REPUBLIC OF CUBA
Head of state and government
Raúl Castro Ruz (provisionally replacing Fidel Castro Ruz)
Death penalty retentionist
Population 11.3 million
Life expectancy 77.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 6/6 per 1,000
Adult literacy 99.8 per cent
Restrictions on freedom of expression, association and movement remained
severe. At least 62 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned and
political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists
continued to be harassed, intimidated and detained. However, four
prisoners of conscience and other political dissidents were released and
the government decided to discuss its human rights record with other
governments and to ratify human rights treaties. Cubans continued to
feel the negative impact of the US embargo.
In May, the Cuban government accepted the creation of a Bilateral
Consultation Mechanism with the Spanish authorities, which included a
formal Human Rights Dialogue. The decision followed a visit by the
Spanish Foreign Minister, the first EU foreign minister to visit Havana
since the crackdown on dissidents in 2003. This represented the
resumption of inter-governmental co-operation, suspended in 2003.
In November, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food visited Cuba at
the invitation of the Cuban government. The invitation followed the
decision by the UN Human Rights Council not to renew the mandate of the
human rights Special Representative on Cuba. The Cuban Minister of
Foreign Affairs stated that his government had a commitment to
co-operate with universal human rights mechanisms "systematically and
continuously, as long as Cuba is treated in a non-discriminatory way."
On 10 December, he announced that Cuba would soon ratify two key human
Political relations with the USA remained tense. In October President
Bush said the USA would maintain its policy of isolating Havana and
called for international support.
In November, for the 16th consecutive year, the UN General Assembly
passed a resolution calling on the USA to end its embargo on Cuba.
Freedom of expression and association
All print and broadcast media remained under state control.
During 2007, the government refused to renew the visas of a number of
foreign correspondents because "their approach to the Cuban situation is
not one which the Cuban government finds appropriate."
Prisoners of conscience
At the end of the year, 62 prisoners of conscience continued to be held
for their non-violent political views or activities. Thirteen others
were serving their sentences outside prison because of health concerns.
Four prisoners of conscience were conditionally released during 2007.
The practice of using the criminal justice system to silence political
dissidents and critics continued. Many were sentenced for a crime known
as "social dangerousness", a pre-emptive measure defined as the
"proclivity to commit a crime". Behaviour such as drunkenness, drug
addiction and "anti-social behaviour" is criminalized under this
legislation. However, it was almost exclusively applied to political
dissidents, independent journalists and critics of the government. Those
convicted of "dangerousness" face up to four years' imprisonment and can
be subjected to "therapeutic treatment", "re-education" or "surveillance
by the Revolutionary National Police".
* José Oscar Sánchez Madan was summarily tried in April and
sentenced to four years' imprisonment for "social dangerousness" by the
Municipal Court of Union de Reyes. His trial took place four hours after
his arrest and no family member was informed of the trial or allowed to
participate. José Oscar Sánchez Madan is one of the spokespersons of the
dissident Independent Alternative Option Movement (Movimiento
Independiente Opción Alternativa).
Harassment of political dissidents, independent journalists and critics
for carrying out dissident activities or reporting on the human rights
situation in Cuba continued. Some were detained for 24 or 48 hours and
then released; others were held for months or even years awaiting trial.
* Between 21 November and 10 December many political dissidents
were arbitrarily detained because of their involvement in peaceful
protests. The detentions lasted for short periods of time and were aimed
at discouraging demonstrations against the government, particularly on
10 December, International Human Rights Day. At least three people
remained detained at the end of the year.
* On 27 September, 48 people were detained in Havana as they were
preparing to attend a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Justice
to demand fair treatment for political dissidents. Some were released
later that day and others on the following day.
Around 40 people remained on death row. The last known execution took
place in April 2003 and death sentences have rarely been imposed in
Impact of the US embargo
The effects of the US embargo continued to be highly detrimental to the
enjoyment of a range of economic, social and cultural rights – such as
the right to food, health and sanitation – by Cubans, and especially by
the most vulnerable members of the population. Amnesty International
believes that the US embargo has also undermined freedom of movement
between Cuba and the USA and restricted family reunification.
Amnesty International reports
* Cuba: Further information on Fear for safety / Fear of torture /
Intimidation / Harassment (AMR 25/001/2007)
* Cuba: Amnesty International's human rights concerns (AMR 25/003/2007)
* Cuba: Fear for safety/Fear of arbitrary detention – Martha
Beatriz Roque Cabello (AMR 25/004/2007)
* Cuba: Government should commit to human rights by ending
harassment of dissidents (11 December 2007)