Human Rights Forty Years After the Revolution
June 1, 1999

Over the past forty years, Cuba has developed a highly effective machinery of repression. The denial of basic civil and political rights is written into Cuban law. In the name of legality, armed security forces, aided by state-controlled mass organizations, silence dissent with heavy prison terms, threats of prosecution, harassment, or exile. Cuba uses these tools to restrict severely the exercise of fundamental human rights of expression, association, and assembly. The conditions in Cuba's prisons are inhuman, and political prisoners suffer additional degrading treatment and torture. In recent years, Cuba has added new repressive laws and continued prosecuting nonviolent dissidents while shrugging off international appeals for reform and placating visiting dignitaries with occasional releases of political prisoners. This report documents Cuba's failures to respect the civil and political rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as well as the international human rights and labor rights treaties it has ratified. It shows that neither Cuban law nor practice guarantees the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. Cuba's obligation to respect the declaration arises from its incorporation into the United Nations Charter, rendering all member states, including Cuba, subject to its provisions. The UDHR is widely recognized as customary international law. It is a basic yardstick to measure any country's human rights performance. Unfortunately, Cuba does not measure up.

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