UN Committee Against Torture blasts Cuba
Socialist state hammered for an alleged string of human rights abuses.
GENEVA, Switzerland, Wednesday June 06, 2012 – The United Nations (UN) Committee Against Torture has hammered Cuba’s Raul Castro administration for a lengthy string of alleged human rights abuses and complained that the socialist government in Havana had provided few or none of the details about specific allegations of abuses as requested.
The committee noted that it was “concerned by reports denouncing the use of coercive methods during (police) interrogations, particularly the denial of sleep, detention under conditions of isolation and exposure to sudden changes in temperatures.”
With reference to Cuba’s prisons, the panel said that it “continues to be supremely concerned by the reports received about the … overcrowding, malnutrition, lack of hygiene and healthy conditions (and) adequate medical attention.”
Adding that there have been thousands of complaints of short-term detentions of dissidents, the strongly-worded report singled out José Luis Ferrer García and Oscar Elias Biscet. And Cuban officials never explained the deaths of dissidents Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Juan Wilfredo Soto García, it noted.
Cuba should establish an independent body to gather, investigate and report on allegations of government abuses, and should meet its promise to allow a visit by the UN’s top official on several types of mistreatments, the committee urged in the 6,000-word report.
The report summed up the panel’s conclusions following its May 22-23 hearings in Switzerland on Cuba’s compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The report, marked “unedited,” was issued by the UN media office in Geneva.
In essence the report amounted to a harsh indictment of Cuba’s human rights record, especially in areas involving physical punishments or abuses, such as the justice and prison systems and the harassment of dissidents.
The Castro administration’s report on its compliance with the convention on torture, presented to the panel last month, was more than nine years late and “does not fully meet the guidelines” set by the panel, it noted.
The UN report urged Cuba “to investigate, without delay, exhaustively, without bias and in an efficient way, all deaths of prisoners.”
Cuba told the panel that prison officials were not responsible for any of the 202 such deaths in 2010-2011, but gave no further information.
The UN report also blasted Cuba for the rapid increase in short-term arrests of dissidents without any judicial orders, usually to keep opposition activists away from activities. Cuban officials told the panel last month that all detentions follow due process.
Despite Cuba’s denials, panel member Fernando Mariño told a news conference Friday, “it seems that this has been generalized of late.” Human rights activists in Havana reported the number of such arrests doubled from 2010 to 2011.
The panel also condemned the “restrictions on freedom of movement, invasive security operations, physical aggressions and other acts of intimidation and harassment presumably committed by the National Revolutionary Police or members of the Organs of State Security.”
It added that Cuba should also abolish vaguely worded crimes, such as “pre-criminal social dangerousness,” and halt the “acts of repudiation” by pro-government mobs against dissidents like the Ladies in White and Cuban Patriotic Union “with the presumed connivance … of police authorities.”
The report went on to say that persons detained should be allowed immediate access to independent defence lawyers and doctors as well as relatives. The government should also guarantee the independence of the justice system and resolve gaps in its due process regulations, it added.
It also repeatedly complained that Cuba had provided little or none of the detailed information the panel had requested on some issues, specifically the deaths of Zapata Tamayo after a long hunger strike and Soto Garcia after an alleged police beating.
Havana provided no details on the 202 prison deaths or the 46 prison officials and guards that the government claimed had been put on trial and convicted for abuses. It denied prison overcrowding, but gave no numbers.
On the upside, the report lauded Cuba for signing four international agreements on the rights of children and disabled persons and banning “forced disappearances,” approving a multi-year plan to improve prison facilities and working to reduce family violence.
The report also noted that the Cuban government gave “an affirmative answer” to a request for a visit to the island by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture and other physical abuses.