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United Nations


General Assembly

Distr.: General

11 January 2013

Original: English/Spanish/French

Human Rights Council

Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review

Sixteenth session

Geneva, 22 April–3 May 2013

Summary prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21


The present report is a summary of 454 stakeholders’ submissions1 to the universal periodic review. It follows the general guidelines adopted by the Human Rights Council in its decision 17/119. It does not contain any opinions, views or suggestions on the part of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), nor any judgement or determination in relation to specific claims. The information included herein has been systematically referenced in endnotes and, to the extent possible, the original texts have not been altered. As provided for in Resolution 16/21 of the Human Rights Council, where appropriate, a separate section is provided for contributions by the national human rights institution of the State under review that is accredited in full compliance with the Paris Principles. The full texts of all submissions received are available on the OHCHR website. The report has been prepared taking into consideration the periodicity of the review and developments during that period.

I. Information provided by other stakeholders

A. Background and framework

1. Scope of international obligations

1. Some 17 reports indicated that Cuba has ratified numerous international instruments, thereby demonstrating its commitment to the international system for the protection of human rights.2

2. Some 63 organizations pointed out that Cuba ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2008 and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2009 and that, in 2012, it submitted the International Labour Organization (ILO) HIV and AIDS Recommendation, 2010 (No. 200), to the competent national authorities.3

3. The Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Judicial Association) (AJC), Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos (Cuban Human Rights Observatory) (OCDH), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Reporters Without Borders (RWB) recommended that Cuba ratify, without reservations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.4

4. The Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation) (CCDHRN) pointed out that Cuba has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.5

2. Constitutional and legislative framework

5. Approximately 77 reports mentioned that Cuba’s constitutional and legislative framework recognized and guaranteed basic human rights and freedoms.6 The Organización de Solidaridad de los Pueblos de África, Asia y América Latina (Organization for the Solidarity of African, Asian and Latin American Peoples) (OSPAAAL) drew attention to the existence of a legal framework for the protection and promotion of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.7

6. AI indicated that the legal framework provides for certain rights and freedoms. However, according to AI, their exercise is criminalized if perceived to be contrary to Cuba’s political system.8 AJC, el Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) expressed similar concerns.9 AI and AJC further stated that the description of a number of proscribed acts in the legislation is general and vague as is the case, for example, of article 91 of the Criminal Code which provides for sentences of ten to twenty years for anyone “who in the interest of a foreign state, commits an act with the objective of damaging the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state.”10 AI recommended Cuba to revoke or amend all laws that criminalize, or are used to criminalize freedom of expression, in particular Articles 53 and 62 of the Constitution, Article 91 of the Criminal Code and Law No. 88 for the Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba.11

7. OCDH and CCDHRN reported that Cuba has not introduced reforms to harmonize its national legislation with its human rights obligations.12 Joint Submission 7 (JS7) appealed to the State party to do so.13 Welcoming the Cuban State’s ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, AJC urged it to align its legislation with that instrument.14

8. AJC, CCDHRN, OCDH and JS7 expressed concern about the term “pre-criminal social dangerousness” (peligrosidad social pre-delectiva) in the Criminal Code, which refer to “the dangerous situation associated with an individual’s particular proclivity to commit crimes, as demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly contrary to the norms of socialist morality”.15 AJC, OCDH and HRW recommended eliminating it from the Criminal Code.16

9. Some 81 organizations drew attention to the fact that in 2011 the National Assembly had adopted economic and social policy guidelines designed to update the country’s economic model and improve the population’s quality of life.17 Other organizations indicated that, as part of that process, the Assembly had adopted new legislative measures relating to land transfers, the expansion of social security coverage; employment; housing; and procedures for amending the Criminal, Family and Labour Codes.18 Various reports pointed out that a participatory approach had been followed in adopting these measures.19

10. OSPAAAL, noting the efforts undertaken to promote and protect children’s and adolescents’ rights, stressed the need to continue to bring the country’s legislation into line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.20

3. Institutional and human rights infrastructure and policy measures

11. AI regretted that Cuba rejected the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations on the establishment of a national human rights institution in accordance with Paris Principles and to establish a system of review of its prisons.21 The Fundación ProBono Venezuela (ProVene) indicated that there is no autonomous or independent public body for investigating human rights violations.22 JS7 stated that there is an inter-institutional system in place for receiving complaints and for responding to them, which is mandatory. There is no obligation to initiate judicial proceedings or seek resolution if a complaint proves to be well-founded, however.23 AJC recommended that an independent mechanism be created to ensure respect for human rights.24

12. The Federación Estudiantil Universitaria de Cuba (Federation of University Students of Cuba) (FEU), reported that Cuba has an effective inter-institutional system for protecting citizens’ rights which allows for the participation of social and grass-roots organizations and which guarantees that complaints will be addressed. FEU added that this system has been systematically fine-tuned to enhance its effectiveness.25

13. CCDHRN reported that Cuba has neither published the outcome of the previous universal periodic review nor held regular and inclusive consultations, as it had agreed to do during the previous universal periodic review. It also indicated that the State has not established an inter-institutional mechanism for implementing the universal periodic review recommendations in which civil society would have a role.26

14. The Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) stated that it had facilitated the participation of women in the preparation of a draft of the second national universal periodic review report.27 However, CCDHRN indicated that Cuba excluded many civil-society human rights defenders from the process of producing the final document.28

15. CCDHRN stated that dissemination of international human rights instruments, such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or ILO conventions, is prevented by the fact that the State controls the media through which they would be circulated.29

16. The Centro de Estudios Sobre la Juventud (CESJ), on the other hand, highlighted the efforts made to disseminate information about child and adolescent rights.30

17. The Consejo Comunal Propatria Obrera (Patriotic Workers’ Community Council) (CCPO), indicating that FMC is the lead agency in policies concerning women, stated that this represented a unique partnership between the State and civil society actors.31 FMC itself reported that its efforts to achieve full gender equality and equity have been State-driven from the outset.32

18. OSPAAAL drew attention to the periodic review of the National Action Plan for Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing,33 and to the continuation of a university lecture programme for senior citizens.34

19. Over 240 organizations highlighted the State party’s programmes for international cooperation and solidarity in the fields of education, health, culture and sport, such as the “Yes I Can”, “Operation Miracle” and many other initiatives.35

B. Cooperation with human rights mechanisms

20. Some 66 organizations drew attention to the State party’s cooperation with universal human rights mechanisms.36 Around 60 organizations indicated that most of the recommendations made in the first cycle of the universal periodic review (2009), have been implemented.37

1. Cooperation with treaty bodies

21. Over 66 organizations underscored the State party’s cooperation with treaty bodies through the submission of reports to such bodies as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2011), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2011) and the Committee against Torture (2012).38

2. Cooperation with special procedures

22. AI recommended Cuba to facilitate the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture; extend invitations to the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and to the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, as well as to issue a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures.39

23. Approximately 13 organizations indicated that measures were taken to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.40

C. Implementation of international human rights obligations

1. Equality and non-discrimination

24. Approximately 37 contributions noted that Cuba has achieved a considerable degree of inter-cultural harmony and multi-racial integration.41

25. Around 15 organizations reported on the progress made towards the achievement of gender equality.42

26. At least six reports drew particular attention to women’s access to family planning services and sex education, their freedom of choice with regard to abortion, freedom to marry and equality within the family. They added that maternity and paternity rights are recognized.43

27. More than 37 submissions also mentioned measures in place to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.44 The Sociedad Cubana Multidisciplinaria de Estudios sobre la Sexualidad (Cuban Multidisciplinary Sexuality Research Association) (SOCUMES) indicated that implementation of an educational strategy to promote respect for free and responsible choices with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity had given rise to a debate on sexual diversity.45 The Asociación de Profesionales Graduados en la República de Cuba (Professional Graduates Association) (APGRC) referred to the creation of a comprehensive health centre for transgender persons.46

2. Right to life, liberty and security of the person

28. Over 100 organizations reported that, in 2009, the Council of State decided to commute the death penalty and replace it with 30 years’ or life imprisonment. They added that no one has been sentenced to death and that the penalty has been suspended.47 AI recommended abolishing the death penalty for all crimes.48

29. El Directorio Democrático Cubano (DDC), reported on alleged cases of death threats and “suspicious deaths” carried out by government agents, since 2009.49

30. Around 24 organizations indicated that there had not been any case of disappearance or extrajudicial execution and that torture had been eradicated.50 Dominica Cuba Friendship Association (DCFA) commended Cuba for remaining one of the safest countries in the world due to the government’s investment in security.51

31. Some six reports indicated that the penal system is designed to educate convicts and reintegrate them into society.52

32. HRW indicated that Cuba should address the dire conditions of its overcrowded and unhealthy prisons, leading to malnutrition and illness.53 AI received reports that could indicate a breach of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including ill-treatment. However, AI was unable to verify their validity and considered paramount the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture.54 The Alianza Democrática Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) (ADO) mentioned reports of human rights violations in prisons, which include ill-treatment and a lack of medical care.55

33. CSW mentioned that there had been some limited improvements regarding the specific provisions for the exercise of religion in the prison system, which were, however, restricted to prisoners practicing a Christian faith.56

34. According to Association France Cuba (AFC), Romanian-Cuban Friendship Association Branch of Dambovita (RCFA) and Sri Lanka National Committee for Solidarity with Cuba (SLNCSC) 2900 prisoners were released in 2011.57

35. RWB indicated that every journalist arrested during the “Black Spring” of March 2003 had been released between July 2010 and March 2011, though most were required to go into exile.58 HRW expressed similar concern.59

36. CCDHRN indicated that there had been an increase in politically motivated instances of arbitrary detention for short periods of time between 2010 and 2012.60 According to data provided in Joint Submission 1 (JS1), over 1,000 cases of temporary detention in police facilities were recorded in March 2012, the average number of dissidents detained per month was around 600 in 2012 and a total of 4,500 detention cases were recorded over the course of the year.61

37. While noting that the overall number of political prisoners had declined, HRW indicated that the government has increasingly relied upon arbitrary arrests and short-term detentions to restrict basic rights of its critics, including the right to assemble and move freely.62 JS1, AI expressed similar concerns.63

38. HRW added that security officers virtually never presented arrest orders to justify detentions and victims of such arrest were held incommunicado, without notifying families, for periods ranging from several hours to several days, often at police stations. In some cases, they were given an official warning, which prosecutors may later use in criminal trials to show a pattern of delinquent behaviour.64 AI recommended Cuba to ensure that everyone is informed, at the time of detention, of the specific reasons for their arrest; to end the practice of incommunicado detention; to ensure access for all detainees to a lawyer, their family, and, if necessary, to a doctor; and that interrogation of detainees takes place in the presence of an independent defence counsel.65

39. The Swedish Peace Council (SPC) noted achievements regarding the elimination of household violence and attention to psychological violence.66

40. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACPC) noted that there has been no change in the legality of corporal punishment of children since 2009 and it is lawful in the home and some forms of care. However, GIEACPC indicated that a draft Family Code was under consideration and Cuba had stated to the CRC in 2011, that the provision for adequate and moderate correction of children would be removed.67

3. Administration of justice, including impunity and the rule of law

41. Over 32 reports indicated that there is a separation of powers in Cuba, which ensures that the judiciary can perform its duties without interference from the other branches of Government.68

42. HRW noted that in practice, courts are subordinated to the executive and legislative branches, thus denying meaningful judicial protection.69 AI indicated that the judicial system is under political control and the right to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal is undermined.70 ADO expressed similar concerns.71 CCDHRN indicated that all judges, at all levels, are subordinate to the Party and State and that whoever does not act in accordance with that subordinate relationship is immediately removed from the bench.72 CCDHRN and AI added that lawyers in Cuba are not able to exercise their profession freely.73

43. Approximately 27 reports noted that the judicial system is based on equality before the law and the presumption of innocence and that all trials are public with those accused having a right to a legal defence and the right of appeal.74 Three reports indicated that there was no impunity.75

44. According to HRW, Cubans who dare to criticize the government risk criminal charges and will not enjoy due process guarantees. HRW further stated that political prisoners are routinely denied parole after completing the minimum required sentence as punishment for refusing to participate in ideological activities such as re-education classes.76 HRW recommended releasing all political prisoners.77 HRW also noted that prisoners have no effective complaint mechanism to seek redress.78 AI recommended Cuba to undertake a judicial review of all the cases where there is evidence that the fundamental right to a fair trial had been violated; ensure that a thorough and impartial retrial takes place and grant victims access to redress.79

4. Freedom of movement

45. JS7 indicated that Decree No. 217/97, on regulations governing internal migration, restricts the freedom of movement of Cubans living outside of the Province of Havana and requires them to seek permission from the authorities to reside in the capital city. JS7 welcomed the 2011 amendment to this decree, but stated that the right to freedom of movement continues to be violated.80

46. CCDHRN reported that citizens who move from the eastern provinces to establish themselves in the capital city or its outskirts are arrested and imprisoned on charges of pre-criminal social dangerousness.81

47. Joint Submission 3 (JS3) and the Centro de Información y Documentación de Estudios Cubanos (Cuban Information and Documentation Centre) (CENINFEC) referred to migration regulations in Cuba and the actual situation with regard to freedom to travel, migrate and return to the country.82

5. Freedom of religion or belief, expression, association and peaceful assembly, and right to participate in public and political life

48. More than 49 reports drew attention to the State party’s respect for freedom of religion and belief.83 They added that all religions have their own churches, temples and houses of worship where members can practise their faith without any State interference.84 The reports also indicated that there is freedom of religious teaching.85

49. According to CSW, State protection of religious freedom had eroded steadily since 2007. It added that during 2011–2012, different types of religious freedom violations were documented such as attempts to control the ability of individuals to attend religious services, interference in internal affairs of religious groups and the difficult registration, among others.86

50. At least eight reports indicated that relations between the State and the religious sector are good.87

51. Around 58 organizations noted the lack of guarantees in Cuba for the exercise of the freedom of expression, assembly, association, participation and protest.88

52. More than 26 contributions indicated that human rights defenders are protected and nobody had been persecuted or penalized for peacefully exercising their rights.89 Approximately 57 organizations added that Cuba has been the victim of a campaign to discredit its performance in human rights.90 Various organizations indicated that foreign funding is being channelled through persons purporting to be human rights defenders to members of the opposition seeking to overthrow the Government.91

53. HRW indicated that Cuba rejected UPR recommendations regarding lack of protection of human rights defenders and restrictions on freedom of expression. HRW has continued documenting cases of abuses of these rights.92 AI and Coalition of Cuban-American Women (CCAW) expressed similar concerns.93

54. AJC stated that both local and international independent human-rights non-governmental organizations have difficulties in reporting on human rights violations. International non-governmental organizations are prohibited from visiting the island, which hampers their efforts to monitor the human rights situation in the country.94 HRW and AI expressed similar concerns and added that Cuba continues to deny legal status to local human rights groups.95 AI further stated that this often puts individuals belonging to such associations at risk of harassment, intimidation or criminal charges for the legitimate exercise of their rights.96

55. RWB indicated that it is impossible to work with non-governmental organizations, as any action or statement about the situation in Cuba originating outside the country is considered interference or an infringement of national sovereignty.97 HRW recommended allowing human rights NGOs the ability to travel to Cuba, meet with human rights defenders and dissident groups, visit prisons, and conduct research without risk of being detained or expelled.98

56. Joint Submission 2 (JS2) documented the Government’s growing use of violence against female Cuban human rights defenders.99 ADO indicated that human rights defenders are the targets of repressive measures, including arbitrary arrest.100

57. JS7, ADO, AJC and AI expressed concern at the condemnation of political critics and dissidents.101

58. RWB indicated that Cuba does not tolerate an independent press, adding that independent newspapers and bloggers are subjected to, inter alia, summons, searches by State security forces and short-term detention.102 RWB recommended that the State party accept a pluralistic and independent press.103

59. AI also stated that the state has a complete monopoly on all media outlets and the law prohibits private ownership.104 HRW expressed similar concerns.105 CENINFEC added that limitations continue to be placed on Internet use that infringe on the right to information.106 HRW recommended ending censorship of websites.107 CENINFEC recommended that the State party consider legalizing the reception of foreign television signals.108

60. HRW further stated that Cuba uses selective allocations of press credentials and visas, which are required by foreign journalists, to control coverage and punish media outlets seen as overly critical of the regime.109 AI recommended allowing independent media outlets and journalists to operate freely.110

61. Around 10 organizations reported that the blockade hinders the modernization of computer hardware and limits access to various websites.111 SPC noted efforts to make information technology and Internet access available to all, despite the blockade.112

62. The Unión de Periodistas de Cuba (Cuban Union of Journalists) (UPEC) reported that it has participated in preparatory research for a media or communications law that will update the legal framework pertaining to access to information and the exercise of journalism.113

63. House of Latin America (HOLA) and la Sociedad Cultural Jose Martí (SCJM) noted the active role of civil society in the decision-making process regarding all matters of the political, economic, social and cultural life.114 However, ADO stated that the Government does not allow members of the opposition to take part.115

64. At least nine reports indicated that the Cuban political system had been freely chosen by the population.116 A further 49 submissions stated that the population participates in decision-making, both directly and through elected representatives.117

65. More than 20 reports emphasized the participation of women in political, economic, academic, social and cultural life118 and drew attention to the percentage of women representatives in public office.119 OSPAAAL cited, as an example, the fact that, as of 2011, women represented: 63 per cent of professional and technical staff; 62.8 per cent of higher education graduates; 35.6 per cent of technical and professional teaching staff; 36.7 per cent of managers; 46.7 per cent of the public-sector workforce; 28 per cent of ministerial-level staff; and 40 per cent of executives.120

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