Recommendations to the Cuban Government with the EU as a Witness

Letter #2 by the Centre for Leadership and Development Studies.

In July 2019, Civil Rights Defenders invited Cuban human rights defenders and civil society organisations to contribute with texts on how the European Union should work towards Cuba. This letter is written by the Centre for Leadership and Development Studies.

Recommendations to the Cuban Government with the EU as a Witness

CELIDE presents this analysis on the human rights situation of Cuba. In this respect, it offers a set of conclusions and recommendations that are relevant for Cuban society in order to move towards the elimination of human rights violations in the country.

The situation of human rights violations against many sectors of the population that is increasingly worsening, is distressing; and, the attitude of denial that the Cuban government maintains regarding the human rights violations of its citizens, hinders the adoption of adequate institutional responses.

We hope that this analysis will help the government to redirect its human rights policy, and to comply with the recommendations made by international human rights organisations, and to allow in loco visits from the rapporteurs of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.


In Cuba, human rights activists are not allowed free movement, preventing them from carrying out training workshops, pedagogical activities and social inclusion. Different ways are used to restrict their mobility: stopping them from crossing borders, deporting them, sometimes leaving them in inhospitable places.

The Cuban government is a signatory of international instruments that bind it to guarantee the right to freedom of movement. For example: Article VIII of the American Declaration of Human Rights, which states that every person has the right to establish their residence in the territory of the state of which they are a national, and to transit freely; and Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

CELIDE and other organisations’ activists are prevented, under threats, from arriving or leaving their territory or domicile when they have had to participate in training meetings organised to deal with human rights issues. The most common ways are to intimidate family members; if they have a work, they are threatened to be expelled from their work; or they are prevented from moving within their own territory of residence.

As of 2013, the White Card (“La Carta Blanca”) was eliminated in Cuba, a document that allowed the government to ban Cuban citizens from traveling abroad, violating the right to freedom of movement. At that moment, the government applied a new form of repression and control, taking advantage of the law, under the justification of national security, to restrict citizens from leaving the country.

Regulatory framework:

International Commitments. The Cuban government is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, so it should guarantee the rights to freedom and equality that these two instruments enshrine.

The Cuban government has subscribed and/or ratified several international treaties that guarantee respect for human rights. In the cases that it has only signed, that signature implies assuming the commitment to abstain from the violation of the right consigned in the treaty, during the time that elapses between the signature and the ratification. As the main guarantor of the human rights of citizens, the government has the obligation to respect, promote and protect the rights.

International human rights treaties against which the government has assumed obligations:

Treaties signed and/or ratified by the government:

1. International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). June 7, 1966/February 15, 1972.
2. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). March 6, 1980/July 17, 1980.
3. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). January 27, 1986/May 17, 1995.
4. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). January 26, 1990/August 21, 1991.
5. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC-OP-AC) October 13, 2000.
6. Report on the Human Rights Situation of the Afro-Cuban Population. February 9, 2007.
7. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child prostitution and Child Pornography (CRC-OP-SC). October 13, 2000/September 25, 2001.
8. International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICED). February 6, 2007/February 2, 2009.
9. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). April 26, 2007/September 6, 2007.
10. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). February 28, 2008.

Government resistance to fully accept international commitments

In the previous review of the Cuban government in 2011, the Committee recommended the ratification of the International Covenants on Human Rights, signed by the State on February 28, 2008. The ratification the covenants would be very useful to civil society in the fight for human rights, since they recognise the importance of creating conditions that allow each person to enjoy their economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights, so that human beings can be self-realised with full freedom.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights contains the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, which also includes the right to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas of all kinds; and to freedom of association and assembly for peaceful purposes.

The government argues that the decision to ratify the covenants will be taken sovereignly, when it considers that the conditions are given so that the country’s actions on these issues are not subject to manipulation, but does not clarify what conditions are needed for the ratification of the covenants.

Institutional response:

The government states that “the guarantees provided by Cuban laws to protect these freedoms include severe punitive measures for all those individuals and public officials who intend to unlawfully violate the freedoms of free thought, association, peaceful assembly, demonstration, complaint and petition, as provided in the Criminal Code in its articles 291 and 292”. However, public officials of the National Revolutionary Police Force (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria – PNR), in combination with State Security officers, openly threaten, repress, intimidate and beat members of civil society who express thoughts other than that in the government policies, without receiving any penalty.

In Cuba, organisations that respond to the interests and policies of the government are guaranteed proactive, consultative, opinion-giving, and decision-making capacity, as well as powers to exercise their functions and elect their representatives. However, the organisations that promote the work for reporting and eliminating human rights violations in order to protect the rights of Cubans, are not recognised by the government and are constantly under police surveillance and harassment; not having the same possibilities as the others to have the capacity of consultation, opinion and decision, nor to participate in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres.


● Patterns of violation of human rights are high, police and State Security bodies restrict fundamental rights to groups of civil society activists who deal with human rights, preventing them from participating in activities organised by them, violating the right of association

● Citizens do not have the possibility of creating a political agenda that helps to adopt public policies so that they take their place in society and their rights are respected, nor create mechanisms to strengthen this social practice.

● The Government has no will to join efforts with civil society organisations to fight human rights violations. Its attitude on the issue makes clear its violent action against people or organisations that work to create public spaces and strategies that allow progress in the area of Human Rights, denying them the ability to watch over, protect, and fight for the respect of citizens’ rights.

We recommend the Cuban government:

To lift the illegitimate prohibitions on peaceful political activities and guarantee the freedom of assembly and association, allowing, among other things, the legalisation of civil society groups that specifically work on the issue of human rights violations, and to not restrict their capacity of movement inside and outside the country.

To immediately and without reservation ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

To cease harassment, persecution and arbitrary detentions of human rights activists, independent journalists, and government critics who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.

To guarantee that no person will be arrested or imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of association and assembly. Any person detained in these circumstances must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Fernando E. Palacio Mogar, National Coordinador of CELIDE

About the Centre for Leadership and Development Studies

The Centre for Leadership and Development Studies (Centro de Estudio Liderazgo y Desarrollo – CELIDE) is a civil society organisation established in 2014, with the objective to answer to the needs of restoring the rights and freedoms of citizens, and of eradicate racial and social stereotypes.