United Nations Human Rights Council
Human rights situations in Cuba that require the Council's attention
By Online Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Statement delivered at the General Assembly by Freedom House,
represented by Maria C. Werlau, regarding the situation of prisoners in
On behalf of Freedom House, I thank you, Mr. President, for the
opportunity to speak at this Council.
Cuba has more than 200 political prisoners, 55 whom have been designated
prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International – nearly half of those
55 are journalists.
As we meet today, former political prisoner Guillermo Fariñas is in
critical condition from a hunger strike.
Cuba's prisoners of conscience
Cuba's prisoners of conscience have historically resorted to hunger
strikes to protest abhorrent prison conditions, beatings,
malnourishment, denial of medical care, forced labor, unfair
punishments, extrajudicial killings by guards, and other abuses.
Moreover, in the last 40 years, twelve individuals have died in Cuban
prisons during hunger strikes, including, most recently, Orlando Zapata.
Currently, there are two dozen political prisoners throughout the island
who are extremely ill and in danger of dying, including 46 year-old
Countless men and women are also confined for pre-criminal
"dangerousness" – an allegation by the government that they will engage
in "dangerous" activities such as distributing copies of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights or discussing issues related to human rights.
Prisons are rampant with disease. Inhumane conditions lead to acts of
self-mutilation, psychological disorders, and extreme suffering. From
2007 to 2009, there were 99 reported deaths from forced or alleged
suicides, medical negligence, and extrajudicial killings; these reports
came from just 40 of several hundred prisons.
Mr. President, we recommend, with utmost urgency, that the Council ask:
(1) for Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur for Torture, and the
International Red Cross be allowed to visit Cuba's prisons immediately;
(2) that all political prisoners be unconditionally released, including
those held for "dangerousness."
Thank you for your time and consideration.