University of Minnesota

Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.38, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, Doc. 12 (1976).




Since it was set up in October 1960, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received numerous communications or complaints on the status of human rights in the Republic of Cuba. Pursuant to its mandates, the Commission has published the following reports:

a. Report on the Status of Human Rights in Cuba

(OEA/Ser.L/VII. 4, doc. 30, May 1, 1962);

b. Report on the Status of Political Prisoners and their Families in Cuba

(OEA.Ser.L/V/II. 7, doc.4, May 17, 1963);

c. Report on the Status of Human Rights in Cuba

(OEA.Ser.L/V/II. 17, doc. 4, rev., April 27, 1967); and

d. The Second Report of the Status of Political Prisoners and their Families in Cuba

(OEA.Ser.L/V/II. 23, doc. 6, rev. 1, May 7, 1970).

After publication of the last of the above documents, the Commission has continued to receive communications from persons and agencies complaining of numerous specific cases of violation of the rights set forth in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (Bogotá, 1948). In addition, it has received other reports, which, together with the extensive documentation in the Commission’s files, support the assumption that, in the last five years, such violations are far from decreasing, and arbitrary and excessively strict procedures continue, particularly in the treatment of political prisoners, with complete disregard for the dignity of human beings.

Pursuant to a decision taken in its thirty-fourth session (October 1974), the Commission has drawn up this report covering the period since the previous report of May 7, 1970.

In this new report, specific cases of violation of the human rights set forth in the articles of the above-mentioned Declaration are grouped in Chapter I under the following headings:

A. Right to Life (Article I). Reports have been received on the status of numerous political prisoners who have arbitrarily been killed or have died because of torture or lack of medical care.

B. Right to a Fair Trial and Right to Protection from Arbitrary Arrest (Arts. XVIII and XXVV). The Commission has received complaints about the following:

i. Numerous persons have been arbitrarily arrested for political reasons.

ii. There are no simple and speedy procedures under which the system of justice protects persons against violations by the authorities of any of the basic rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of the Man and the basic laws of Cuba.

iii. Political prisoners have been the victims of inhuman treatment, particularly the following:

a. Lack of medical care

b. Lack of adequate diet

c. Physical and/or psychological mistreatment, which in certain cases has been characterized by extreme cruelty

d. Degrading conditions inconsistent with the inherent dignity of human beings

e. Denial of the right to visitation or the establishment of an arbitrary or irregular system for visits, and preventing the receipt or sending of mail

f. Forced labor

g. Solitary confinement for long periods under unhealthful conditions

h. Being required to wear the same uniform as prisoners sentenced for common crimes, and being confined in the same facilities and being mingled together with such prisoners, in order to conceal or distort their status as “political prisoners”

i. Threats and other means of pressure to force them to receive political indoctrination and accept what is known as the “Rehabilitation Plan.

C. Right to Due Process of Law (Article XXVI). Communications received by the Commission have denounced acts or situations violating the principles of the right to due process of law and have reported that numerous persons been sentenced to prison in trials in which the following irregularities have occurred:

a. The accused were neither formerly notified of the charges against them nor given time or adequate means for their defense.

b. They were not accorded an impartial and public hearing

c. They were sentenced for acts or situations that were not defined, as crimes in laws in force prior to the trial, expressly setting forth the crimes and the penalties, now were such trials based on the legal precept that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty under the law.

d. Punishments imposed are obviously disproportionate to the crime

e. The persons involved were not permitted to appeal their sentences to a superior court or judge

f. After serving their terms, a number of prisoners received new sentences for the same acts or under other pretexts in order to prolong their detention arbitrarily.

D. Right to Residence and Movement (Article VIII). The Commission has received complaints that the Government of Cuba:

a. Has taken coercive measures against Cuban citizens who wish to leave their country temporarily or permanently, by depriving them of the means to work, facilities for obtaining food, and other conditions or circumstances that are essential to enable them and their families to survive.

b. Compelled such persons to perform forced labor while awaiting their exit permit, which takes months and even years.

c. Prevented or delayed for long periods of time the departure of foreign citizens residing in that country, particularly U.S. citizens wishing to return to their country.

Chapter II contains complaints on the status of a number of women political prisoners who continue to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and who are victims of a prison regime that is incompatible with their sex, age, state of health, marital status, and pre- or post-natal conditions.

In addition, the mingling of political and common prisoners in Cuba, with political prisoners being subject to harsh labor and treatment and to the same rules as those applied to common prisoners has been reported in numerous claims examined by the Commission, although the basic laws of Cuba specifically provide (Article XXVI) that “… political detainees or prisoners shall be housed in separate facilities from common criminals and shall not be forced to work or be subject to the penal rules applying to common prisoners.”

Pursuant to its regulations, the Commission took appropriate action on the petition received and after passage of a considerable time beyond the deadlines for receiving information from the Government of Cuba on the denunciations received, the Commission, based on Article 51 of its regulations, has presumed these claims to be true.

Despite the fact that, because of the Cuban Government’s silence on the numerous requests for information that have been submitted to it, making the recommendations authorized in Articles 9 and 9 bis (b) of its Statutes, has been considered to be of little practical effect, the Commission has felt that it is obliged, under the mandate given to it, to make another effort to try to convince the Cuban Government of the need to respect the essential rights of human beings. To that end, it has decided to send that Government a copy of this report, indicating the need to take appropriate measures to reestablish respect for such rights and to immediately take the following measures:

a. Give the necessary orders to ensure complete separation of political and common prisoners.

b. Radically suppress the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or persons deprived of liberty.

c. Establish a system of surveillance for facilities housing prisoners, so as to prevent mistreatment and punish abuses committed by the various authorities involved.

d. Ensure the right to due process of law for all detained persons.

e. Respect the right to residence and movement of persons so that they and their families can live their lives.


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