REPUBLIC OF CUBA
Head of state and government: Raúl Castro Ruz (provisionally replaced
Fidel Castro Ruz in July)
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not ratified
Freedom of expression, association and movement continued to be severely
restricted. At least 69 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned for
their political opinions. Political dissidents, independent journalists
and human rights activists continued to be harassed, intimidated and
detained, some without charge or trial. Cubans continued to feel the
negative impact of the US embargo.
During 2006 Cuba secured a place on the UN Human Rights Council and
assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement during its XIV Summit
in Havana in September.
In July, Fidel Castro underwent surgery and for the first time since
1959 transferred his responsibilities to other senior officials,
including his brother, Raúl Castro Ruz. Political opposition parties and
activities were not tolerated.
Political relations with the USA remained tense despite economic exports
of agricultural products to Cuba exceeding US$500 million. The US
Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba issued an update of its
previous report in July. The European Union did not reintroduce
sanctions lifted in 2005 despite continued concerns over the human
rights situation in Cuba.
The US government set up a law enforcement task force to track down and
prosecute those who circumvent restrictions on travelling and commercial
exchanges with Cuba. In November, for the 15th consecutive year, the UN
General Assembly passed a resolution calling on the USA to end its
embargo on Cuba.
The government continued to deny the UN Special Rapporteur on the human
rights situation in Cuba access to the country. AI and other independent
human rights organizations were also not allowed to visit.
Prisoners of conscience
At the end of the year, 69 prisoners of conscience continued to be held
for their non-violent political views or activities. Twelve others
continued to serve their sentences outside prison because of health
concerns. No releases of prisoners of conscience were reported during
• Orlando Zapata Tamayo was sentenced to three years in 2003 on charges
of showing "contempt to the figure of Fidel Castro", "public disorder"
and "resistance". In November 2005 he was reportedly sentenced to an
additional 15 years for "contempt" and "resistance" in prison. In May
2006, he was again tried on the same charges and sentenced to an
additional seven-year term. He was serving a prison sentence of 25 years
and six months.
Detention without charge or trial
Scores of people continued to be held without charge on suspicion of
counter-revolutionary activities or on unclear charges. Their legal
status remained unclear at the end of the year.
• Prisoner of conscience Oscar Mariano González Pérez, an independent
journalist who was arrested in July 2005 as he was about to take part in
a demonstration in front of the French embassy, remained in detention
without charge or trial.
Freedom of expression and association
Severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association persisted.
All print and broadcast media remained under state control. There was a
rise in the harassment and intimidation of independent journalists and
librarians. People suspected of links with dissident groups or involved
in promoting human rights were arrested and detained. There was an
increase in arrests on charges of "pre-criminal dangerousness". Access
to the Internet remained severely limited outside governmental offices
and educational institutions. Journalist Guillermo Fariñas staged a
seven-month hunger strike to obtain access to the Internet, without success.
• Armando Betancourt Reina, a freelance journalist, was arrested on 23
May as he took notes and photographs of evictions from a house in the
city of Camagüey. He was charged with public disorder. Armando
Betancourt was reportedly held incommunicado for a week at the police
station before being transferred to Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey on
6 June. He was awaiting trial at the end of the year.
Harassment and intimidation of dissidents and activists
There was an increase in the public harassment and intimidation of human
rights activists and political dissidents by quasi-official groups in
so-called acts of repudiation.
• Juan Carlos González Leiva, President of the Cuban Foundation for
Human Rights, was reportedly the target of several "acts of repudiation"
– involving government supporters reportedly acting with the collusion
of the authorities – at his home in the city of Ciego de Avila. He and
his family were repeatedly threatened by demonstrators. Juan Carlos
González Leiva, who is blind, was arrested in March 2002 for
"disrespect", "public disorder", "resistance" and "disobedience" and
spent two years in prison without trial. In April 2004 he was sentenced
to four years' imprisonment, to be served at his home.
AI country reports/visits
• Cuba: Fundamental freedoms still under attack (AI Index: AMR 25/001/2006)
• Cuba: Fear for safety/Fear of torture/intimidation/harassment – Miguel
Valdés Tamayo and Juan Carlos González Leiva (AI Index: AMR 25/002/2006)
AI last visited Cuba in 1988 and has not been allowed into the country