Doc. 12
22 February 1991
Original:  Spanish





          Under its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights, the IACHR has been reviewing the status of human rights in the countries of the hemisphere and has drawn up special reports on some of them.  These reports have been prepared on the Commission's own initiative, or on instructions from an organ of the Organization of American States, and, in some cases, at the spontaneous request of the country concerned.


          The Commission feels that these reports, their later dissemination, and discussion of them have helped to change the behaviour of particular countries as regards their observance of human rights, and in some cases, the reports have placed on record that the behaviour of a country is in accord with international commitments it has undertaken in the field of human rights.


          Follow-ups on these reports have usually been included in the Commission's annual reports to the General Assembly when warranted by the State's behaviour in the human rights area.


          The Commission's Annual Report submitted to the twentieth regular session of the General Assembly included a chapter with sections on the status of human rights in Cuba, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Suriname from September 1989 to May 1990.


          At this time, the Commission considers in this Chapter the status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, and Suriname.  In order to make the information available to it as complete as possible, the Commission, on November 9, 1990, requested the countries mentioned to provide it with any information they deemed appropriate, but particularly information on how they had complied with the Commission's previous recommendations; on the progress they had made and any difficulties they had encountered in effective observance of human rights; and on the text of any statute enacted or case law that might have affected the observance of human rights.


          Where warranted, the Governments' responses and any other information from various sources to which the Commission has had access have been taken into consideration in drafting this chapter.


          The Commission reiterates that the inclusion of these sections is not designed to give an overall and complete description of the status of human rights in each of the eight countries mentioned.  The Commission's intent here is rather to give an update covering the period of one year since the last general reports.




          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to observe the evolution of human rights in Cuba during the period covered in this annual report.  The purpose of this section is to update the information that the Commission has supplied in its seven special reports on the situation of human rights in Cuba and in its earlier annual reports.


          During this period, the Commission has observed a disturbing increase in trends that it noted in its two previous annual reports.   In effect, the progress noted in 1988 enabled a number of recently established groups to function, among them groups defending human rights; in 1989 and 1990, however, the Government of Cuba took a more hard line attitude toward such groups.  Many of their leaders and activists were arrested and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment.  Presently there are around 30 human rights activists being held, either serving out sentences or awaiting trial.  Some of those still awaiting trial have been in prison for many months.  This trend has deepened in the period covered by this annual report.


          During this same period, the change that hurt the country's economy continued to take its toll.  That change is at least partly due to the radical change experienced by the Socialist bloc countries of which Cuba was part.  The social effects of this new situation, as Cuban authorities announced, will impose new demands on the Cuban people.  The Cuban Government is preparing to cope with such problems through a variety of measures, some aimed at establishing stricter controls over any type of organization that is independent of the Government.  This is reflected both by the number of persons whose activities have been affected by the Cuban Government's measures and by the severity of the penalties being imposed against some of them.


          Thus, on June 20, 1990, a group of persons who had formed the Democratic Integrationist Movement was put on trial.  They had been held since September 24, 1989.  This was the first time that this type of political activist had been charged with the crime of rebellion, even though they had not advocated the use of violence to change the kind of government.  The Prosecution's case was presented on April 25, 1990 and the accused were sentenced to prison:  Esteban González Gonzáles, seven years; Mario Fernández Mora, six years; Manuel Pozo Montero and Manuel Regueiro Robaira, five years, and Edgar Llompart Martín, Isidro Ledesma Quijano and Arturo Montané Ruiz, three years.


          They were charged with organizing for the purpose of carrying out acts of civil disobedience calculated to overthrow the Revolutionary Government in power; calling for a plebiscite, amendment of the Constitution and a multiparty system, among other activities.  In the Prosecutor's indictment, reference is made to this group's ties with human rights organizations.  It should be noted that the platform of the Democratic Integrationist Movement rejects any type of violence or terrorism.  According to the information received, the trial failed to demonstrate how the accused engaged in specific criminal activities.


          During the period to which this annual report refers, a number of things occurred concerning the situation of members of Cuba's Pro Human Rights Party, nine of whom were arrested on March 10, 1990.  Those arrested were:  Tania Díaz Castro, Samuel Martinez Lara, José Luis Barzaga, Pablo Pupo Sánchez, Emérita Elejalde, Rolando Pagés Navarro, Mario Remedios Rodríguez, Eduardo Hoyos Ortiz and Cecilia Romero Acanda.  Tania Díaz Castro, Samuel Martínez Lara and Pablo Pupo Sánchez had been out of prison only a few weeks at the time they were arrested again.


          Radio Rebelde reported that the reason they were arrested was because they had sent a congratulatory cable to the United States Delegation on the occasion of the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Commission on Cuba.  They were later charged with involvement in a plan to instigate a rush on various embassies in Havana by people seeking asylum; they were also charged with acting with the knowledge of and on instructions from the United States Interests Section.


          All of those named, with the exception of Samuel Martínez Lara, were released on September 4, 1990.  Martínez Lara is still being held in Villa Marista, the State Security prison.  He has not been tried nor have any charges been filed against him.  According to the information supplied to the Inter-American Commission, the conditions of Martínez Lara's confinement are particularly difficult, and the Commission has sent the Government of Cuba a message asking that his situation be regularized.  According to the information received, on November 21, 1990, Dr. Martínez Lara reportedly was allowed to spend 15 minutes with the attorney who has offered to defend him.  In January, the Inter-American Commission was informed that the Prosecutor had requested a five year sentence for Dr. Martínez Lara for several crimes, including rebellion.


          The eight members of the Pro Human Rights Party who were released were brought to trial on November 27, 1990, and convicted of the crime of unlawful assembly.  During their confinement, the activists were kept in the State Security prison, without benefit of attorneys.  Recordings of statements, some of them made under these abnormal conditions were then broadcast over Cuban state television.


          During the period covered in this report the Government of Cuba also linked the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party with a group called Youth for Human Rights.  Eleven of its members were arrested:  Luis Enrique Vinageros, Ivelise Camejo Moleiro, Juan Carlos Sierra Pérez, Miguel Angel Fernández Crespo Vidal and José Luis Martínez, who were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment; Francisco Rosado Torres, who was sentenced to ten years; Guillermo Campos Muñiz and Ares Nasco Marrero, eight years; María Margarita García Valdés, Moisés Ariel Violard del Valle and Guillermo Senón Santos Dávila, three years' household arrest.  These people were tried and convicted for the crimes of terrorism, rebellion and possession of arms and explosives.  These are the highest penalties imposed against persons whom the Government associates with human rights activities.


          According to the indictment, it was a plot to perpetrate acts of violence.  The indictment charged that the plot was the work of the United States Interests Section, which has denied any link to it and has said that it does not sponsor acts of violence.  The Cuban Pro Human Rights Party also denied having any link with Youth for Human Rights or with those arrested.  Various human rights organizations in the United States have said that they never heard of Youth for Human Rights, which has no association with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights either.  According to human rights activists, this is a Government invention calculated to discredit various human rights organizations that have repudiated violence as a form of political action.


          During the period being considered in this annual report, Pedro Alvarez Martínez, a member of the Pro Human Rights Party in Pinar del Río, was also convicted.  On June 25, 1990,  he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for having printed pamphlets covertly and possessing "illegal" documents of the Democratic Integrationist Movement.  Juan Betancourt Morejón, a member of the Democratic Integrationist Movement from San Miguel del Padrón in the province of La Havana, was arrested on May 21, 1990, for reasons that are still unknown.  He is being held in Quivicán prison.  Other members of that Party have been arrested for short periods, threatened by the authorities and released without being charged.  This is interpreted as a form of harassment intended to persuade them not to continue their activities.


          During the period under consideration in this annual report, members of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee were also the target of pressure and threat.  Its Chairman, Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, was summoned by the Prosecutor on April 12, 1990, who warned him to abandon his human rights activities.  On April 13, Havana's Prosecutor gave Sebastián Arcos Bergnes the same warning--who was later transferred to a maintenance crew and had his wages cut--; Aida Valdés Santana on April 10; and Oscar Peña Martínez and Jesús Yañes Pelletier on April 14, 1990.  All are members of the Cuban Committee.  This Committee's Habana Campo Provincial Delegation reported numerous acts of harassment on the part of government authorities.  Another member of the Committee who was arrested was José Irene Padrón Dueñas, on September 4, 1990.  He is in Villa Marista, where he went on a hunger strike demanding that he be informed of the reasons for his arrest.  Ricardo Filguera Castro, another member of the Committee, was arrested on October 19, 1989 and brought to trial on June 25, 1990.  The sentence is not yet known.


          Numerous measures have also been taken against members of the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission.  Its Chairman, Dr. Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, is still in prison.  During the period covered by this annual report, Luis Alberto Pita Santos was arrested three times--on April 27, May 1 and August 28, 1990.  His home was searched by agents of the State Security force and literature on the subject of human rights was confiscated from him.  After his arrest on August 28, he was placed in Villa Marista, and on September 3 was transferred to the Havana National Psychiatric Hospital.  He was released 26 days later, without any charges having been filed against him.  The Inter-American Commission was also informed that on July 29, two agents of the State Security Force went to the home of Alfredo Suarez Muñiz, a member of the Cuban Commission, to warn him that if he did not stop his human rights activities they could arrest him.


          Other associations have been the target of measures on the part of the Cuban Government.  The Martiano Human Rights Committee reported that one of its members, Alvaro Alvarez Batista, was detained on December 17, 1989, and was held in Villa Marista until November 1990, when he was released.  No charges were ever filed against him.  The Inter-American Commission has also been informed that the Chairman of the Martiano Human Rights Committee, Hubert Jerez Mariño, who is serving out a sentence at the Kilo 7 prison--a situation addressed by the Commission in its previous annual report--has been severely punished by prison authorities since November 21, for having sent a letter of congratulations to Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.  According to the information received, Mr. Jerez Mariño's food ration has been cut in half; he is held in isolation and has not been allowed to have visits by members of his family.  Mr. Jerez Mariño's sentence will be up on February 1, 1991.


          Measures have been taken against other individuals as a result of actions that took place on the occasion of the visit that the United Nations Human Rights Commission made to Cuba.  Such was the case with Enrique Acosta Ruiz, Lázaro Rosa Arbolay and Sergio Raúl de la Vega Gómez, who were briefly arrested in September 1988 at the time of that visit and then arrested again in April 1989 and held without charge until October 8, 1990, when they were released.  The reason for their imprisonment was never explained.


          In its previous annual report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights made reference to the case of Alfredo Mustelier Nuevo, who had gone on a hunger strike to request that the most lenient law be applied in his case and that his sentence be considered served.  The Inter-American Commission was informed that Mr. Mustelier was released in March 1990.  He and his wife left for the United States in December 1990.  Mario Chanes de Armas and Ernesto Díaz Rodriguez, the other two plantados (intransigent prisoners) have served 29 and 22 years in prison, respectively.  The former is the oldest political prisoner in the world.


          Also during this same period the Commission was informed that certain prison practices that were believed to have been abandoned have now been reinstated.  According to information received, the special areas in the three buildings of the Este Complex--which had been deactivated--are now being used again, as is the so-called "Death Rectangle" with its individual punishment cells.


          A matter of particularly grave concern is the fact that the agreement that the Cuban Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross had concluded to enable the latter to meet with Cuban prisoners has expired.  The Agreement expired in June 1990 because of the Government's failure to make any move to renew it.  Cuban political prisoners have thus been left without an important means of protection.


          During the period covered in this annual report, the Cuban Government continued to refuse to allow Alexander Menéndez, a minor, and Mrs. Rosa Miranda Díaz and her daughter Lissette Vásquez Miranda, to leave the country.  These three are relatives of the athletes José Menéndez and Roger Vásquez, respectively.  Mr. Menéndez was brutally assaulted by members of the Cuban athletics delegation at a sports event in Mexico City and had to be temporarily hospitalized.


          The Cuban Government's heightened repression against any type of independent organization and the serious economic problems being experienced have provoked situations that some observers are predicting will cause Cuban society in general and the human rights situation in particular to take a serious turn for the worse.  The spokesman for the Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee, Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, proposed that a broad dialogue be undertaken among representatives of all Cuban political leanings, both within and outside of Cuba, in order to be able to deal with the serious situations that loom on the horizon.  The proposal caused a heated debate among various groups and persons, especially the Cuban community in exile.


          Moreover, it has been announced that the IV Congress of the Cuban Communist Party will be held in the first half of 1991; it has been said that the Congress will have to address the extraordinary situation at the present time and adopt measures to deal with it.


          Since its Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, the Inter-American Commission has been saying that measures should be adopted, both domestically and internationally, to achieve absolute observance of human rights in Cuba.  It is the Commission's view that the thrust of the effort in this regard must come from the Cuban Government and that the IV Congress should provide an opportunity to incorporate within Cuba's laws and practices the elements that would make them consistent with the international system of human rights.  Cuban citizens, without exception, must be free to express their views on matters that so profoundly affect the exercise of their rights.  The Inter-American Commission believes that it is through democratic procedures and the full exercise of the rights inherent in the individual that the present difficulties can be overcome peacefully and at the least social cost to the population.


          At the same time, the Inter-American Commission must point out that the inter-American community has an obligation to create the external conditions that will enable Cuban society to overcome the situation that now besets it, by means of the aforementioned democratic procedures which will lead to an absolute observance of human rights.  As part of its functions and authorities, the Commission will continue to monitor the situation of those rights in Cuba and hopes that  with the resolve of the Cuban authorities and people and the support of the inter-American community of which Cuba is part, those rights will be effectively exercised and observed.  


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