Thursday, April 13, 2017

Castro’s war against human rights in Cuba

"We too, we Cubans, have the right to rights. We are human beings…" - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, July 15, 2010, National Catholic Register

Human rights are those rights that pertain to you because you are a human being. This was once understood by the Cuban government but that all changed six decades ago.

Past is prologue

The Cuban diplomatic delegation representing what would be the last democratic government of Cuba, along with other Latin American governments, in the aftermath of WWII pushed hard for a human rights covenant.

On December 10, 1948 the countries of the world agreed upon a Universal Declaration of Human Rights that listed 30 articles outlining these rights.

Cuba’s last democratically elected president Carlos Prio Socarras was overthrown by Fulgencio Batista on March 10, 1952. Human rights and democracy began what would become a six decade long retreat.

Fidel Castro led an insurrection that claimed as its aim the democratic restoration of the republic, and the defense of human rights but in reality plotted replacing an authoritarian dictatorship with a totalitarian, communist regime that has now been in power 58 years.

Under authoritarian dictator Batista passive acceptance of the regime was sufficient but with Castro's totalitarian regime active support is necessary to avoid punishment. The Batista regime on paper maintained democratic norms, but Fidel Castro did away with them punishing all dissent with force of law.

Legal repression

All rights and freedoms in Cuba under the Castro regime are subordinated to the communist dictatorship and this reality is reflected in the Cuban Constitution.

The current system recognizes only one legal political party in Article 5 of said constitution which is the Communist Party of Cuba, described as "the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the highest leading force of society and of the state, which organizes and guides the common effort toward the goals of the construction of socialism and the progress toward a communist society."

Article 62 of the 1992 Cuban Constitution states:
“None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to what is established in the Constitution and by law, or contrary to the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law.”
This is also reflected in Article 103 of the Cuban criminal code which outlaws political dissent as “enemy propaganda”:
1. Any person who: a) incites against the social order, international solidarity or the communist State, by means of oral or written propaganda or in any other way; b) prepares, distributes or possesses propaganda of the type referred to in paragraph (a) preceding; shall be punished with one to eight years imprisonment. [...] 3. If mass communication media are used for performance of the acts referred to in (1) and (2) of this article, the penalty shall be seven to fifteen years imprisonment. [...]
 Pre-Crime Cuban-style: "Dangerousness"

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick called it pre-crime but the Castro regime calls it a predilection to social dangerousness and defines it as follows:
Article 72. A dangerous state is defined as the special predisposition of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly inconsistent with the norms of socialist ethics. 
Article 75. A person who, though not in one of the dangerous states specified in Article 73, by virtue of links or dealings with persons potentially dangerous to society, to others, and to the social, economic, and political order of the socialist state may be predisposed to crime shall be warned by the competent police authority as to prevent him or her from engaging in activities that are dangerous to society or criminal in nature.
In 1996 Law 88, also known as the gag law, expanded restrictions on freedom of expression and association increasing prison sentences to 20-years. Many of the independent journalists, human rights activists, Varela project activists, and independent librarians arrested during the March 2003 crackdown were tried and sentenced under this law. All of them were identified by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. Persons imprisoned for nonviolently exercising their internationally recognized human rights.

Cubans isolated for decades
Human rights experts have been systematically barred from entering Cuba for decades. The last time the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch were granted permission to enter a Cuban prison was in 1988. The International Committee of the Red Cross prior to that had not had access since 1959. 

Compare this to over 100 International Committee of the Red Cross inspections of the notorious US Guantanamo Detention Center since 2003 compared to one inspection of Cuba’s prisons in 58 years.
Amnesty International in its 2016/2017 world report cited that “Cuba is the only country in the Americas where authorities didn't grant them permission to visit.”

This systematic rejection of international human rights standards, international oversight,  and outlawing of dissent has meant that Cubans  have had no recourse but international institutions and international law to defend their rights. Attempts to use national laws led to the Cuban Constitution being declared unchangeable in 2002 and 75 activists sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the spring of 2003.

This has also meant that over the past 58 years Cubans have been subjected to summary executions, extrajudicial executions, torture, arbitrary detention for decades in cruel and unusual conditions, forced internal exile and a long list of horrors too long to list here.

Consider the following:

A family of four was detained on November 27, 2016 and three siblings sentenced to a year prison for going outside during the official mourning period for Dictator Castro. The twin sisters and brother went on hunger strike on March 7, 2017 to protest the unjust imprisonment and nearly died before being released on April 7th following international outrage. Mom was sentenced to a year under house arrest.
Eduardo Cardet, a Cuban physician and human rights defender, was beaten up in front of his wife and two kids by the secret police on November 30, 2016 for speaking critically of Fidel Castro's legacy. He was sentenced to three years in prison following a show trial on March 20, 2017.
There is also the case of a student who failing to actively lie and say what the dictatorship wanted paid a high price. David Mauri Cardoso, age 22, was expelled from university when he honestly answered a question about Castro in an exam in January of 2017 and described him as a dictator. He was being forced to lie or speak the truth and suffer the consequences.    

Opposition activists such as the Ladies in White are regularly beaten and harassed for exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Other non-violent activists such as Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (July 22, 2012) have been murdered and there have been no consequences.
The totalitarian nature of the Castro regime remains intact. Cubans need the solidarity of the international community to provide some protection against the dictatorship that has spent six decades waging war against human rights in Cuba.

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