Human Rights News

Cuba: Human Rights Concerns for the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

Objective  
 
The Commission on Human Rights should pass a resolution under Item 9: condemning Cuba’s imprisonment of individuals based on their exercise of fundamental rights to free expression, association, assembly, or movement; calling upon Cuba to release persons incarcerated in violation of their rights; and pressing Cuba to undertake legal reforms to bring its domestic laws into compliance with fundamental international human rights norms.

Background  
 
Despite the release in 2004 of fourteen of the seventy-five political dissidents, independent journalists, and human rights advocates prosecuted in April 2003, human rights conditions in Cuba have not improved. The Cuban government systematically denies its citizens basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, movement, and a fair trial. It restricts nearly all avenues of political dissent, and uses police warnings, surveillance, short term-detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment as methods of enforcing political conformity.  
 
Human rights monitoring is not recognized as a legitimate activity, but rather is stigmatized as a betrayal of Cuban sovereignty. No local human rights groups enjoy legal status. Instead, human rights defenders face systematic harassment, with the government placing heavy burdens on their ability to monitor human rights conditions. Nor are international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch allowed to send fact-finding missions to Cuba  
 
Political prisoners who denounce poor conditions of imprisonment or who otherwise fail to observe prison rules are frequently punished by long periods in punitive isolation cells, restrictions on visits, or denial of medical treatment.  
 
There is only one official labor union in Cuba, the Worker’s Central of Cuba (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, CTC). Independent labor unions are denied formal status and their members are harassed.  
 
Recommendations  
 
The Commission should adopt a resolution that would:  
 
  • Condemn Cuba’s imprisonment of individuals based on their exercise of fundamental rights to free expression, association, assembly, or movement, including many imprisoned for human rights monitoring and advocacy;
  •  
     
  • Call upon Cuba to release persons incarcerated in violation of their fundamental human rights, including the many dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists who were unfairly prosecuted in April 2003;
  •  
     
  • Press Cuba to undertake legal reforms to bring its domestic laws into compliance with fundamental international human rights norms, including eliminating the offense of contempt for authority (desacato, defamation of institutions and mass organizations and illegal exit, and eliminating or significantly narrowing the definition of Criminal Code provisions relating to enemy propaganda, and clandestine printing;
  •  
     
  • Press the Cuban government to demonstrate respect for the freedom of association by allowing independent labor unions to operate legally;
  •  
     
  • Urge Cuba to invite the CHR experts on human rights defenders, torture, independence of the judiciary, and arbitrary detention to visit Cuba;
  •  
     
  • Note Cuba’s failure to implement the recommendations included in previous CHR resolutions.