Marlene Azor Hernandez
HAVANA TIMES — Today, October 28th, Cuba hopes to be chosen once again for the UN Human Rights Council. However, the Cuban government still hasn’t ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Cultural, Civil and Political Rights that it signed back in 2008.
The Cuban government has ratified several related coNventions on child protection, against racial discrimination, in favor of protecting people with disabilities and on women’s rights. Within this context, it also joined and ratified the UN’s Convention against Torture in May 1995.
The UN General Assembly, who is responsible for verifying if the Convention against Torture is being met and for proposing suggestions for its application from the Convention’s articles, highlighted a series of breaches in June 2012. Even today, Human Rights activists in Cuba continue to report the same abuses that were outlined in this report.
There aren’t any procedural safeguards for Cuban citizens as the habeas corpus is not respected on the island: the necessary medical exam, notifying relatives, and having the right to be accompanied by a defense attorney from the very moment they’re arrested. Those arrested are also not told what their rights are, why they were arrested in the first place and are not taken before a judge immediately afterwards. Meanwhile, detainees don’t have an effective procedure to appeal the legality of their arrest.
The report confirms overcrowding in Cuban prisons, malnutrition of detainees, a lack of hygiene and poor health as well as inadequate healthcare services. Unjustified limitations on family visits, being moved to prison facilities that are far from the prisoner’s family and social environment, being held in solitary confinement in demeaning conditions and physical as well as verbal abuse to prisoners have all been reported.
Arbitrary arrests, “express” kidnappings of artists, Human Rights activists, independent journalists and political opponents of all stripes and colors, have increased during the 2012-2016 period. In 2012, there were 6,602 arbitrary arrests; in 2016, until September alone, there have been 8,805 arrests in similar conditions of vulnerability and legal and penal powerlessness.
The report doesn’t include detailing the illegal and violent raids of independent lawyers, independent journalists and political activist associations. There isn’t any legal warrant to raid homes, to rob the victims of their work equipment, client records and personal belongings, without any legal channel to recover these “thefts”, carried out by the police and State security bodies.
Recent cases include the Cubalex legal assistance center, the Pinar del Rio Legal Aid Center and the confiscation of the belongings of opposition activist from the UNPACU, Carlos Amel’s at the airport, which led to Amel staging a hunger strike which lasted several weeks.
Meanwhile, the report does include cases of extended precautionary arrests and arrests of an indefinite nature based on what is stipulated in Article 107 of the Cuban Penal Code, which especially affects people whose liberties have been taken away for political reasons. The UN General Assembly regrets the lack of information there is regarding the number and situation of people who have had their freedom taken away and are charged with a crime against National Security, under Article 243 of the Cuban Penal Code.
Last but not least, the UN Council is also concerned by the ambiguity of the legal status of former inmates under “conditional discharge”, as well as information received about arbitrary restrictions on their personal freedoms and freedom of movement. The Council has especially expressed its concern in the case of Jose Daniel Ferrer and Oscar Elias Biscet. This arbitrariness remains up until today.
In short, the Cuban government hasn’t changed its penal laws to include the crime of torture in its penal code, it hasn’t changed police protocol, State security and courts with regard to conditions of arrest, or conditions in prisons. Does the Cuban government really have the right to be selected at the UN’s Human Rights Council again?
 UN webpage, Human Rights Council, Cuba at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/CUIndex.aspx . Committee against Torture Recommendations
Concluding observations (2012) CAT/C/CUB/CO/2 .Consulted on October 26th 2016.
 Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation Webpage, illegal in Cuba. Here: http://ccdhrn.org/informes/informe-mensual-sobre-represion/