Human Rights in Cuba

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The Cuban Government Before the Committee Against Torture / Dora Leonor Mesa

Dora Leonor Mesa, Translator: mlk

By Miriam Leiva, Havana 06/07/2012

Cuban authorities for more than nine years avoided the analysis of their

violations of in the United Nations Committee on Torture; a

period that coincides with the uprising of March 2003, when it subjected

75 peaceful protesters to summary trials and shot three young boat

hijackers — who caused no bloodshed themselves –as well as the deaths of

political prisoners Orlando Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza on

hunger strike, and it maintains strong repression over many members of

civil Cuban society.

The 48th Session of the Committee analyzed the report presented by the

Cuban Government the 22nd and 23rd of May, fulfilling its commitment as

a State that is party to the Convention against Torture and Other

Agreements or Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Punishments (which it

subscribed to in 1987 and the National Assembly ratified in 1995). On

June 1 the Committee against Torture issued its Final Observations. The

Cuban authorities always have denied the use of torture, in reference to

the notable physical evidence, but the concept is much wider.

Article 1 of the Convention specifies that "'torture' is any act by

which serious pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,is

intentionally inflicted n a person with the goal of getting information

or a confession from him or a third person, punishing him for an act he

may have committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating

or coercing that person or others, or for whatever reason based on

whatever kind of discrimination, when said pain and suffering is

inflicted by a public official or other person in the exercise of public

duties, at his instigation or with his consent or approval."

The Committee against Torture is composed of 10 independent experts,

proposed by the countries, but they work in their personal capacity.

Their work is to supervise the application of the Convention by the

states that are parties to it, which must present periodic reports and

respond to questions about the complaints received, as well as take part

in the meeting of the Committee for the consideration of the reports. It

meets in Geneva twice a year, and on this occasion they analyzed

Albania, Armenia, , Cuba, the Czech Republic, Greece, Rwanda, and


As verified the reports of the international press agencies, the

rapporteurs Nora Sveaass and Fernando Marino Menendez, together with

other experts, analyzed the Report and referred in detail to the well

documented complaints received. On May 22 and the next day, the Cuban

delegation rejected all the accusations.

The Cuban deputy prosecutor Rafael Pino Becquer argued that between 2007

and 2011, 263 complaints of mistreatment in places of detention were

answered,by reason of which "46 agents of the security forces were held

criminally responsible." He said that all the complaints about

mistreatment were false, denied the existence of overcrowded jails, and

said that there had not been a single death that could be blamed

on the authorities. With regards to the human rights activists'

situation, he repeated the Government's traditional falsehoods that they

"cannot be qualified under that concept, according to the precepts of

the UN" because their actions". . . seek to destroy the internal order

of Cuba (. . .) in the service and under the direction of a foreign

power. In Cuba, the authentic defenders of human rights are protected.

No one in our country has been persecuted or sanctioned for exercising

his rights, including those of free and association."

". . . they look to destroy the internal order of Cuba (…) in the

service and under the direction of a foreign power. In Cuba, the

authentic defenders of human rights are protected. No one in our country

has been persecuted or sanctioned for exercising his rights, including

those of free expression and association."

About the concept of danger, he expressed that it is applied by

independent judges under the rules of due process in accord with

sufficient proof,"and certainly not because of the political beliefs of

the individuals. There only exist detentions under the rules of due

process for a citizen or a group that wants to alter the public order,

"and certainly not because of political beliefs of individuals. There

only exist properly registered detentions for a citizen or a group that

wants to alter the public order."

The document "Final Observations" from the Committee begins showing that

the Periodic Report presented by Cuba, more than nine years late, does

not fully conform to the established guidelines, and regrets that some

of the questions were not answered. It reiterated the recommendation of

1997 that defined the crime of torture in domestic law,as contained in

Article 1 of the Convention.

"Final Observations" recommended that all detainees should be guaranteed

all of the fundamental judicial rights; that the necessary measures are

adopted so that prison conditions meet the UN's Minimum Rules for the

Treatment of Inmates; that diet and sanitary and medical resources are

improved; that communication between relatives and a lawyer is

guaranteed; that any cruel, inhumane or degrading punishments, such as

solitary confinement in deplorable conditions, be completely prohibited.

The Committee raised concern about the legal ambiguity of former

prisoners under "parole," and confirmed the reports received about the

arbitrary restrictions of their personal liberty and free movement. It

also exposed the need to modify the provisions of the Penal Code

regarding pre-criminal social dangerousness, "an ambiguous criminal


Among otherissues traditionally rejected by the Government of Cuba, the

Committee suggested the ratification of the Optional Protocol of the

Convention in order to create a system of periodic visits by national

and international observers without prior notice, designed to prevent

torture or inhumane and degrading punishments, and reiterated its

previous recommendation that non-governmental human rights organizations

be permitted entry into the country, and to cooperate with them in the

identification of cases of torture and mistreatment. It also expressed

serious reservations about the three last executions of death sentences,

after summary proceedings, carried out April 11, 2003, and called for

the examination of the abolition of the death penalty.

The committee started that the State Party should guarantee the

impartial and exhaustive investigation without delay of all the deaths

of detainees, and the monitoring and adequate medical treatment of

detainees who declare hunger strikes. It demonstrated concern because

significant changes have not been produced in the judicial system since

the presentation of its initial report in 1997, particularly the lack of

independence of the executive and legislative powers. It recommended a

guarantee with respect to the Basic Principles of Lawyers; called for

the end of repression with arbitrary detentions or the application of

pre-criminal security measures against political opponents, human rights

defenders and activists, independent journalists and other actors of

civil society who put themselves and their families at risk.

The Committee sought to guarantee that everyone be protected from the

intimidation and to which the simple exercise of their freedoms

of opinion and expression and rights of association and peaceful

assembly could expose them, as well as to authorize enrollment in the

Register of National Associations of non-governmental human rights

organizations that apply for it. Also, it invited the ratification of

fundamental treaties of human rights, in particular the International

Pact of Civil and Political Rights, the International Pact of Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights, and others.

In Cuba the achievement of this session of analysis has not be

published,almost certainly the Government will default on the

recommendation to widely disseminate through official news media and

non-governmental organizations the report presented to the Committee and

its final observations. In any case, one can expect repression of the

opposition NGOs that divulge it.

Mr. Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur against torture, could not carry

out the invitation to visit Cuba in 2009, the Committee urged repeating

it to his successor, Juan E. Mendez. The Cuban government representative

stated that he is reconsidering a visit, even though he "had no faith in

the sources of information used by the Committee."

Let us remember the initial illusion of Mr. Nowak, who ended up with a

total disappointment, because they gave him excuses and changed the

dates of each of his proposed trips, evidently due to his statement that

he proposed to visit prisons without prior warning and meet with all

Cubans. Now his successor, Mr. Juan E. Mendez, 67, an Argentinian jailed

for 18 months during the military dictatorship of the 70's, could expect

a similar situation, above all after the detailed display of the

repressive methods of the Government against the Cuban people.

Translated by mlk

June 19 2012

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