Thursday, January 21, 2010

Human Rights Watch World Report 2010

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch presents 2010 World Report above

Excerpt on Cuba from 2010 Human Rights Watch World Report

The change in government leadership in 2006-when Fidel Castro handed control to his brother Raul-has had little effect on Cuba's dismal human rights record. Cuba remains the one country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. The government continues to enforce political conformity using criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detention, harassment, denial of employment, and travel restrictions.

Raul Castro has kept firmly in place and fully active Cuba's repressive legal and institutional structures. While Cuban law includes broad statements affirming fundamental rights, it also grants officials extraordinary authority to penalize individuals who attempt to exercise them. Article 62 of the constitution explicitly prohibits Cubans from exercising their basic rights contrary to the "ends of the socialist state."


Raul Castro's government has increasingly relied on a "dangerousness" (estado peligroso) provision of the criminal code that allows the state to imprison individuals before they have committed a crime, on the suspicion that they might commit an offense in the future. Scores of individuals are currently imprisoned for "dangerous" activities including handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, staging peaceful marches, writing critical news articles, and trying to organize independent unions.

Cuba has also applied the "dangerousness" charge to Cubans who are unemployed or self-employed without authorization. Language in the provision regards being unemployed as a form of "antisocial behavior," and thus worthy of pre-criminal arrest. In a January 2009 campaign called "Operation Victory," dozens of individuals in eastern Cuba-most of them youths-were charged with "dangerousness" for not having jobs.

Freedom of Expression

The government maintains a media monopoly on the island, ensuring that freedom of expression is virtually nonexistent. Although a small number of independent journalists manage to write articles for foreign websites or maintain independent blogs, they must publish their work through back channels-writing from home computers, saving information on memory sticks, and uploading articles and posts through illegal internet connections. The risks associated with these activities are considerable. Moreover, access to information is highly restricted, and because an hour of internet use costs one-third of Cubans' monthly wages and is available exclusively in a few government-run centers, only a tiny fraction of Cubans have the chance to read independently published articles and blogs.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 22 journalists were imprisoned in Cuba as of June 2009, including Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, who was reportedly sentenced to three years in prison in a closed, summary trial in May. Cuba ranks second only to China for the number of journalists in prison.

Human Rights Defenders

Refusing to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity, the Cuban government denies legal status to local human rights groups. The government also employs harassment, beatings, and imprisonment to punish human rights defenders who attempt to document abuses. In May 2009, after authorities warned him several times that he would be imprisoned if he did not abandon his work, human rights activist Juan Luís Rodríguez Desdín was sentenced in a closed, summary trial to two years for "public disorder."

Travel Restrictions and Family Separation

The Cuban government forbids the country's citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is often denied. For example, Juan Juan Almeida García has been denied the right to leave Cuba to receive medical treatment for a rare degenerative illness (treatment is not available on the island) since 2003. Almeida has applied several times per year-including in 2009-for permission to leave, but all requests have been denied without explanation. His health has declined considerably as a result of his lack of treatment. Unauthorized travel can result in criminal prosecution.

The government frequently bars citizens engaged in authorized travel from taking their children with them overseas, essentially holding the children hostage to guarantee the parents' return. Given the widespread fear of forced family separation, these travel restrictions provide the Cuban government with a powerful tool for punishing defectors and silencing critics.

The government is also clamping down on the movement of citizens within Cuba, by more aggressively enforcing a 1997 law known as Decree 217. Designed to limit migration to Havana, the decree requires Cubans to obtain government permission before moving to the country's capital.

Prison Conditions

Conditions for prisoners are overcrowded, unhygienic, and unhealthy, leading to extensive malnutrition and illness. Political prisoners who criticize the government, refuse to participate in ideological "reeducation," or engage in hunger strikes and other forms of protest are routinely subjected to extended solitary confinement, beatings, restrictions of visits, and the denial of medical care. Prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress, granting prison authorities total impunity. Cuba remains one of the few countries in the world to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons.

Full report is available here:

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