No. 10/03





The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses profound concern over the arrests of dissidents that started on March 18, 2003 in Cuba and over the trials that have begun and the convictions of political opponents.


According to information received by the Commission, more than 70 people have been detained, including independent journalists, members of human rights groups, and political activists.  In some cases severe sentences have already been handed down in extraordinary summary proceedings, under the Law to Protect the National Independence and the Economy of Cuba (Law 88), which entered into force in March 1999.  The Commission considers that that law violates human rights enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and recommended that the Government of Cuba repeal it immediately.  On numerous occasions, the Commission has reported that Cuban courts do not respect the basic rights of the accused to procedural due process and lack the independence and impartiality required by international human rights instruments. 


The Cuban state continues to pursue a policy of suppressing groups or individuals that seek to exercise their rights.  The Commission expresses its profound concern over these events that constitute violations by the Cuban authorities of the fundamental rights of the population contained in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, especially the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and dissemination; the right to a fair trial; the right to vote and to participate in government; the right of assembly; the right of association; the right of petition; the right of protection from arbitrary arrest; and the right to due process of law (Articles IV; XVIII; XX; XXI; XXII; XXIV; XXV; and XXVI).


The Commission wishes to reiterate some of the recommendations it made to the Cuban state in its 2002 Annual Report:


          End the harassment of and sanctions against citizens for reasons related to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.


          Eliminate from the criminal legislation all criminal provisions that impose sanctions in violation of internationally accepted democratic standards, the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.  In the area of freedom of the press, annul all provisions and acts aimed at creating mechanisms for self-censorship or prior censorship.

          Adopt the measures necessary to allow for ideological and party pluralism for the full exercise of the right to political participation, in keeping with Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


The IACHR is a principal organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), mandated to promote and protect the observance of human rights in the Hemisphere.  Its powers are derived, inter alia, from the OAS Charter.  Resolution VI of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation in 1959 excluded the Government, but not the State, of Cuba from participation in the OAS.  Consequently, the Commission continues monitoring the exercise of human rights in Cuba.  The Cuban state is internationally obligated to respect and guarantee the rights derived from the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.




Washington, D.C., April 9, 2003