SIX REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF POLITICAL PRISONERS IN CUBA
A. Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Cuba
Since it began its activities, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received numerous communications in which reference is made to the situation of human rights in the Republic of Cuba. To date the Commission has prepared the following five reports on this subject:
a) Report on the situation regarding human rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.4, doc. 30, May 1, 1962);
b) Report on the situation of political prisoners and their relatives in Cuba (OEA/Ser./V/II.7, doc. 4, May 17, 1963);
c) Report on the situation of human rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/II.17, doc. 4, rev. 1, April 27, 1967);
d) Second report on the situation of political prisoners and their relatives in Cuba (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.23, doc. 6, rev. 1, May 7, 1970) and
e) Fifth report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Cuba (OEA/Ser.6 CP/INF.872/76, June 1, 1976).
B. The Organization of American States and the Government of Cuba
1. Given the fact of Cuba's expulsion at the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in 1962, some states have questioned the competence of the Commission to consider matters concerning human rights in that country.1
For this reason in this introductory section the Commission will sketch the background information on this issue and will explain the reasons which, in its opinion, justify its competence to continue to consider denunciations alleging violations of human rights in Cuba and to prepare reports such as the present study.
2. On January 31, 1962, at the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the OAS, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, a number of resolutions on Cuba were approved. The most important for purposes of this report was Resolution VI, adopted by a vote of fourteen countries in favor, one against (Cuba), with six abstentions (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico); by the terms of that resolution, the present Government of Cuba was excluded from further participation in the inter-American system. The operative part of that resolution reads as follows:
1. That adherence by any member of the Organization of American States to Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system and the alignment of such a government with the communist block breaks the unity and solidarity of the hemisphere.
2. That the present Government of Cuba, which has officially identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist government, is incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.
3. That this incompatibility excludes the present Government of Cuba from participation in the inter-American system.
4. That the Council of the Organization of American States and the other organs and organizations of the inter-American system adopt without delay the measures necessary to comply with its resolution.2
3. At its meeting held on February 14, 1962, the Council of the OAS took up the resolutions adopted by the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and first considered Resolution VI, especially operative paragraphs 3 and 4 thereof.
On that occasion the Chairman stated the following:
In response to the provisions of paragraphs 3 and 4 of the resolution just read, the Council is the only body competent to take the measures made necessary by the exclusion of the present Government of Cuba from participation in the inter-American system, as decided by the Organ of Consultation. Therefore, as the present Government of Cuba has been excluded from participating in this Council, in its committees and its organs as of the date of approval of that resolution, the only measure left is to instruct the General Committee to determine the measure that may be necessary to take in order to submit, with due urgency, its recommendations regarding the procedure to be followed. The Chair feels that this procedure should be adopted in light of the numerous measures that can be taken by the respective committees, so that the decision of the Organ of Consultation is carried out properly. Further the Chair feels that the Secretary General should be asked to send the text of the Final Act of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation to those organs and organizations so that they may consider it for the other appropriate purposes. I would like to adopt the procedure the Chair has suggested. Is there any objection. We shall proceed, then, in the manner indicated by the Chair.
The Council continued its consideration of this matter at its regular meeting on March 21, 1962, when it received the “Report regarding compliance with Resolution VI of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, submitted by the General Committee” (OEA/Ser.G/IV, C-i-567, rev.).
That report was prepared by the General Committee in accordance with the instructions received from the Council “to determine the measures that may be necessary to take in order to submit, with due urgency, its recommendations regarding the procedure to be followed with respect to compliance with Resolution VI.”
In accordance with the report in question and as a result of the examination conducted on the situation of the organs and organizations of the inter-American system, the General Committee concluded that the only procedure left for the Council to adopt, with respect to Resolution VI, was that concerning the Committee for Cultural Action of which Cuba was a member. The General Committee believed that the proper procedure in that particular case was for the Council to choose a new member for that organ, in accordance with its Statutes, as soon as candidates were nominated by states not members of the Committee.
This report had the following concluding statement: “The General Committee understands that there is no need for the Council to take any future measures with reference to Resolution VI of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation, inasmuch as the other organs and organizations of the inter-American system must themselves comply with this resolution. In accordance with this criterion, the Council, at its meeting of February 14, agreed that the Secretary General of the Organization should send the text of the Final Act of the Meeting of Consultation to those organs and organizations.”
Since the adoption of Resolution VI, and more specifically subsequent to the Council's action as described above, the present Government of Cuba has not taken part in any of the meetings held by the various organs and entities of the inter-American system. Nor has the General Secretariat had contact with that Government.
4. Despite the foregoing, it should be pointed out that there are two exceptions to the situation described above, each of which is different and unique.
The first concerns the Cuban Government's participation in the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a specialized agency of the OAS. Cuba's participation is based on an existing agreement between the World Health Organization and PAHO, the Board of Directors of PAHO and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau, which concomitantly serve as regional committee and regional office of the World Health Organization; hence, the Government of Cuba participates in these as a member of that world health agency.
The second exception would be the action that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has taken in connection with the Government of Cuba. In effect, since 1962 the IACHR has continued to concern itself with the issue of human rights in Cuba and has examined that situation on the basis of denunciations received.
C. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Government of Cuba
1. Since its first session, held in October 1960, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received numerous communications from Cuban citizens in which the Cuban Government is accused of violations of the human rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. In accordance with the jurisdiction provided for in its Statute, on April 4, 1962, the Committee sent a cable to Cuba in which it recommended to that Government that the trials against the Playa Girón prisoners of war be conducted in accordance with the principles contained in Article 26 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
Later, during its fourth session, the Commission published its first “Report on the situation regarding human rights in the Republic of Cuba” (OEA/Ser.L/V/II.4, doc. 30, May 1, 1962). This report contained a note dated November 7, 1961, from the Commission to the Government of Cuba, which asked for information on some of the more serious claims and recommended the adoption of “progressive measures in favor of human rights.”
2. In connection with the controversy over the Commission's competence to take cognizance of acts committed in violation of human rights in Cuba, it would be appropriate to mention that since 1962, the Commission has decided to continue to concern itself with the situation of human rights in Cuba on the basis of the fact that Cuba has neither denounced, nor taken the steps necessary to denounce, the OAS Charter and, therefore, continues to be obligated to respect the principles contained therein, which include the need to respect the fundamental rights of the human being, without discrimination as to race, nationality, creed of sex.
3. In a cable dated April 8, 1962, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Dr. Raúl Roa, denied the Commission's rights to make recommendations and to suggest the application of “norms alien to matters within the internal jurisdiction of the Cuban Government.” It also accused the Commission of not having intervened when Cuban territory was invaded in April of 1961.
In that first report, when making reference to the Cuban Government's accusations, the Commission stated clearly that it lacked the competence to investigate situations of the kind referred to by the Cuban Foreign Minister, which inures to other organs of the inter-American system; but at the same time, it stressed that it was competent, in accordance with the power conferred upon it in Article 9 of its Statute, to formulate recommendations to the governments of the American States in cases such as those contemplated in the cablegram to the Government of Cuba.
On April 9, 1962, the Commission again addressed the Government of Cuba to request information on Cuban legislation with respect to human rights. On April 27 of that year, Foreign Minister Roa replied to the Chairman of the Commission expressing his perplexity at the request, in view of the fact that the Government of Cuba had been excluded from the Organization at the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in Punta del Este.
4. This was the last communication from the Government of Cuba to the Commission. For its part, the Commission decided that under no circumstances could it divest itself of its obligation to promote respect for human rights in each and every one of the member states of the Organization, including Cuba; therefore it has continued to consider and process denunciations concerning violations of human rights in connection with the Government of Cuba, even though since April 1962, the Government of Cuba has not answered any of the Communications the Commission has sent to it.
D. The nature of this report
This report concerns only the situation of political prisoners in Cuba. The Commission hopes to undertake a more extensive study in the future of Cuban observance of the other human rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
To summarize, this report deals with the Cuban legal system as it relates to the rights to freedom and to imprisonment for political reasons; it deals with prison conditions, individual cases denounced to the Commission, and recent events in Cuba, culminating with the release of many political prisoners.
The main sources used when preparing this report were Cuba's laws; documents and publications the Commission has received from various agencies or individuals; direct testimony by certain Cubans, and other denunciations on alleged violations of human rights the Commission has received and processed in accordance with its Regulations.
1 This problem was raised at the seventh meeting of the Committee on Juridical-Political Matters at the seventh regular session of the General Assembly, held in 1977 in St. George's Grenada, when the draft resolution on the Fifth Cuba report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights did not receive the majority necessary for its approval, and six of the ten countries that abstained during the voting explained that the Commission had no jurisdiction over Cuba.
2 OAS, Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs serving as Organ of Consultation in Application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, Documents from the Meeting, Punta del Este, Uruguay January 22 through 31, 1962. OEA/Ser.F/II.8, doc. 68, p. 14. The resolution declares that “as a consequence of repeated acts, the present Government of Cuba has voluntarily placed itself outside the inter-American system.”