Cuba y en América Latina," the head table was presided by officials from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Acting President of the Supreme People's Tribunal, Rubén Remigio Ferro; the Vice-Minister of Foreign Relations of Cuba, María de los Angeles Flórez Prida; and the Vice-Minister of Justice, Miguel A. Pérez Martín, who concluded the activity. The activity held in the Centro Capitolio of Havana included the presence of more than 150 people, and diplomats accredited in Havana, high-level officials of the National Assembly of People's Power, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, and the Ministry of Justice, university students, and members of Cuba's legal community. This was the second IIDH publication to be presented in Havana, resulting from its activities in November 1997; it features papers given and subsequent debates at the seminar, as well as a set of annexes, including the text of the Cuban Election Law and the Declaration of Viña del Mar, signed at the Sixth Ibero-American Summit.

10. On November 18, 1998, the International Relations Committee of the National Assembly of People's Power organized a public hearing on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which concluded with a resolution disseminated by the press. That week, the Cuban organization Cuban Movement for Peace and the Sovereignty of All Peoples organized an international conference on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

11. As regards freedom of the press, special mention should be made of the authorization given by the Cuban state to the international news agency Associated Press to re-open its Havana office 29 years after it was closed. In effect, AP was closed in 1969 after its last correspondent was expelled from the country. In recent years the Associated Press sent correspondents--upon first receiving authorization from the Cuban state--for short periods to cover certain news. In November 1998 the Cuban state, through its Minister of Foreign Relations, Roberto Robaina, authorized the director of Associated Press, Donald E. Newhouse, to re-open that office. It should also be noted that in February 1997 the Government of the United States authorized AP to operate in Cuba, along with Cable News Network (CNN), which has had offices in Cuba since March 1997.



12. The visit of His Holiness John Paul II to Cuba in early 1998 offered the state an opportunity to begin substantive reforms to the political system in place; the release of some political prisoners, at the request of the Pope, suggested that the first step had been taken to grant greater public freedoms in Cuba. Nonetheless, during the period covered by this report, the Commission has received numerous allegations--especially in late 1998 and early 1999--of harassment, accusations, the adoption of disciplinary measures, acts of repudiation, cases in which the criminal provisions on state of danger have been applied, and penalties entailing the imprisonment of persons who peacefully expressed their disagreement with government policy. In effect, according to information provided to the Commission, from March 1 to 15, 1999, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Félix Bonne Carcasés, René Gómez Manzano, and Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, members of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna (Internal Dissidents' Working Group), were tried and convicted on charges of sedition in case No. 4 of 1998, for making public a manifesto entitled "La Patria es de Todos" ("The homeland belongs to us all") in which they criticized the thesis of the Fifth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, a former Cuban Air Force pilot, was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Scholar Félix Bonne, 59 years of age, and attorney René Gómez Manzano, 55 years old, received a four-year prison sentence. Economist Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, 53 years old, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years imprisonment. These four persons were held in pre-trial detention since July 16, 1997. The Commission was also informed that the Cuban authorities severely restricted any publicity regarding these proceedings. The Commission recalls that Article XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man provides:

Every accused person is presumed to be innocent until proven 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 usual punishment. [Emphasis added.]

13. Having public trials is not only an essential guarantee of due process, but also a general principle of law. Having public proceedings is a "fundamental principle of modern procedure, opposed to inquisitorial secrecy, which establishes, as a supreme guarantee for the litigants, for the finding of the truth, and for fair judgments, that the investigation of the known not only to the parties and those who intervene in proceedings, but to everyone in general."3 In both the inter-American and European human rights systems there is extensive case-law on the meaning and purpose of the principle of public proceedings. For example, the European Court has held:

The public nature of proceedings protects litigants from the secret administration of justice not checked by public opinion; it is also one of the measures for preserving confidence before the courts and tribunals, by securing transparent administration of justice. Public procedure helps ensure the aim of the right to a fair trial, whose guarantee is one of the fundamental pillars of any democratic society.4

14. In addition, the Commission notes that the principle enshrined in Article XXVI of the American Declaration regarding a fair trial with full procedural guarantees, including publicity, is an essential right of the citizen who needs his or her legitimate rights and interests to be tolerated by independent and impartial courts and judges.

15. The Commission must also express its concern over the fact that these four persons have been held in pre-trial detention for one year and five months without a judge having verified the legality of the arrest, and without being judged within a reasonable time. The Commission recalls that Article XXV of the American Declaration provides clearly: "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 without undue delay or, otherwise, to be released."

16. The Inter-American Commission was also informed that in the days leading up to the judicial proceedings, one hundred peaceful opponents of the Cuban regime were arrested en masse in a major police operation.5 The arrests occurred in Havana and other localities of the interior, and in many cases the persons affected were placed under house arrest. Nonetheless, other persons detained were transferred to police offices. Even though the Commission has been informed that these persons are being released gradually, at the same time it must state its concern, as these events clearly show the increased repression of the Cuban state against those who peacefully take issue with government policy.

17. The Commission was also informed that in February 1999 the National Assembly of People's Power adopted the "Law for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy," whose objective is, according to its first provision, "to criminalize and punish those acts aimed at supporting, facilitating, or collaborating with the Helms-Burton Act, the blockade, the economic war against Cuba, subversion, and other similar measures aimed at diminishing, harming, or endangering the independence, sovereignty, and integrity of the Cuban state. Supplying, seeking, or obtaining information and introducing into the country subversive materials, and reproducing or disseminating them, are considered criminal acts, as is collaborating directly or through third persons with radio or television stations, newspapers, magazines, or other mass communications media, for the purposes indicated in the law."6 The law provides for prison sentences of up to 20 years for the perpetrators of these acts and their accomplices.

18. The Inter-American Press Association issued a statement on February 16, 1999, expressing its opinion regarding that law:

The Inter-American Press Association expresses its staunch opposition to the measure approved by the National Assembly of People's Power which evidently gives statutory status to censorship and the prohibition on providing information. This situation is a clear violation of the freedom of expression and of the right of citizens to be informed.

Democracy cannot be based on the control of information. Moreover, criminalizing the diversity of opinions in the name of national security is a vague measure that ultimately seeks to shut down that part of the Cuban press which, without political or ideological ties or commitments, disseminates information on the Cuban reality.

To try to have an entire society have the same line of thinking runs against human nature and is a violation of the human rights of the citizens, which their government claims to defend.

This new coercive measure is, moreover, an attack on the very principles that the government preaches. The history of humankind has shown that limiting the freedom of the press has never been the correct path to democracy.

Mr. President, we appeal to your office so that the Law for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba, and the amendments to the Criminal Code relating to the freedom of information, might be reviewed and reconsidered.7

19. Year after year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been recommending to the Cuban state that it eliminate from its criminal legislation all criminal provisions that punish freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly, in violation of internationally accepted democratic standards, to derogate all provisions that tend to create mechanisms of self-censorship or prior censorship. Nonetheless, the Cuban state continues to implement provisions of criminal law that are incompatible with the basic principles of international human rights law and to thereby legitimate repression of any form of political opposition, be it written or oral.

20. Thus, for example, the criminal provisions most used by the Cuban authorities to violate the fundamental rights of human rights activists, independent journalists, and trade unionists are: enemy propaganda, contempt of authority, unlawful association, clandestine production of printed matter, dangerousness, rebellion, and other acts against the security of the state. The organization Human Rights Watch/Americas, in its 1999 Annual Report, defines the situation prevailing in Cuba in the following terms:

As 1998 drew to a close, Cuba's stepped-up prosecutions and harassment of dissidents, along with its refusal to grant amnesty to hundreds of remaining political prisoners or reform its criminal code, marked a disheartening return to heavy-handed repression.... Cuban laws allowed the government to silence opponents under a veil of legality. The government rejected pleas to repeal offensive provisions such as the crime of enemy propaganda and spreading false news, which criminalized dissent and independent reporting. Cuban law broadly defined sedition as including nonviolent opposition that "perturb[ed] the socialist order." Cuba's laws against insulting public figures, mass organizations, and dead heroes also sweepingly denied freedom of speech. Justice Minister Roberto Díaz Sotolongo justified the restrictions by explaining that, as Spanish laws protected the monarch, Cuba also had laws to protect its "king," Fidel Castro. Cuba's provision against contempt for authority (desacato), which barred truthfulness as a defense, punished those who offended high-ranking authorities with one to three years in prison. The criminal code's dangerousness (el estado peligroso) and official warning (advertencia oficial) provisions permitted authorities to imprison or mandate police surveillance of individuals who demonstrated criminal tendencies but had committed no criminal act.... Cuba's associations law effectively barred the establishment of independent groups, leaving members at risk of up to one year in prison.8

21. The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), analyzing the situation of freedom of the press in Cuba, notes: 

There is no press freedom in the country. Repression and persecution of a small and weak group of independent journalists operating inside Cuba against all odds continues in an almost bestial form.... The so-called acts of repudiation, house arrests, raids and confiscation of letters, documents, and even basic writing instruments became an almost daily routine.9

22. During the period covered by this report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received several allegations that provide evidence of the conditions described in the foregoing paragraphs, i.e., discrimination based on political grounds and violations of the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly. Following are some of the cases in which these issues are posed most directly:

a. On December 10, 1998, the date marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, several groups opposing the Cuban regime, including the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, convened a peaceful meeting in the Parque Butari, situated between Porvenir and Santa Catalina streets, in the municipality 10 de Octubre, in Havana, for a reading of the Universal Declaration. The place in question was cordoned off as of 8:00 a.m., with the adjacent streets blocked by wooden barriers bearing the acronym PNR (National Revolutionary Police) and with approximately 100 members of the Rapid Response Brigade, in addition to several dozen agents of the political police. In those circumstances, Miriam Cantillo Ramos, a member of the Acción Nacionalista movement, was arrested at her home on the morning of December 10, 1998, and taken to the police unit for the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo. In addition, Lázaro García, Secretary General of the Partido Pro-Derechos Humanos de Cuba, was warned by seven police agents who appeared at his home that same morning not to leave his house. Another group of police appeared at the home of José Orlando González Bridón, Secretary General of the Confederación de Trabajadores Democráticos Cubanos (CTDC: Cuban Democratic Workers Federation) to keep him from going to the Parque Butari, along with opposition figures María de los Angeles Suárez Esquivel, María Esther Valdés, and Ana María Ortega, all members of the CTDC. Similarly, journalists María de los Angeles González Amaro and Celia Jorge Luis were kept from leaving their homes by officials from the State Security offices. It should be noted that both journalists were visited on December 9, 1998, by two officials who threatened that they would be beaten if they showed up at the Parque Butari. The same action was taken against the president of the Acción Nacionalista movement, Ana María Agramonte, who two State Security officials warned her not to go there.

b. Also on December 10, 1998, the following persons were arrested by State Security agents: José Manuel Ríos, delegate in Matanzas of the Colegio de Pedagogos de Cuba, when preparing to enter the home of Roberto de Miranda, vice-president of that same association; Maritza Lugo Gutiérrez and Omel Lugo Gutiérrez, both of the Movimiento Democrático 30 de Noviembre; and attorney Ofelia Nardo Cruz, who was taken to the Tenth Police Unit in the 10 de Octubre municipality. In addition, José Antonio Fornaris Ramos, editor-in-chief for the agency Cuba Verdad, was prevented from leaving her home by agents of the political police, while Humberto Colás, a member of Corriente Liberal Cubana, was arrested in the vicinity of the Parque Butari. In one especially serious incident, during a meeting called by human rights groups to celebrate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration, an unidentified dissident who said just a few words before the cameras of the British news agency Reuters was badly beaten by State Security agents, who dragged him into a side street. The cameraman, Andrew Cawtorne, of Reuters, was also attacked by the mob when members of the Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas and agents of the Rapid Response Brigades, supported by members of the National Police, shouted "hit him! hit him!"

c. Of special concern to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights are the events described by Oscar Elías Bisset and Rolando Yyobre, members of the board of directors of the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, who learned that human rights activist Milagros Cruz Cano was arbitrarily arrested on December 4, 1998, in broad daylight, and forcibly taken to the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana (Mazorra). Dr. Bisset, in an interview with the Cooperative of Independent Journalists, stated: "As a physician, I can fully assure you that Mrs. Cruz Cano is in very good mental health. Her situation is that she is a very active human rights defender, and the government wants to get rid of her, like it wants to get rid of them all, to put an end to our struggle. I've spoken personally with Milagros on many occasions, and she was in excellent mental condition until the day before her arrest. It is a vile maneuver on the part of the Cuban government to dissemble her imprisonment, since she is blind, and the government fears the response of international public opinion." Milagros Cruz is an active human rights defender who belongs to the Movimiento 30 de Noviembre. It has been noted that Milagros's detention has aroused logical suspicions and concern among human rights defenders, as some have previously denounced the use of this mental health center to justify confinement in cases in which the government did not have any legal grounds for detaining the person in question.

d. Also, in December 1998, Oscar Elías Bisset González, who denounced the arbitrary detention of Milagros Cruz Cano, and a member of the board of directors of the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, denounced that members of the State Security offices (DSE: Departamento de la Seguridad Estatal), who identified themselves as officers "Isidro" and "Boris" (the latter a Lieutenant Colonel) offered him "whatever you want: housing, work, or to leave the country immediately," if he would renounce his activities as a human rights defender. Mr. Bisset was detained on December 4, 1998, at approximately 8:00 a.m., near the Parque Butari, in the Lawton neighborhood, when he was going to the Catholic church in the Párraga district, where the members of the Fundación were preparing a peaceful demonstration related to the saint's day for St. Barbara. According to Bisset, initially he was taken to the unit of the National Revolutionary Police at Avenida 31 in Marianao, where he was questioned for approximately 10 hours; he declared a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary arrest. During the questioning he was warned to call off an activity scheduled for December 10 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Bisset, the officials warned him: "If the activity is held, some criminal elements might mix in with the public in attendance and cause disturbances, including possibly beating participants, which would force us to arrest everyone," to which he responded, "I'm not going to budge; I am a human rights defender and I'm not going to renounce that or my responsibilities." It was then that the officials tried to bribe him, according to the allegations received. Oscar Elías Bisset has repeatedly been harassed by agents of the Cuban state throughout 1998 because of his active work in defense of human rights.

e. On December 2, 1998, the independent press agency "Cuba Verdad" sent a public letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in Cuba, Monsignor Beniamino Stella, which reads as follows:

We, the undersigned, journalists with the press agency Cuba Verdad, request that you inform Pope John Paul II about the police violence to which we were subjected on the morning of November 27 last, when we were in the vicinity of the Provincial People's Tribunal of this capital. We were there in solidarity with journalist Mario J. Viera Gonzáles, who, after writing an article entitled "Moral en Calzoncillos" ["morality in underwear"], is accused of the alleged crime of defamation against an official of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Cuba. The trial was not held, because members of the "Rapid Response Brigade" provoked a lamentable incident which, as always, ended in offenses, blows, and the arrest of eight peaceful opponents of the Government of Fidel Castro.

As generally occurs in these cases, none of the assailants was detained by the hundreds of "agents of order" on the scene. Nonetheless, all the persons arrested were fined 30 pesos for "altering the public order." ... Monsignor Stella, most of us who were attacked last November 27 profess the Catholic faith. For example, Mrs. Celia Jorge Ruiz, over 70 years of age, participated as a guest at the Cathedral of Havana when His Holiness met with the clergy, men and women religious, seminarians, and laypersons. Neither the fact that she is a woman nor her years stopped the excesses of that day, and this elderly woman, after being abused by the political police, was locked up for over 12 hours in one of the enclosed cells of the Technical Department of Investigations, located at the intersection of Calle 100 and Calle Aldabó.... Monsignor Stella, we ask that you please forward to the Pope the request that he embrace us with his heart and with his words of encouragement, to help us bear the suffering imposed on us by those who hold total power for an indefinite term in our country.

f. Cecilio Monteagudo Sánchez, a member of the Partido Solidaridad Democrática, was detained on September 15, 1997, at his home in Camajuaní, in the province of Villa Clara. He was judged in case no. 3/97 before the People's Tribunal of Villa Clara, from February 3 to 6, 1998. On February 13, 1998, he was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for the crime of Enemy Propaganda--Article 103 of the Criminal Code. According to the trial court, Monteagudo Sánchez had written a pamphlet calling on people to refrain from voting in the October 1997 municipal elections. Juan Carlos Recio Martínez, 29 years of age, was convicted and sentenced by the same court to one year of correctional labor, without imprisonment, for not having reported Monteagudo, who asked him to type the document, to the authorities.

g. On October 2, 1998, a violent act of repudiation was staged against the family of Manuel Antonio Gonzáles Castellanos, staff member of the Cuba Press independent news agency. The events took place in the town of San Germán, province of Holguín, when members of the police, along with hundreds of plainclothes state agents, gathered in front of the home of Antonio Gonzáles, knocked down the main door, and invaded his domicile, injuring two of the residents and arresting two others. The persons arrested are Manuel A. González Castellanos and Roberto Rodríguez Rodríguez, a former political prisoner who was visiting the house during the assault, and who was injured. These persons are being held in the provincial prison of Holguín, under police investigation.

h. The Partido Solidaridad Democrática announced a round-up by the political police of several human rights activists at 6:00 p.m. on September 7, 1998, in the course of which nine dissidents were arrested, including six women. The detainees are: Leonel Morejón Almagro, president of Naturpaz; Ofelia Nardo; activist Nancy de Varona; independent journalists Luis López Prende and María de los Angeles González Amaro; opposition leader Vicky Ruiz Labrit; independent unionist Miriam Cantillo; and the president and vice-president of the Colegio Pedagógico, Mirian García and Roberto Miranda. These activists were released days later.

i. The organization Human Rights Watch/Americas reported that on August 28, 1998, a Havana court convicted and sentenced Reynaldo Alfaro García to three years in prison for disseminating false news; Alfaro García is vice-president of the Asociación para la Lucha contra la Injusticia Nacional and a member of the Partido de Solidaridad Democrática (PSD). The police had detained him on May 8, 1997, when he requested the release of the political prisoners and denounced beatings in the prisons. In addition, on April 24, 1998, a Santiago court decided that Julio César Coizeau Rizo, a member of the "Geraldo González" Club of Former Political Prisoners, was guilty of contempt of authority. The court convicted him and sentenced him to three years imprisonment for posting some 20 anti-government placards. Similarly, in late September 1998, prosecutors from Havana filed sedition charges against four leaders of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna (GTDI: Internal Dissidents' Working Group), economists Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello and Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, teacher Félix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, and attorney René Gómez Manzano. Since their arrest on July 16, 1997, they had been in maximum security prisons for more than 14 months. In late 1998, the Cuban prosecutors had requested a six-year prison sentence for Roca Antúnez and five-year sentences for the other three leaders, all for having published a document entitled "La Patria es de Todos", analyzing the Cuban economy, proposing reforms to the Constitution, speaking of human rights, and criticizing the fact that only one political party is recognized in Cuba. It should be noted that throughout 1998, His Holiness John Paul II and the Prime Minister of Canada requested the release of these persons.10

j. Human Rights Watch also denounced that "After an apparent opening early in 1998, Cuba took firm action against nonviolent government critics as the year progressed with surveillance, harassment, and intimidations. Cuba used short-term arbitrary detentions together with official warnings of future prosecution to urge activists to leave Cuba, abandon their opposition activities, or distance themselves from 'counterrevolutionary' colleagues or family members.... Cuba harshly repressed domestic human rights defenders in 1998. The government maintained a steady campaign of surveillance, phone interruption, and other intimidations. The government took firm steps to silence human rights critics, including the four leaders of the GTDI, who had called for the release of political prisoners and faced trial for sedition, and Reynaldo Alfaro García, who had denounced prison abuses and received a three-year sentence for spreading false news. Prisoners who spoke out against abuses faced physical violence and other punishments. On March 12, 1998, a Cienfuegos court found five members of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba (Partido Pro Derechos Humanos de Cuba, PPDH), Israel García Hidalgo, Benito Fojaco Iser, Angel Nicolás Gonzalo, José Ramón López Filgueira, and Reynaldo Sardiñas Delgado, guilty of other acts committed against state security (otras actas contra la seguridad del estado). Police had arrested them in October 1997. The tribunal sentenced García Hidalgo and Fojaco Iser to two years in prison, while López Filgueira received a one-year sentence. Sixty-nine-year-old Gonzalo and sixty-six-year-old Sardiñas Delgado both received one-year sentences to labor camps without internment."11

23. The presentation throughout this section brings to light the repeated violations of the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly in Cuba. They suggest that the Cuban state has institutionalized human rights violations of this type as a systematic practice. The Commission laments the difficult situation that the different human rights groups, trade unions, and independent journalists are facing and in which they have to work, as they try, day by day, to consolidate an alternative for those Cuban citizens who wish to have a space to freely and peacefully discuss the problems that beset the country. These sectors also constitute a type of pluralism in a system characterized by absolute state control over the citizens, implemented through the mass organizations, with no intermediaries of any sort allowed.

24. The systematic violations of the rights of assembly and association prevent Cuban citizens from associating with those of their choosing, without being subject to sanctions in the exercise of their other civil, political, economic, and social rights, as a result of that association. It includes the right to form associations, as well as the right to join already-existing associations, and includes all aspects of life in a modern society. Cuban citizens are also deprived of the right to assembly, which consists of the freedom that all persons have to meet in groups, publicly or privately, to discuss or defend their ideas. Paradoxically, these rights, like the right to freedom of expression, are enshrined in the Cuban Constitution, but limited, restricted, and subordinated to the "construction of socialism and communism". In effect, Article 62 of the Cuban Constitution provides: "None of the freedoms recognized for citizens may be exercised against those 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. Violations of this principle are punishable."12

25. This last sentence of Article 62 of the Constitution of Cuba--"Violations of this principle are punishable""--is applied to the letter by the Cuban authorities, in accordance with Articles 72 ff. of the Criminal Code, in order to provide legally justification for the application of security measures prior to the possible commission of a crime, and afterwards, restrictions that include internment in labor camps and prisons for up to four years.

26. In effect, the Cuban state justifies the detention of opponents of the regime, human rights activists, trade unionists, and independent journalists by reference to Article 72, which defines "dangerousness" as "the special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by the conduct observed, in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality." Article 74 complements this provision indicating that "the dangerous state is noted when any of the following indicia of dangerousness is found in the subject: (a) habitual drunkenness or dipsomania; (b) drug addiction; (c) antisocial conduct." In addition, "one who habitually breaks the rules of social coexistence through acts of violence, or by other provocative acts, violates the rights of others, or who by his or her general conduct violates the rules of social co-existence or disturbs the order of the community, or lives as a social parasite from the work of others, or exploits or practices socially reproachable vices, is considered to be socially dangerous by virtue of such anti-social conduct."

27. Article 75 of the same law provides that "the fact that, without being included in any of the dangerous states referred to in Article 73, due to one's ties or relations to persons potentially dangerous to society, other persons, and the social, economic, and political order of the communist state, one may still be inclined to commit criminal acts, shall be taken note of by the competent police authority, to prevent the commission of socially dangerous or criminal acts."

28. The so-called medidas de seguridad (security measures) can be applied to persons who engage in one of the above-cited types of dangerous conduct either prior to or after the criminal conduct. If such measures are taken prior to the conduct, Article 78 provides that one who is declared to be dangerous can have therapeutic or re-educational measures imposed, or be under the close vigilance of the National Revolutionary Police. One of the therapeutic measures, according to Article 79, consists of internment in the assistance center, psychiatric facility, or detoxication center. Re-educational measures are applied to anti-social individuals and consist of internment in a specialized labor or study center, and being turned over to a labor collective for supervision and orientation. Such measures are for at least one year, and no more than four years.

29. These provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code are complemented by Decree No. 128, issued in 1991. That decree establishes that a declaration of a dangerous pre-criminal state should be decided summarily. In effect, according to that decree, the National Revolutionary Police opens the file with the report of the agent acting and the testimony of neighbors who attest to the "dangerous" conduct," and present it to the Municipal Prosecutor, who decides whether to submit it to the Municipal People's Court to inform it of the degree of dangerousness within two working days from the date it was received. Within that time period, the Court will decide whether any other evidence should be taken, which is to be done within the next five working days. If the court deems the file to be complete, it will set a date for the hearing, where the parties will appear. The Municipal Court is to hand down its judgment within 24 hours after the hearing is held.

30. Several sources have noted that the characteristics of the summary process deprive the accused of the possibility of mounting an adequate legal defense, since the pre-established time periods do not allow for contacting an attorney or for preparing a defense. Consequently, the state controls any suspicious activity that is contrary to the official ideology with deprivation of liberty for up to four years through what are called "files on dangerousness."

31. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that both the above-described provisions and their application by the Cuban state violate due process, as they are incompatible with the principles of legality, the presumption of innocence, due process, and judicial guarantees enshrined in Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The criminal law should punish offenses or unsuccessful attempts to carry them out, but should never punish attitudes or presumptions of attitudes. Dangerousness is a subjective concept that varies with the person assessing it, and its vagueness is a factor giving rise to juridical insecurity for the population, since it lays the basis for arbitrary acts on the part of the authorities.

32. The Commission considers it extremely serious that these provisions--on their face incompatible with the principles established in the American Declaration--are applied by a summary proceeding to persons who have committed no crime but who, in the judgment of the Cuban authorities, are considered dangerous to society, and therefore deserving of severe measures involving deprivation of liberty. In these cases, the state intervenes in the lives of the citizens, without limitation, to maintain social peace, and does not hesitate to violate the right to individual liberty.

33. Criminological doctrine is unanimous in recognizing that a prognosis of dangerousness of the subject, especially pre-criminal dangerousness, is highly arbitrary, as it is not based on objective data with clear criminological meaning; rather, it is formulated based on the values of those who hold power. In this way, the determination of pre-criminal dangerousness is based on a judgment of probability: Based on certain present circumstances of the subject--the adoption of conduct that the legislators saw fit to consider indicators of social dangerousness--it is presumed that he or she will commit some crime in the future.

34. On applying Articles 72 ff. of the Criminal Code, the Cuban authorities are also violating the principle of equality before the law, enshrined in Article II of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as the state punishes or considers dangerous anyone who contradicts "the norms of socialist morality."13These provisions are constantly used by the Cuban authorities to discriminate against citizens who express an opinion that differs from the official ideology.

35. In its procedural aspects, equal protection proscribes the administration and application of the law in such a manner as to favor or discriminate against any citizen or group of citizens. This is, in essence, the meaning of justice. Not only should the law treat all citizens equally, but when a citizen seeks protection from the courts and other institutions of society, the persons who make up those institutions should undertake to ensure that the spirit of the law is not distorted to the benefit or detriment of anyone. Therefore, the subjective burden imposed by Articles 72 ff. of the Cuban Criminal Code is, however viewed, discriminatory, if we understand discrimination according to the following definition: 

The term discrimination ... is generally used to denote unequal treatment of equal persons, either by the granting of favors or the imposition of burdens. Therefore, whenever the term discrimination appears in the context of international law, there is an implicit presumption that it is in relation to a norm, or a set of norms, that impose equal treatment. In addition, the term discrimination generally entails the idea of injustice. 14

36. In summary, the Cuban state, by maintaining and enforcing these provisions for all persons under its jurisdiction, is systematically undermining the rights to justice, due process, and equality before the law, all set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.



37. The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes the right to vote and to participate in government at Article XX, in the following terms.

Article XX. 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.

38. Political rights, as considered by the Declaration, have two clearly distinguishable aspects: the right to directly exercise power, i.e. to participate in government; and the right to elect those who are to exercise it, i.e. the right to vote. This presupposes a broad conception of representative democracy, based on popular sovereignty, in which the functions by which power is exercised are performed by persons chosen in free and fair elections.

39. It is a doctrine of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the exercise of the right to political participation implies "the right to organize political parties and political associations, which through free debate and ideological struggle can improve social and economic conditions and rules out the monopoly of power by a single political party."15 In addition, the Commission has considered that "Governments have the obligation, in respect of political rights and the right to political participation, to allow and guarantee the organization of all political parties and other associations, unless they are constituted for the purpose of violating fundamental human rights; free and open debate of the main issues relating to socioeconomic development; the holding of general elections that are free and with the guarantees required to ensure that the outcome represents the popular will."16

40. On January 11, 1998, elections were held in Cuba to choose 601 members of the National Assembly of People's Power, and 1,192 delegates to the Provincial Assemblies. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cuba, in his latest report, has analyzed the procedures and characteristics of these elections:

One of the main features of the elections was that the two single lists contained one candidate for each seat. Although voters could vote for individual candidates, the authorities announced publicly that this was not recommended and that it would be best to exercise the "combined vote", by voting for all the candidates as a bloc.

Although the authorities say that candidates were chosen by the people and that membership of the Communist Party was not an important factor for election, in reality the system established by the Electoral Law of 1992 does not make it genuinely possible for persons opposed to the Government and not looked on favourably by the authorities to compete freely. One of the provisions of the Law is that lists of candidates are drawn up by the Candidature Commissions, made up of representatives of the Cuban Workers' Federation, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the National Small Farmers' Association, the University Students' Federation and the Federation of Secondary School Students. In proposing candidates, the Commissions must seek the views of any institutions, organizations and labour federations that it deems necessary, as well as of delegates to the Municipal Assemblies. These Assemblies can approve or reject one or all of the proposed candidates, in which case the Candidature Commissions must submit others. The nomination of candidates for election to the Municipal Assemblies is done by nominating assemblies, in which all voters are entitled to propose candidates. In practice, however, these district assemblies are usually organized by the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution or the Communist Party, which makes the selection of an opponent of the regime most unlikely.

In addition to the election propaganda put out by the government press media (the only ones allowed in Cuba), members of the Party and of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, as well as children outside school hours, made house-to-house calls to persuade people to go and vote, although in theory voting is not compulsory. Furthermore, all the voters know about the candidates is what is contained in the biographical notes distributed by the government press, and candidates are not able to present their own electoral platform. All in all, the electoral process is so tightly controlled that the final phase, i.e. the voting itself, could be dispensed with without the final result being substantially affected.

The results announced by the Government showed a 98.35 per cent voter turnout, with the 601 candidates for the National Assembly and the 1,192 candidates for the Provincial Assemblies being elected. Approximately 5.01 per cent of ballots were blank or spoiled and 94.39 per cent of voters opted for the combined vote.17

41. The foregoing text suggests that free debate and pluralist ideological struggle were absent during the Cuban elections, as the only political party allowed in the country is the Communist Party, which keeps other groups from competing in a healthy atmosphere of ideological pluralism. It may be considered that that limitation is the result of the action of several factors, especially the requirement of ideological adherence, the requirements that stem from the electoral mechanisms, and the intolerance of the group in power to the forms of political opposition.

 42. Intolerance of all forms of political opposition is the main limitation on participation. Article 62 of the Cuban Constitution provides the constitutional basis for this intolerance; this provision has been analyzed many times by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.18 While it is reasonable to proscribe unconstitutional acts, the text of this article even limits the mere freedom of expression. Discourse critical of the objectives of the socialist state, though not linked to other actions, may be prohibited.

43. In addition, the articles of Chapter VII of the Constitution, on fundamental rights, duties, and guarantees, drastically limit the formal political rights that are necessary in any democratic government, which are enshrined in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Article 53 recognizes freedom of expression and freedom of the press, but only "in accordance with the aims of socialist society." To dispel any doubts, the Article 53 also stipulates the condition that "The law regulates the exercise of these freedoms." The freedom of expression is also limited in Article 39(ch), where it is indicated that artistic freedom exists "so long as its content is not contrary to the Revolution." The Constitution, therefore, lays the legal basis for censorship, since it is the state that can determine whether oral and written forms of expression, and art, are contrary to the revolution. The Constitution also sets forth the legal bases for the state to direct all activities in the areas of art, culture, and the press, all of which is at odds with Article IV of the American Declaration.

44. Indeed, political practice has demonstrated that the cards are generally stacked against the opposition. Since 1960, all information media have been in the hands of the state. There are no legal means for openly challenging the policies of the Government and the Party, or for competing, as a group, movement, or party organization, for the right to govern, to replace the Communist Party and its leaders peacefully, and instituting new and different policies. The main criticisms expressed in public against government policies come from the very members of the upper echelons of the Government. Nonetheless, it is impossible to make an open and organized criticism of the Government and Party that makes the highest-level leaders susceptible to assuming responsibility, being held accountable, or being removed.

45. It is, therefore, a regime that continues to be severely authoritarian and that continues to use methods--control of information and of scientific and cultural pursuit, imprisonment, harassment and forced migration of opponents abroad, etc.--to restrict and indeed eliminate all forms of political opposition. While it is true that the current regime has been subjected to all manner of pressures, both internal and external, authorizing it to take certain exceptional measures for its defense, it is also true that the eradication of any type of opposition is clearly indicative of political intolerance that goes beyond the limits set for a legitimate response by the state to defend itself. In addition, the Commission considers that the methods used have often been unlawful and disproportionate to the magnitude of the presumed infractions committed.

46. Based on the above, the Commission finds that the Cuban political system, in its normative structure, establishes principles which, if implemented, could adequately safeguard human rights. Nonetheless, the non-existence of the necessary separation of powers means that the activities of Cuban society as a whole are subordinated to the political authorities. This situation is reinforced by the use of subjective terms and concepts in the Constitution that tend to undercut the effective observance of the principles of objectivity and legality, which are essential guarantees against the violation of citizens' rights by the political authorities.

47. The Commission considers, as well, that the Cuban political system grants an exclusive and exclusionary preponderance to the Communist Party, which constitutes, in fact, a force above the state itself, and impedes healthy ideological and political-party pluralism, which is one of the foundations of democratic government. Consequently, the most important state organs are controlled by members of the Communist Party, who are also decisively involved in the operation of the mechanisms for selecting candidates to occupy elective posts. All this presupposes ideological adherence that is uncritical and dogmatic, and incompatible with Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

48. In the opinion of the Commission, the existence of supreme collegial bodies is a positive trait of the Cuban political system, since it emphasizes negotiation to reach the consensus needed for effective political action. In principle, the collegial organs are a good basis for achieving broad citizen participation in national politics. The practice, however, indicates that the main organs of the state and of the Communist Party are controlled by a small group, and that this has been the case from the very beginning of the current Cuban political process. Within this group, special mention should be made of the role played by the Head of State, who is the one who effectively and ultimately exercises power in Cuba. This situation has been attained through the exercise of marked intolerance towards all forms of political opposition, which has been eliminated often by the use of unlawful methods, or methods disproportionate to the magnitude of the presumed infractions or threats.

49. The Commission hopes that conditions are created, internally and internationally, to achieve the effective and authentic participation of Cuban citizens in the political decisions that affect them, in a framework of freedom and pluralism, which is essential for the effective observance of all human rights.


50. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has already analyzed prison conditions in Cuba, and especially the situation of political prisoners, on prior occasions. In the seven special reports prepared to date, emphatic reference has been made to the conditions violative of Article XXV of the American Declaration to which political prisoners are subjected in Cuba; two of the reports were devoted exclusively to this issue, while one addressed the treatment accorded the women at the political prison.19 Article XXV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man:

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 delay by a court or, otherwise, to be released. He also has the right to humane treatment during the time he is in custody. [Emphasis added.]

51. In addition, year after year, the Commission has analyzed this issue in the respective sections of its Annual Report. The prison system is an issue that has always been of concern to the Commission, not only with respect to Cuba, but also with respect to all other countries of the hemisphere. Indeed, the Commission has appointed a thematic rapporteur on prison conditions in the Americas.

52. The Cuban prison system, in its normative structure, establishes principles which, if put into practice, could lead to adequate safeguards for the human rights of the prison population. According to these rules, treatment in prison, while deprived of liberty, includes remuneration for the socially useful work performed by the prisoners; prisoners are provided with appropriate attire and footwear; they are given regular rest time on a daily basis, and one day of rest per week; they are given medical and hospital care, in case of illness; and they are given the right to obtain long-term social security benefits in case of total disability caused by occupational accidents. If a prisoner dies due to occupational accidents, his or her family will receive the corresponding pension. Prisoners are to be given an opportunity to receive and expand their education and technical preparation; they are to be provided, to the extent and in the manner provided for in the regulations, the opportunity to exchange correspondence with persons not in prison, and to receive visits and consumer goods; depending on their conduct, and to the extent and in the manner provided in the regulations, they are authorized to make use of the conjugal pavilion, given leave from the prison for a limited time, given opportunities and the means for engaging in recreation and sports as per the activities scheduled by the prison establishment, and promoted to a less severe prison regime.20 In addition, Article 30(1) of the Criminal Code provides that "The person sanctioned may not be subjected to corporal punishment, nor may any measure be taken that humiliates or works to the detriment of the dignity of any prisoner."

53. Nonetheless, in practice these rules are ignored by the prison authorities. During its 100th session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing with former political prisoner Ileana Curra Lusson, a human rights activist in Cuba, who was released from prison in 1997, and left Cuba in late 1997. In view of the importance of this testimony, the Commission has decided to reproduce it here:

1. Being kept in the same quarters as common prisoners: In the Cuban prisons, despite the very large number of political prisoners, political prisoners must share quarters with the common prisoners, and put up with the attacks, insinuations, and abuses that come with sharing cells with murders, rapists, and thieves. Oftentimes the prison authorities use the common prisoners to provoke arguments with, and even to physically attack the political prisoners; in addition, they stir up the distrust and envy of the common prisoners with respect to the political prisoners, using this as a means of punishing the prisoners of conscience.

2. Physical and psychological torture: Physical torture is a common practice. According to a recent report on general prison conditions in Cuba, by the Movimiento Nacional de Resistencia Cívica "Pedro Luis Boitel," a civic organization formed by many of the prisoners' relatives: "Beatings, or the famous tongas, are a common practice in the prisons. The most terrible part is that the beatings are aimed not only at subjecting the prisoner to obedience, but to making him or her comply with an order quickly, to cease demanding a right granted in the prison regulations, and even to make a prisoner salute a military officer or to forget about his or her hunger." There are many cases that exemplify this. In May 1998, political prisoners Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina and Francisco Herodes Echemendía, held at the provincial prison of Guantánamo, were savagely beaten for chanting antigovernment slogans while in their cells. Not only is physical torture, in the form of beating and abuses by the prison authorities, a common practice in the Cuban prisons; much more frequent is the practice of psychological torture. The prisoner is told he is alone, that no one knows about him, they are led to understand that they are demented, "crazy," and that the best exit is suicide. Often these methods produce imbalances in some prisoners to the point that they need psychiatric care. In other cases, the food is adulterated with sedatives, and even electroshock therapy is applied, with no medical prescription or doctor's orders. One example is the case of the young political prisoner Julio Morales González, who is being held in the Kilo 8 prison, and who is mentioned by Jorge Luis García in his report "La Vida en la Prisión Kilo 8," and I quote directly from page 30 of that document: "... in the case of the young political activist Morales González, his stay there (in the isolation area of the Special Regime of the prison) is a true act of psychiatric torture for the purpose of provoking a mental imbalance so that he might attack himself and commit suicide, as many others have done in that situation." On other occasions, the tactic used to destabilize the political prisoner is to make him believe that his food is poisoned, creating a state of anxiety that is unbearable in his own mind. Often this practice, continued over time, may create irreparable psychological damage in the victim.

3. Punishment cells and other methods of overcrowding. In the Highest Severity prisons, the punishment cells are used as physical torture, due to the subhuman conditions. A punishment cell is a structure approximately 1.80 meters long by 1.50 meters wide. Some have a stone or metal plank, which is used as a bed, of course without any mattress; other punishment cells don't even have this stone bed, and the prisoner has to sleep on the floor. The cell also has a hole in the floor, for the prisoner to relieve himself. In most of the cases they are fully enclosed, i.e. they have no window. The political prisoners are taken there to further isolate them from all interpersonal contact, and as a method of punishment for any demand the prisoner may be making for recognition of a right, or for any denunciation he is trying to have heard on the outside, or that he succeeded in getting out, with repercussions. The length of stay depends on the punishment that the prison officials have in mind, and may be indefinite. For example, political prisoner Antonio Súarez Ramos was kept in such conditions for two years, without even a ray of sunlight. At this time, political prisoner Rafael Ibarra Roque is being held in a punishment cell in Kilo 8 prison.

4. Sanitary conditions: The lack of sanitary conditions in the prisons, the presence of rodents, insects, and cockroaches in the kitchens, corridors, and other parts of the prisons, the unscrupulous manner in which the little bit of food given the prisoners is prepared: these conditions are found in all the prisons. In some cases the food is already spoiling when cooked. For example, there are always cases of leptospirosis, a disease caused by rodents, in the Provincial Prison of Guantánamo. In the women's prison of the western region, known as Manto Negro, food poisoning is common; I myself have been an eyewitness of this phenomenon.

5. Medical care and religious attention: Medical care is one of the main problems faced by prisoners, especially political prisoners. In many cases, the authorities deny them the medicines brought to them by their families, and in many cases medicines sent by international human rights organizations are never delivered. The medical facilities of the prisons lack the most basic medicines, provoking a widespread shortage of medicines in all the prisons. The medical personnel are subordinated to the prison authorities, which means that the physicians do what State Security tells them to do with respect to any political prisoner. In addition, medical practice lacks ethics and professionalism. There are cases in which several persons have been injected using the same needle. When a political prisoner needs medical care that can only be obtained outside the prison, it must be an extreme case to receive authorization to go to the hospital; otherwise, the prisoner is not taken to receive medical care. One case exemplifying this situation is that of political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez, "Antúnez", who staged a hunger strike from May 25 of this year until the end of June, demanding, among other things, medical care for his critical hypoglycemia. After Antúnez received a commitment from the prison authorities (Provincial Prison of Guantánamo), he had to resume his hunger strike in late July, because they had not taken him to a hospital for the tests he needed. One of the most important and painful cases is that of the deceased activist of the Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, who died on December 24, 1997, as a result of the failure to get timely attention for a tumor that became cancer; by the time they let him out of the prison for medical care, Sebastián's case was incurable. Attention to one's religious needs is one of the most basic rights demanded by prisoners. In most cases the political prisoners are denied religious attention. The prison authorities tell the prisoners that they need to request such services, but later the request is not forwarded to the religious representatives, who end up, in the prisoners' eyes, seeming unwilling to go to the prison to provide this service. In some cases the relatives have told the priests or pastors to visit the prisoner, yet the prison authorities tell them the prisoner doesn't want assistance. This game is played continuously by the authorities. When a strike or protest is organized, or an international campaign to support their demand for this right, in some cases the authorities allow the prisoners to receive religious attention. On other occasions the political prisoners are not even allowed to have a Bible or religious materials. This is the situation of hundreds of political prisoners. In addition, the common prisoners are totally denied this right.

6. Violation of correspondence and suspension of visits: The correspondence of a political prisoner is totally controlled, and in some cases never reaches its destination. This is one of the many means of bringing pressure to bear on the prisoner and of getting information about the comments or allegations make by the prisoner in his or her letters. Family visits are also a means of bringing pressure to bear on prisoners. When a prisoner is being subjected to special punishment, family visits and the accompanying "care package" are the first to be suspended. A prisoner who is plantado, or in rebellion, has his or her visits suspended indefinitely. Those under a more severe regime receive visits once every two months, and often these are suspended, meaning as many as four, six, or even 12 months may elapse between visits. Many examples can be cited of this violation.

7. Banishment: When political prisoners maintain a position of rebellion, they are sent to prisons very far from their provinces of origin as a way to punish them and their family members, who have to travel from faraway provinces and cope with serious transportation problems. There have been cases in which the relatives go through all the difficulties of making the trip, but then the prison officials won't let them see the prisoner. In addition, female political prisoners who have small children find it practically impossible to see them, considering these barriers imposed by the authorities. One such case this year has been that of sisters Addianet and Mayda Bárbara Jordán Contreras, who are confined in the women's prison at the Centro Nieves Morejón, in the province of Sancti Spiritus, though their residence is in Havana. These sisters, both political prisoners, were transferred from the prison because of their rebellious stance regarding the human rights violations in the women's prison of the western region, Manto Negro, which is in Havana province. Another relevant case is that of the authors of the document "La Patria es de Todos," Vladimiro Roca and René Gómez Manzano, who have been taken to prison in two provinces in the interior, Ariza and Aguica, respectively, without any charges having been filed against them.21

54. This testimony on the situation prevailing in the Cuban prisons fully coincides with the Human Rights Watch/Americas report, which indicates that all prisoners, both political and common, must put up with serious hardships in the Cuban prisons. Most of the prisoners suffered malnutrition as a result of the poor prison diet, were overcrowded, and did not receive sufficient medical care. The prison authorities insisted that all the detainees participate in political re-education sessions, for example shouting "Long live Fidel" or "socialism or death," lest they suffer punitive measures such as beatings or solitary confinement. The prison guards at the centers for men delegated the maintenance of internal discipline to the consejos de reclusos (prisoners' councils) through methods such as beatings and control over scarce food rations. The prison authorities limited the prisoners' access to ministers of faith, and in some cases interrogated them as to their religious beliefs. In some prisons, those held in pre-trial detention were housed along with convicts, and minors were held with adults. Minors were also subjected to unlimited detentions in juvenile centers.22

55. Human Rights Watch added that Cuba's refusal to allow observation of the prisons made it impossible to determine the exact number of political prisoners. In recent years, the number of prisoners has diminished due the general trend to impose shorter sentences. One Cuban human rights organization estimated that after some prisoners were released as a result of the Pope's visit, some 400 political prisoners were left. The Human Rights Watch interviews with former political prisoners, dissident groups, and relatives of prisoners revealed that the Cuban political prisoners are victims of grave human rights violations. The confinement of non-violent political prisoners together with prisoners convicted of violent crimes was degrading and dangerous. The guards imposed unlawful restrictions on the visits of the political prisoners' relatives. In addition, the prison authorities punished prisoners who denounced abuses in the prisons or who did not participate in political re-education. Many Cuban political prisoners spent excessive periods in pre-trial detention, often in isolation cells. After serving their sentence, they suffered additional punitive periods in solitary confinement. Often, the police or prison guards aggravated the punitive nature of the solitary confinement by sensory deprivation, darkening the cells, removing clothing, or limiting the intake of food and water. The punitive measures against or intimidation of the political prisoners that caused grave pain and suffering, and reprisals against those who denounced the abuses, violated Cuba's obligations pursuant to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it ratified in 1995.23 Following are some of the cases presented by Human Rights Watch:

a. The July 1998 death of Reinery Marrero Toledo, while he was in police custody, raised concern about police brutality and torture. On June 30, 1998, Havana police arrested Marrero Toledo, accusing him as an accessory to sacrificing livestock (sacrificio ilegal de ganado mayor). On July 9, 1998, agents of the Technical Department of Investigations in Havana (Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones) told his family that he had committed suicide by hanging himself with a sheet. However, a family member who viewed his corpse noted that it was heavily bruised, calling the police claim into question.

b. In early 1998, Guantánamo Provincial Prison authorities reportedly ordered beatings of political prisoners who denounced prison conditions, including Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, Jorge Luis García Pérez (also known as Antúnez), Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, and Orosman Betancourt Dexidor. On April 11, 1998, Capt. Hermés Hernández and Lt. René Orlando allegedly beat severely Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, a journalist serving a six-year sentence for contempt for authority at the Ariza prison in Cienfuegos. In a positive step, Cuban military prosecutors accused both officers of wrongdoing in early May, but at this writing, it remained unclear whether the two had been arrested or tried. On April 5, 1998, common prisoners at the Canaleta Prison in Matanzas beat Jorge Luis Cruz Arancibia. Prison authorities reportedly refused to provide Cruz Arancibia with medical care for his injuries.24

56. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights observes that Cuba is a state party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as of May 17, 1995. Nonetheless, the Cuban state appears not to abide by the provisions set forth in that international instrument. In effect, the United Nations Committee against Torture, during its 19th regular session, concluded as follows:

1. The failure to establish a specific crime of torture as required by the Convention leaves a gap in the application of its provisions that is not filled by any of the existing offences directed against violations of the bodily integrity or the dignity of the individual. Moreover, the absence of the specific offence of torture makes difficult the monitoring of the application of the Convention.

2. The report of the Special Rapporteur appointed by the Commission on Human Rights on the human rights situation in Cuba is a matter of great concern to the Committee. To the same effect are reports of NGOs, a fact that intensifies our concern. The information disclosed in the above reports suggests that there occur serious violations of the Convention with regard to arrest, detention, prosecution, access to counsel and imprisonment of individuals, especially persons referred to in the reports as dissidents, and that serious violations occur in prisons affecting the safety, dignity and health of prisoners.

3. The failure of the Cuban authorities to make a response to allegations made in the above reports is an additional subject of concern.

4. Certain nebulous offences, namely 'disrespect', 'resisting authority' and 'enemy propaganda' arouse our concern because of the uncertainty of their constituent elements and the room they provide as of their nature for misuse and abuse.

5. Certain types of punishment primarily directed at the limitation of the liberty of citizens, i.e. internal exile and confinement at home, are matters of great concern to us.

6. The absence of specific training of law enforcement personnel, civil and military, medical personnel and generally personnel involved in the arrest, custody, interrogation, detention and imprisonment about the norms of CAT is a matter of concern, more serious still in view of the absence of the specific crime of torture.

7. The absence of adequate information about the investigation of complaints of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment and the outcome of any such investigations. In the absence of such information, the Committee cannot make a proper assessment as to whether there is compliance on the part of the State party with the provisions of article 12 of the Convention. Our concerns in these areas are enhanced because of the many complaints made that certain categories of persons referred to in the reports as dissidents are targeted and their fundamental rights violated without having satisfactory means of redress.

8. The absence of satisfactory information as to the rights of victims of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment to seek redress including satisfactory compensation.25

57. The presentation throughout this section allows the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to consider that the Cuban state seriously attacks not only principles and standards set forth in the various international instruments to which it is a party, but also that it violates its own laws by allowing the prison authorities to subject prisoners to deliberately severe and degrading treatment. The Commission also reiterates its profound concern over the grave prison conditions, especially for political prisoners. In this regard, the Commission has received, with concern, the information that the number of prisoners released in the wake of the visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba is no more than 120, much less than the request by His Holiness. In addition, the Commission was informed that a group of released prisoners were deported directly to Canada from the State Security headquarters in Havana, known as Villa Maristas, and that the rest of those who were not deported continue to be harassed, along with their relatives, in an effort to get them to leave the country, which most have been forced to do.

58. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that the treatment accorded the former political prisoners by the Cuban authorities is violative of their rights as persons; in addition, it considers that this discriminatory treatment prolongs the punishment to which they were subjected during their time in prison, under other forms. Therefore, the Commission urges the Cuban state to afford persons who are released the same living conditions as are afforded persons of equivalent professional standing, without subjecting them to discrimination of any kind for having served a sentence for political reasons. As regards the release of political prisoners that began in the wake of the visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba, the Commission recognizes and values the efforts made and calls for this process to continue until not a single political prisoner remains in the Cuban prisons.


59. On analyzing the human rights situation in Cuba, the Inter-American Commission has repeatedly stated its position on the need and urgency of advancing along the road of democratization and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Cuba, and on the difficulty attaining that goal without creating internal or international conditions for achieving the effective and authentic participation of Cuban citizens in the political decisions that affect them, in a framework of freedom and pluralism, which is essential for effective observance of all human rights. In the Commission's view, these changes require the appropriate conditions, and it is a responsibility of the Cuban state to create those conditions. Nonetheless, the inter-American community also has a responsibility to contribute to creating the conditions that will lead to the unrestricted observance of human rights in Cuba. Consequently, the adverse effects of the economic sanctions and other unilateral measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime have become an obstacle to creating those conditions that are so necessary for attaining a peaceful and gradual transition to a democratic form of government.

60. In this context, according to information provided to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on October 15, 1998, 15 United States senators asked the Government of the United States to establish a bipartisan commission to re-examine U.S. policy to Cuba. The concern of members of the U.S. Congress regarding the consequences of the embargo on the Cuban population began in June 1997, when a group of representatives introduced a bill entitled the "Cuban Humanitarian Relief Act," whose main purpose is to legislate an exception to the trade embargo so as to allow the export to Cuba of foodstuffs, medicine, and medical equipment. In addition, on November 6, 1997, several senators presented a bill entitled "The Cuban Women and Children International Relief Act," whose aim is also to eliminate the legal obstacles that currently impede the president from allowing the sale of foodstuffs, medicine, and medical equipment to Cuba.

61. On March 20, 1998, the Government of the United States announced it would adopt measures to facilitate and accelerate the sales and donations of medicines to Cuba, while at the same time maintaining adequate control to verify any inappropriate diversions, as provided by the Cuban Democracy Act. The procedures for exporting medicines and medical equipment to Cuba shall be more fluid as of that date, and the time for processing such licenses shall be abbreviated.

62. On January 6, 1999, the Government of the United States announced the following measures with respect to Cuba: (1) Expanding the right to send economic aid to Cubans, measures to facilitate contacts between academics and athletes of both countries, more direct flights and facilities to export foodstuffs; (2) the start-up of new diplomatic and public information programs in Latin America and Europe so that international public opinion is kept abreast of the need for changes in Cuba; (3) as of the aforementioned date, any U.S. citizen--not only those with relatives in Cuba--may send economic aid to Cuba so long as the amount is not greater than a certain limit, and if the aid can be earmarked to independent individuals and organizations; (4) as of that date authorization shall also be given to sell foodstuffs and products for agricultural development to non-governmental entities, including religious groups and Cuba's emerging private sector, restaurants, and family farms; (5) to facilitate family reunification, direct flights will be authorized to Cuban cities other than Havana, and from U.S. cities other than Miami; and (6) a direct mail service will be established with Cuba to continue urging the international community to do more to promote respect for human rights, as well as a transition to democracy, in Cuba.

63. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cuba, on evaluating the human rights situation there, once again cited the organization American Association for World Health, which carried out a study on the impact of the U.S. trade embargo on health and nutrition in Cuba. In view of the importance of the information, the Commission cites it here: 

(a) Malnutrition. The outright ban on the sale of American foodstuffs has contributed to serious nutritional deficits, particularly among pregnant women, leading to an increase in low-birth-weight babies. In addition, food shortages were linked to a devastating outbreak of neuropathy cases numbering in the tens of thousands. By one estimate, daily caloric intake dropped 33 per cent between 1989 and 1993;

(b) Water quality. The embargo is severely restricting Cuba's access to water treatment chemicals and spare parts for the island's water supply system. This has led to serious cutbacks in supplies of safe drinking water, which in turn has become a factor in the rising incidence of morbidity and mortality rates from waterborne diseases;

(c) Medicines and equipment. Of the 1,297 medications available in Cuba in 1991, physicians now have access to only 889 of these same medicines, and many of these are available only intermittently. Because most major new drugs are developed by United States pharmaceutical companies, Cuban physicians have access to less than 50 per cent of the new medicines available on the world market. Due to the direct or indirect effects of the embargo, the most routine medical supplies are in short supply or entirely absent from some Cuban clinics;

(d) Medical information. Though information materials have been exempt from the United State trade embargo since 1988, the AAWH study concludes that in practice very little such information goes into Cuba or comes out of the island due to travel restrictions, currency regulations and shipping difficulties. Scientists and citizens of both countries suffer as a result. Paradoxically, the embargo harms some United States citizens by denying them access to the latest advances in Cuban medical research, including such products as meningitis B vaccine, cheaply produced interferon and streptokinase, and an AIDS vaccine currently undergoing clinical trials with human volunteers.26

64. In addition to the above-cited study, the American Association for World Health (AAWH) analyzed four factors which, in recent years, have dangerously aggravated the effects on the population of the economic sanctions in force for more than 30 years. These factors have to do with certain provisions of the Cuban Democracy Act, approved by the U.S. Congress in 1992. According to the AAWH, the four factors are: (1) the prohibition on subsidiary trade; (2) the granting of licenses; (3) maritime transport; and (4) humanitarian aid. With respect to the first factor--still according to the same organization--this prohibition has considerably limited Cuba's capacity to import drugs and medical supplies from third countries. In terms of granting licenses for the sale of foodstuffs and medical supplies, in practice these are so complicated so actively hinder the trade in medical supplies. With respect to maritime transport, the AAWH notes that since 1992 the embargo prohibits the boats from loading or unloading in U.S. ports for 180 days following the delivery of a load in Cuba. This provision has deterred carriers from transporting medical equipment to Cuba, and as a result, the cost of transportation has increased considerably, limiting the trade in foodstuffs, medicines, medical supplies and even gasoline for ambulances. Finally, with respect to humanitarian aid, the AAWH notes that the donations from U.S. non-governmental organizations and international agencies do not nearly make up for the harm that the embargo has caused Cuba's public health system. The diminishing availability of foodstuffs, medicines, and medical supplies as basic as spare parts for 30-year-old X-ray machines has a high cost for the population.27

 65. The situation described above causes the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights profound concern, as the economic sanctions and unilateral measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime are having a grave impact on the economic and social problems of the population, which is the most vulnerable sector in this whole situation. In this regard, the Commission has already indicated: "When the most vulnerable sectors of society are denied access to the basic needs for survival which would enable them to break out of their condition, it results in the right to be free from discrimination; the right to the consequent principles of equality of access, equity and distribution; and the general commitment to protect the vulnerable elements in society being willingly or complicitly breached. Moreover, without satisfaction of these basic needs, an individual's survival is directly threatened. This obviously diminishes the individual's right to life, personal security, and as discussed above, the right to participate in the political and economic processes."28


Based on all the foregoing, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reached the following conclusions:

66. The Cuban state has adopted some positive measures with respect to freedom of religion that should be noted, including the official statement by the Communist Party of Cuba reaffirming that the state recognizes, respects, and guarantees religious freedom, and therefore proposes to the Council of State that as of 1998 each December 25 be considered a holiday for Christians and non-Christians alike. This pronouncement led the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba to declare, on December 22, 1998: "Christmas this year is especially important, considering the official recognition by the country's authorities of the day of birth of Jesus Christ as being sufficiently significant to be declared a holiday."29 Another important fact that could be mentioned as a small sign of an opening regarding religious freedom is the permit granted in November 1998 by the Cuban state for 19 priests and 21 workers from the Catholic Church to enter the country. With respect to freedom of the press, the decision of the Cuban state to allow the international news agency Associated Press to reopen its office in Havana 29 years after it had been closed was important. All these elements, together with the efforts of the state to review and reform the Criminal Code and carry out human rights promotion and education activities, are viewed in a positive light by the Commission.

67. Nonetheless, the Commission must voice its concern over the persistence of the Cuban state's systematic repression of all signs of peaceful opposition to the official ideology. The state continues to display a notorious lack of respect for the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, as it harasses and represses independent journalists, trade unionists, and human rights activists, among others, who try to offer an alternative for Cuban citizens who wish to have a space to freely and peaceably discuss the main problems besetting the country. These sectors also constitute a form of pluralism within a system characterized by the absolute control exercised by the state over its citizens, which is implemented through the mass organizations, with no intermediate entities allowed. The strict control and subjugation of all political and ideological discrepancies by the Cuban state and the Party have led to a situation in which only those groups identified with them can express themselves through the official media and communications institutions. Consequently, the Commission believes that there is no freedom of the press as would allow for political discrepancies, which is fundamental in a democracy. To the contrary, the oral, written, and televised press are an instrument of ideological struggle, and without prejudice to the self-criticism that is transmitted by these media, they answer to the dictates of the group in power and are used to transmit the messages of that group to the grass-roots and intermediate levels.

68. In the area of the structure of the state and political rights, the Commission considers that the Cuban political system continues to give an exclusive and exclusionary preponderant role to the Communist Party, which in fact is a force superior to the state itself, impeding healthy ideological and political pluralism, which is one of the bases of any democratic form of government. Consequently, the most important state organs are controlled by members of the Communist Party, who also intervene decisively in the operation of the mechanisms for selecting candidates to occupy the elective posts. All this imposes an ideological adherence that could be characterized as uncritical and dogmatic.

69. This peculiarity is reinforced by the use of subjective terms and concepts in the Constitution and the Criminal Code; these are of little use in achieving the effective observance of the principles of objectivity and legality, which are essential guarantees against the violation of citizens' rights by the political authorities. The Commission is especially concerned about the legal formulations used by the Cuban legal order to establish limits on the exercise of the rights and freedoms that citizens are recognized to have. Based on such formulations, it is the citizens who must bring their exercise of their rights and freedoms into line with the aims pursued by the state. The democratic conception is the opposite: it is the state that should limit its actions vis-à-vis rights inherent to the person, and curtail its intervention so as to achieve the observance, in practice, of the civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights of all of the governed.

70. With respect to the prison system, the Commission considers that prison regulations establish a long list of rights that protect the prisoners, and indeed that prohibit corporal punishment and any other measure that would undermine the dignity of the prisoners. Nonetheless, these rules are inoperative in practice, as the prison authorities commit all types of abuses against the prisoners, and especially against those who are serving time for political offenses. The conditions prevailing in the Cuban prisons include the lack of medicines for treating the prisoners' illnesses, the refusal of the authorities to allow the prisoners to receive religious attention, abuses by the guards and even on the part of the physicians who work in the prison infirmary, beatings, overcrowding, punishment cells enclosed so as to not let any sunlight in, confrontations between the prisoners' family members and the State Security agents and prison authorities, and housing political prisoners together with dangerous common criminals. These conditions, together with the fact that Cuba is failing to abide by the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, are of concern to the Commission.

71. Another matter of concern to the Commission is the continuation of a policy of economic sanctions against and isolation of the Cuban regime, which is having a grave impact on the economic and social rights of the population, which is the sector most vulnerable to this situation. The Commission also believes that internal reforms, both political and economic, would be facilitated if the present-day isolation of Cuba were ended. In this connection, the prolonged policies of economic sanctions have had a negative impact, over the years, on the political climate and economic reality of the country. They have become an obstacle to the opening of a system that is justified by a perceived need to confront external pressures. These measures of isolation merely reaffirm the political aims of the government sectors, who fear any loosening of their current control over society, which discourages Cubans who struggle daily for a better future.


In accordance with Article 63(h) of its Regulations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights makes the following recommendations to the Cuban state:

72. To continue adopting positive measures to fully guarantee the rights and freedoms enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

73. To cease the harassment, persecution, and sanctions imposed on human rights groups and other politically-oriented groups, and to allow them to obtain legal status.

74. To adopt urgent measures to continue to release, unconditionally, persons who are serving time in prison for political offenses.

75. To eliminate from the criminal legislation all crimes that punish the freedom of expression, association, and assembly, pursuant to internationally accepted democratic standards. In the area of freedom of expression, to annul all provisions that tend to create mechanisms of self-censorship or prior censorship.

76. To eliminate from the Criminal Code provisions regarding dangerousness, pre-criminal security measures, and the terms "socialist legality," "socially dangerous," "norms of socialist coexistence," and "socialist morality," as their vagueness and subjectivity constitute a factor of juridical insecurity that creates the conditions for the Cuban authorities to commit arbitrary acts. In addition, eliminate the criminal provision relating to "official warning" by which individuals are threatened with punishment who have "ties to or relations with persons who are potentially dangerous to society."

77. To adopt urgent measures to undertake a reform of the country's prison system, all for the purpose of improving the living conditions of the prison population. The Cuban state should undertake an exhaustive review of the background of prison authorities before placing them in the various prisons, so as to prevent mistreatment and abuse of the prisoners. In this connection, it would be interesting for the Cuban state to create a regulation with guidelines to be followed by prison authorities to ensure they not commit excesses in the performance of their functions, and a system for regular monitoring of the prisons to improve their conditions.

78. Include the crime of torture in the Criminal Code, and create a permanent and transparent procedure for receiving complaints on torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment or punishments, so that these complaints may be examined within a reasonable time, and so that the persons responsible are tried and punished by independent and impartial judges, pursuant to Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. In this regard, the state should create a fund to compensate the victims of torture and other prohibited treatment. In addition, create a program for human rights education and training to train law enforcement personnel, the medical staff of the prisons, officials, and all persons in charge of performing a function in the interrogation, detention, or treatment of any person who is arrested, detained, or jailed.

79. To adopt the measures necessary to allow for ideological and political party pluralism for the full exercise of the right to political participation, pursuant to Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


80.    The draft report on the situation of human rights in Cuba was approved by the Commission during its 102º regular session. It was sent to the State on March 10, 1999, pursuant to Article 63(h) of the Commission{s Regulations, in order to allow for the submission of observations within thirty days.

81.    The Cuban State failed to present observations within the time limited provided.

82.    On April 13, 1999, the Commission approved this report and its publication within Chapter IV of the present Annual Report.

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* It should be noted that the IACHR has not included in this chapter those States on which the Commission is preparing or has approved, during the period in question, general reports on the situation of human rights, as provided in Article 62 of its Regulations.

1  Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba, November 30, 1998, Diario Granma, digital version. It has been indicated that Cuba eliminated the traditional Christmas holiday in 1969 as part of an effort aimed at reaching a record 10-million-ton sugar harvest. The decision to suspend the December 25, 1969 holiday was aimed at mobilizing hundreds of thousands of sugar workers.

2  CNN, December 2, 1998.

3  Diccionario Enciclopédico de Derecho Usual, Tome VI, 16th edition, Editorial Heliasta S.R.L., Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1981, p. 510.

4  Eur. Ct. H.R., Axen Case, Judgment of December 8, 1983, Publicity of Judicial Procedure, Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos, 25 Años de Jurisprudencia 1959-1983, Publicación de las Cortes Generales, Printed at Closas-Orcoyen, S.L., Madrid, Spain, 1981.

5  The following persons were arrested temporarily in the wake of the judicial proceedings against the four dissidents: (1) Aguilar Sosa, Alexander, of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores, office of Perico, Matanzas, detained February 27; (2) Alfonso Williams, Ramón, of the CTDC; (3) Bisset, Oscar Elías, President of the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, detained prior to the 26th, city of Havana; (4) Bolaños, Gisela de la Concepción, CTDC, the 27th; (5) Cala Aguero, Lázaro, of the Partido Pro Derechos Humanos, the 26th; (6) Cantillo, Miriam, of the CTDC, the 27th; (7) Collazo Valdes, Odilia, President of the Partido Pro Derechos Humanos, detained the 27th, city of Havana; (8) Cosano Allen, Reinaldo, Coalición Democrática Cubana, detained in Guanabo the 26th; (9) Cruz Cano, Milagro, Partido Democrático 30 de noviembre, February 26, city of Havana; (10) Curvelo, Odallis, Agencia de Prensa Independiente, city of Havana; (11) Franco, Sara, of Unidad y Fe, Association of Mothers for Dignity, March 11; (12) González Bridon, José Orlando, Secretary General of the Confederación de Trabajadores Democráticos de Cuba (CTDC), detained the 27th, city of Havana; (13) González Marrero, Diosdado, of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores, at the offices of Perico, Matanzas, and President of the Movimiento Paz y amor y Libertad, detained the 27th; (14) González Afonso, Rolando; (15) Guerra Pérez, Cesár Jesús; (16) Hernández Carrillo, Iván, delegate for the central provinces of the PSD, the 27th; (17) Hernández Monzón, Marvin, journalist with Cuba Press in Cienfuegos, the 27th; (18) Iglesias, Regis, spokesperson for the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, the 27th; (19) Illobre, José Luis, Vice-President of the Fundación Lawton de Derechos Humanos, detained prior to the 26th, city of Havana; (20) Iturralde Bello, Rafael, of the Centro de Derechos Humanos of Artemisa; (21) Lazo Borrego, Luis Antonio, Centro de Derechos Humanos of Artemisa; (22) Lorenzo Pimienta, Jorge Omar, President of the Consejo Nacional por los Derechos Civiles, detained February 27, San Antonio de los Baños, Havana; (23) Lugo, Maritza, Movimiento 30 de noviembre; (24) Martínez Báez, of the PPDH, associated with the Fundación Sajarov, San José de las Lajas, in Havana; (25) Martínez García, Jesús David, of the Partido Pro Derechos Humanos (PPDH), affiliated with the Fundación Sajarov, the 27th; (26) Martínez Pulgarón, Efren, who covers religious affairs for Cuba Press, detained the 26th; (27) Menéndez Villardo, Marieta, of the CCPDH, city of Havana; (28) Mesa Arcadio, Modesto, of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores, at the offices of Perico, Matanzas, detained the 27th; (29) Monzón Oviedo, Juan Francisco, President of the Partido Demócrata Martiano, the 27th, at the Central Orlando Nodarse, Mariel; (30) Morejón Almagro, Leonel, President of NaturPaz, and of the Alianza Nacional Cubana, city of Havana; (31) Moreno, Mercedes, journalist from the Agencia Nueva Prensa, city of Havana, the 26th (along with her husband); (32) Moya Acosta, Ángel, of the Movimiento Independiente Acción Alternativa, in Matanzas, the 27th; (33) Nardo Cruz, Ofelia, of the CTDC, the 27th, city of Havana; (34) Navarro Rodríguez, Félix, delegate of the Partido Solidaridad Democrática (PSD) for Matanzas, the 27th; (35) Orrio, Manuel David, Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes, city of Havana, the 26th; (37) Paya Sardiñas, Oswaldo, General Coordinator of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, March 11; (38) Peraza Font, Rafael, Centro de Derechos Humanos of Artemisa; (39) Perera González, Félix, of the Movimiento Amor Cristiano, the 27th, city of Havana; (40) Polanco, Ángel, of the Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes; (41) Pompa, Maricela, National Executive of the Partido Solidaridad Democrática, detained the 27th, city of Havana; (42) Quesada, Dulce María, Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba, city of Havana; (43) Quintero Antúnez, Tania, Cuba, city of Havana; (44) Ramos Lauzirica, Arnaldo, Vice-President of the Partido Social Demócrata Cubano, city of Havana; (45) Ramos Rodríguez, Lázaro; (46) Rivero, Raúl, Director of the Agencia Cuba Press, city of Havana, March 11; (47) Rodríguez, Lázaro, journalist with Havana Press, city of Havana, the 27th; (Rodríguez Saludes, Omar, journalist with Agencia Nueva Prensa Cubana, the 28th; (49) Ruíz, Rubén, of the Partido Pro Derechos Humanos; (50) Sánchez, Juan Antonio; (51) Silva Cabrera, Pablo, member of the Political Committee of the PSD, city of Havana; (52) Someillan Fleitas, Ileana, of the Grupo de Apoyo de la Disidencia Interna; (53) Sotolongo, Nancy, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores (UPECI); (54) Torralba Sánchez, Benigno, CTDC, the 27th; (55) Vega Jaime, Dagoberto; (56) Yanes Pelletier, Jesús, Vice-President of the Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos (CCPDH), city of Havana. Also reported as having been placed under house arrest on February 27 were: (1) Alfonso Váldez, Oswaldo, of the Partido Liberal Cubano, city of Havana; (2) Alvarez García, Jorge Luis, of the PSD in Matanzas, his home was searched without any judicial order; (3) Alvarez Ramos, Pedro Pablo, CUT, city of Havana; (4) Araña, Hugo, of the PSD in Matanzas, his home was searched; (5) Artega, José Manuel, Partido Demócrata Cristiano; (6) Barrier García, Jorge, in the province of Matanzas; (7) Calvo Cárdenas, Leonardo, Oficina de Información de Derechos Humanos, city of Havana; (8) Casal Fernández, Rubén, Secretary for Political Rights and Political Prisoners of the PSD; (9) Castillo Alvarez, Oswaldo, of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores in Perico, Matanzas; (10) Díaz, Carmelo; (11) Díaz Hernández, Ramón, of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores, in Perico, Matanzas; (12) Delgado Sablón, Gisela, Centro de Estudios Sociales, city of Havana; (13) Domenech Campos, Raúl; (14) Fernández Sainz, Adolfo; (15) Fernández Pier, Tomás, of the PSD, city of Havana; (16) García Cernuda, Lázaro, of the PPHD, associated with the Fundación Sajarov, city of Havana; (17) García García, Elsa, of the Asociación Humanitaria Seguidores de Cristo Rey, city of Havana; (18) Gómez Quintero, Iván, of Cuba Press, city of Havana; (19) Gómez Linares, Hermes Diego, in the province of Matanzas; (20) González Corvo, Georgina de las Mercedes, Corriente Cívica Cubana, city of Havana; (21) González Noy, Gladys, Asociación Pro Arte Libre, city of Havana; (22) Suárez-Inclan, PSD, city of Havana; (23) Goroztizo, Neris, of the PSD, city of Havana; (24) Guarriel Rodríguez, Jorge, of the PSD in Matanzas, his home was searched; (25) Hernández Morejón, Norberto, Matanzas; (26) Hernández Sainz, Adolfo, of the PSD, city of Havana; (27) Ledesma, Florentino, of the Partido Demócrata Cristiano; (28) León García, Rafael, of the Proyecto Democrata Cubano, city of Havana; (29) Maceda, Héctor; (30) Martínez Rodríguez, Martín Celedonio, of the PSD, city of Havana; (31) Miranda Hernández, Roberto de, President of the Colegio de Pedagogos, city of Havana; (32) Nazco, Pedro, Partido Demócrata Cristiano; (33) Ortega Díaz, Félix, in the province of Matanzas; (34) Palacio Ruiz, Héctor, Director of the Centro de Estudios Sociales, city of Havana; (35) Paz Abella, Lázaro de la, PSD, city of Havana; (36) Picallo Ortíz, Israel; (37) Pino Sotolongo, Isabel del, President of the Movimiento Seguidores de Cristo Rey, city of Havana; (38) Quintero Antúnez, Tania, journalist with Cuba Press, city of Havana; (39) Reyes, Argelio, of the Consejo Nacional por los Derechos Civiles, San Antonio de los Baños; (40) Ríos, Carlos; (41) Riverón Guerrero, Mirna, of the APLO in Santiago de Cuba; (42) Rodríguez Díaz, Rosa, Proyecto Demócrata Cubano; (43) Rodríguez, Juan Jesús, of the PPDH, associated with the Fundación Sajarov, province of Pinar del Río; (44) Rodríguez Torrado, Rosa María, of the PSD; (45) Rojas Roque, Pedro Hildo, PSD, city of Havana; (46) Rojas, Ruiseida, of the Consejo Nacional por los Derechos Civiles of San Antonio de los Baños; (47) Salazar García, Jesús, PSD, city of Havana; (48) Sánchez López, Fernando, President of the PSD in city of Havana; (49) Santana, Santiago, of the Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO) in Santiago de Cuba; (50) Torre Regueiro, Juan Felipe de la, city of Havana; (51) Toledo Torredo, Jesús; (52) Travieso Pérez, Rogelio, of the PSD, city of Havana; (53) Valdés Rosado, María, Partido Demócrata Cristiano, city of Havana; and (54) Vázquez Portal, Manuel.

6  Law for the Protection of the National Independence and the Economy of Cuba, Articles 1, 5(1), and 6(1), of February 17, 1999.

7  Inter-American Press Association, Miami, February 16, 1999.

8Human Rights Watch/Americas, Annual Report, 1999, Cuba, p. 1.

9 Inter-American Press Association, Press Freedom in the Americas, 1998 Annual Report, Cuba, p. 30.

10 Human Rights Watch/Americas, 1999 Annual Report, op. cit., p. 3.

11 Id.

12  Article 62 of the Cuban Constitution.

13  Article 72 of the Cuban Criminal Code: Dangerous state is considered to be the special proclivity one finds in a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by the conduct observed in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality.

14  Gerhard Leibholz, "La igualdad como principio en el derecho constitucional alemán y suizo." In: Politics and Law, A.W. Sithoff, Leyden, (1965), p. 302, cited by Karl Josef Partsh "Principios fundamentales de los derechos humanos: autodeterminación, igualdad y no discriminación," p. 119, Ensayos sobre Derechos Humanos, Andean Commission of Jurists, Peru, 1990.

15  IACHR, Diez años de actividades, 1971-1981, p. 332.

16  Id.

17  United Nations, Commission on Human Rights, 54th session, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba submitted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Carl-Johan Groth, in accordance with Commission Resolution 1997/62, E/CN.4/1998/69, January 30, 1998.

18  Article 62. None of the freedoms recognized for citizens may be exercised against the provisions of 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. Violations of this principle are punishable.

19  (a) Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.4, doc. 30, May 14, 1962); (b) Report on the Situation of Political Prisoners and their Family Members in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/VI.7, doc. 4, May 17, 1963); (c) Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.17, doc. 4, rev. 1, April 27, 1967); (d) Report on the Situation of Political Prisoners and their Family Members in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.23, doc. 6, rev. 1, May 7, 1970); Report of the IACHR on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.6 CP/Inf.872/76, June 14, 1976); Report of the IACHR on the Situation of Political Prisoners in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.48, doc. 7, December 14, 1979); and Seventh Report of the IACHR on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.61, doc. 29, rev. 1, October 4, 1983).

20  See Article 31 of the Cuban Criminal Code.

21  The testimony of Ileana Curra Lusson is in the files of the IACHR.

22  Human Rights Watch/Americas, op. cit., p. 2.

23  Id.

24  Id.

25  United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur..., op. cit., pp. 17-18.

26  Excerpts from the report of the American Association for World Health entitled "Denial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health and Nutrition in Cuba," cited by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cuba, op. cit., pp. 20-21.

27  Id.

28  IACHR, Annual Report 1993, pp 522-523, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.85, doc. 8 rev., February 11, 1994.

29  EFE news agency, December 22, 1998.