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 human rights 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 Zapata 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, Canada, 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 prison 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 expression 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 violence 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