Five years after Cuba’s representative signed the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the situation with regards to fundamental rights in Cuba remains precarious. The violation of fundamental rights is not only a part of the repressive apparatus of the State, but our national legislation itself imposes restrictions on these freedoms enshrined in international law.
The Cuban Constitution formally recognizes the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression, but immediately establishes limitations that barely allow the exercise of them. The practice of these rights can always be considered contrary to the interests “of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism,” and therefore swept away with great violence and impunity. In short, none of the fundamental rights are legally guaranteed.
To punish these “contrary interests” the Criminal Code provides for sentences of 10 to 20 years in prison or the death penalty for anyone “who, in the interests of a foreign State, commits an act with the intent of undermining the independence of the Cuban State or the integrity of its territory.”
Another of the offenses widely used to limit the exercise of these rights is the charge of a “propensity” to commit crimes demonstrated by conduct that is in manifest contradiction with the norms of the “socialist morality.” Any police officer may issue an “official warning” against an individual if the officer perceives them to be “dangerous” or to have ties to “potentially dangerous people.” Anyone who has received one or more official warnings may be charged with “dangerousness” and sentenced to up to four years in prison.
Currently still in force is the Law of Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba (Law No. 88) enacted in 1999 by the National Assembly. Law No. 88 provides penalties of 7-15 years in prison for supplying the “enemy” with information that could be useful for strengthening measures against the government of Cuba. The deprivation of liberty may be up to 20 years in the case of information obtained surreptitiously. This law also prohibits the possession, distribution and reproduction of “subversive material,” and establishes prison sentences of up to five years for collaborating with radio stations, television stations or publications deemed to be in the service of foreign powers. The law also imposes unacceptable limits on freedom of association and assembly.
The Cuban State has ratified more than forty international treaties on human rights; however, none of these norms are directly applied to the legal system, principally by the courts. This means that the rights protected by these international norms are, in practice, a “dead letter.”
Total control over all communication media, as provided in the Constitution, includes the written press, radio broadcasts, television or any other means of communication, such that the right to freedom of expression is restricted. Official recognition and registration is denied to unions, civil, professional and human rights associations not belonging to the apparatus of the State or to mass organizations controlled by the government.
Those who try to express their opinions, organize meetings or form associations that contradict the policies of the government or the objectives of the State, are in danger of being subjected to punitive measures such as imprisonment, dismissal, harassment or intimidation.
The arrests and beatings of defenders of human rights, dissidents and political opponents, and independent journalists are common. In some cases they are detained for hours, in others they have been held without charges for months and, on occasion, without trial, on suspicion of participation in activities considered to be counterrevolutionary or for equally vague accusations. In some cases, opponents are summarily tried and sentenced in the space of a few days. Harassment and intimidation of critics and political dissidents and their families at the hands of official groups in so-called “acts of repudiation” constitutes psychological torture, given the tension it can generate for the victims and their families.
Independent local and international human rights NGOs have a great difficulty reporting on human rights violations. The latter are not allowed to visit the island, which contributes to hindering the observation of the human rights situation.
It is incomprehensible that democratic governments embrace a totalitarian system that bears the main responsibility for the disaster befalling our nation. The Cuban people have the right to life, to live and feel pride in their land. Why not listen to us? Why allow us to be covered with a mantle of rhetoric, full of absurd and outdated terms, repression and national ruin?
A true transformation for our people implies, above all, changing laws, regulations and administrative practices that relate to all fundamental freedoms in accordance with international obligations contracted by the Cuban state, as well as the provision of full legal guarantees.
The defense of fundamental rights entails not only an ethical commitment. No society can be viable while ignoring human beings, never before has the nexus between respect for the individual and the development of nations been so clear.
How long should the Cuban people endure the misery associated with the disrespect of our fundamental rights and the imposed material misery that has caused so much pain and damage to our nation? Our country languishes in a calamitous economy with its collapsed infrastructure and an asphyxiating decapitalization. How many more Cubans will have to escape from our country to seek a dignified life in other lands?
For all this, the Campaign for Another Cuba was launched in August 2012, a campaign arising from civil society to demand that the Cuban government immediately ratify and implement the United Nations Covenants.
This effort has been coordinated by hundreds of activists and dissimilar groups the length and breadth of the island, who are working towards regaining our fundamental rights, rights that never should have been severed for any reason. Undoubtedly, this requires the efforts of many pushing from civil society to change a reality that has shown itself to be deeply impervious to change. However we are confident that we will succeed.
We also hope for the just support of the entire regional and international community to exert pressure towards the democratization of our land.
Organizing Committee of the Campaign For another Cuba.
Ailer Gonzalez Mena (Artist, State of SATS)
Alejandro González Raga (former prisoner of conscience, Cuban Observatory of Human Rights)
Alexis Jardines (Philosophy Professor, State of SATS)
Angel Moya (former prisoner of conscience, Coordinator Democratic Freedom Movement for Cuba)
Antonio G. Rodiles (SATS State Coordinator)
Eduardo Díaz Fleitas (former prisoner of conscience, Pinar del Rio Democratic Alliance)
Felix Navarro (former prisoner of conscience, Pedro Luis Boitel Democracy Party, Executive Secretary FANTU)
Guillermo Fariñas (former prisoner of conscience, Spokesman FANTU)
Iván Hernández Carrillo (former prisoner of conscience, Confederation of Independent Workers of Cuba)
Jose Daniel Ferrer (former prisoner of conscience, UNPACU Coordinator)
Jose Diaz Silva (former political prisoner, Opposition Movement for a New Republic)
Laritza Diversent (CUBALEX)
Librado Linares (former prisoner of conscience, Cuban Reflection Movement)
Luis Felipe Rojas (Writer)
Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arch, New Country)
Raul Risco (Pinar del Rio Democratic Alliance)
Veizant Boloy (Independent Lawyer)
Yaremis Flores (Lawyer, CUBALEX)
Rene Gomez Manzano (former political prisoner, Lawyer, Corriente Agramontista Association of Independent Lawyers)