Essay on International Law and Human Right Development in Cuba

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Sewanee University of the South
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International Law and Human Right Development


Cuba is an authoritarian state under the leadership of Raul Castro commander in chief of security forces, Communist Party (CP) first secretary, and Council of State President and Council of Minister. The Communist Party is the only party legally provided for by the Cuban constitution and the only leading force of the state and society. The CP has been in existence for more than 50 years being headed by the Castro family. The authoritarian system of governance in Cuba severely restricts the existence of political and civil rights by law and practice.

International Human Rights Law Framework

In matters of international law, states that have signed treaties are mandated to comply with the human rights obligations. The states' parliaments then ratify the treaties and enacted by practice. Since 1972, the Cuban parliament has approved eight international human rights conventions. Regionally, Cuba is party to the Organization of American States (OAS). Cuba has, however, not ratified the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. This situation implies that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights does not have jurisdiction over matters of human rights in Cuba.

Notwithstanding, the Commission monitors the state of human rights in Cuba with the aim of protecting the human rights advocacy by always making requests and statements directed to the Cuban government as precautionary steps. This monitoring is possible even though the commission has no jurisdiction in Cuba because it was in existence at the convention and has additional faculties pre-dating and which cannot be one-on-one derived from the conference. These provisions include processing cases involving states not a party to the agreement. The government of Cuba, however, disproves the actions of the commission mandates and has, so far, never been in compliance with its requests.

The State of Human Rights Advocacy in Cuba

The human rights defenders in Cuba are severely incapacitated and restricted by the state's legal framework. The Cuban constitution does not protect the operations of the human rights advocates. The law, instead, allows subordination of the practice of rights to the socialist society's objectives, particularly, the political and civil sectors. Besides, additional laws have been passed that deem the human rights advocacy a dangerous endeavor and the defenders of human rights categorically high risk. Similarly, the government of Cuba repressed and punished human rights exercise and those attempting to practice the same by giving reasons such as international interference in internal affairs and threats to its sovereignty, political regime or the state per se.

Nonetheless, the government of Cuba has been faced with persistent attempts to foster the development of democracy in the island. The government has then developed various tactics in efforts to prevent exercising of human rights work. For instance, those advocating for human rights have, in the recent years, had targets on their backs for what is said to be acts of repudiation, which in turn oversees arbitrary arrests then short-lived arbitrarily detaining dissidents and travelling restriction both within and without the country. As far as the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, in the year 2016, there was 8,509 reported number of cases of arbitrary arrest and detention for political reasons. Another tactic developed by the government of Cuba to paralyze the actions of human rights defenders is dismissals being issued from work and school in situations where it is deemed that human rights advocacy reaps from the work or school.

Focus on the Rights

The Right to Life and Physical Integrity

In Cuba, the death penalty is still in existence. The vagueness in the definitions of the death penalty, the wide range of crimes under this law and potential injustices as a result of lack of impartial, independent, and competent courts; all contribute to the main concerns on the death penalty. Albeit that formal moratorium shortcoming, the last executions are known to have taken place in the year 2003, all prisoners on death row in 2008 got their sentences being changed to life detention or 30 years imprisonment. The authority of Cuba has made it known that it is determined to maintain the death penalty as an alternative form of punishing criminals. The Cuban government has sighted regional security challenges as the reason behind its motive. During the voting of 2012, the government of Cuba did not take part and on the 2014 United Nations General Assembly Resolution concerning the death penalty moratorium.

Cuban legislators also saw through the ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1995 but could not agree to the conventions complaint procedure. The island has not classified torture as criminal in national legislation. The possibility of processing and punishing torture cases is undermined by the fact that torture is not considered as a crime by law.

To illustrate this, the Guantanamo Bay detention center is a great example of abuse of the convention against torture. For 15 years, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been in existence and fully functional. The Guantanamo Bay is symbolic of torture in Cuba; it is also synonymous to rendition and indefinite detention without formal trial or charge. Since it began operation, the Guantanamo Bay facility has seen well over 750 men being detained there. Only 7 out of all the detainees ever taken to the facility have been convicted with 5 of the cases being as a result of an offer to be released from the base in pre-trial agreements where there were required to plead guilty. The men then met proceedings deemed as not reaching the fair trial standards, that is trial by military commission. At one time in the detention site, over 100 detainees went on a hunger strike demanding better conditions. Although the Guantanamo Bay was originally an idea of the United States to set up a facility in a land where no international law nor the US law applied, the Cuban government is in violation to the Convention, particularly Article 2.1 which disallows torture in any part of the territory under its jurisdiction under any circumstance.

The treatment of political detainees in Cuba, more often than not, escalates to levels of torture by inhuman means such as degrading punishment and treatment. The Cuban administration is also in violation of the Universal Declaration which is against prolonged periods of pre-trial in incommunicado and post-conviction detention. Beatings and trying of previously prosecuted prisoners serve as pain-administering mechanisms for physical and psychological tormenting.

Right to Liberty and Security of the Person

The only reason provided for in the deprivation of their liberty is only based on exercising their right to it. Nonetheless, most of detentions and arrests in the island are done basing on legal and constitutional provisions that trace back to the socialist nature of the State. Subsequent punishment may be administered if the exercise is considered as being in contradiction to the state and objectives of the Socialist State as indicated in the constitution. The law in Cuba also allows security measures to proceed in cases where the action of the person is deemed as dangerous to the State. The methodology applied to enforce this law (also known as Dangerousness Law) may include detention disguised as vigilance, therapeutic, and re-educational measures. These measures may take periods of up to 4 years.

This state of affairs means that an individual in Cuba may be under arrest by policemen or other unknown bodies for a crime widely interpreted as contrary to the norms of a Socialist State'. Once the individual is under arrest, detention may last up to 24 hours in police custody; followed by another 72 hours in the name of instructing the case, and a possible addition of 72 hours in detention by the prosecutor conducting the case. This totaling to a whole week spent in detention prior to appearing before a court judge. This practice is in violation of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons and the international human rights standards which propose entitlement to trial in a reasonable amount of time.

A credible instance of violation of the legal obligations of this international human rights law is seen in the case of El Sexto'. Danilo Maldonado (his real name) is an artist who in 2015 was held under detention for ten months straight without being tried. His supposed offence was that he painted two pigs; both of them green and labelled Fidel' on one and Raul' on the other one. It is also believed that he had plans to take them to Havana (Hershberg, 2016).

Government tactics in the in early years saw defenders of human rights being arrested, quickly put on trial and handed long periods of sentences. This methodology has however switched to where individuals are arrested and detained but given short-term sentences in repetitive cycles hence maximizing in efforts to curb disruption by human rights advocacy. This tactic, in return, has lesser implication on the government (Goodman & Jinks, 2004). The detentions are usually in breach of Article 244 where the detainees are required to sign legal act as provided for in the Criminal Procedure Code in acknowledgement of the detention. Increased attempts by the government to hush human rights activism and activities in Cuba have seen individuals advocating for human rights being subjected to illegal house arrests. Police or other bodies of authorities wait outside the defenders outside their residence and detain them if they attempt to go out (Goodman & Jinks, 2004).

A report released in 2013 by Amnesty International ranked Cuba at sixth in countries with most detainees in the world. These statistics show how the government of Cuba is happy to detain members of the public. In the most recent reports, the count of prisoners in Cuba is at ranges of 60,000 and 70,000 (Hershberg, 2016). These detainees are being held in approximately 200 different locations on the island. The Penal Code tolerates forced labor as a possible means of sanction to imprisonment; this implies that prisoners can be subjected to labour for up to twelve hours in one day (Gershman, 2016).

The Cuban government denies detaining any political prisoners. Still and all, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation maintains that there are close to 100 political detainees in Cuba (Gershman, 2016). The government in Cuba vilifies potential and perceived opponents of the regime; it resorts to means that legitimize and incite violence against them better termed as public incitement. This sort of general solicitation endangers the security of the targets thus depriving them the right to security of person.

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