CubaBrief: Weaponizing Justice – Rule of Law and Cuba’s New Constitution

The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights released a report Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 9:30-11:00  at an event co-hosted with the Inter-American Dialogue titled “Weaponizing Justice – Rule of Law and Cuba’s New Constitution.”  The report is an important analysis of the justice system in Cuba that exposes the systematic denial of human rights within the Castro regime.  The event at the Inter-American Dialogue offered a good presentation of different views on U.S. – Cuba policy through the prism of how to best advance human rights and the rule of law in Cuba. The complete video of the event is available online.

The event had a distinguished panel, but two that stood out were activists who defended their loved ones in prison solely for defending human rights in Cuba. Miriam Cardet Concepcion, human rights activist and sister of Cuban prisoner of conscience Dr. Eduardo Cardet spoke about how her brother and his family were mistreated for his non-violent human rights advocacy.  Lady in White  Dolia Leal  described how “In a 2 X 3 meter hole, there they kept my husband as if he were a terrorist. Even though they cannot keep a person in an isolation cell for more than 3 days he was held there 8 to 9 months inhumanely treated.”  Her husband, Nelson Aguiar Ramírez, was the president of the Orthodox Party of Cuba and arrested during the Black Cuban Spring of 2003 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Amnesty International identified both Eduardo Cardet and  Nelson Aguiar Ramírez as prisoners of conscience. 

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The list of new prisoners of conscience continues to grow.  On September 11, 2019 at approximately 4:50pm the news arrived that the political police had taken Roberto de Jesús Quiñones from his home to serve a one year prison sentence for being an independent journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists has highlighted his case.

Below is an excerpt of the executive summary of the 132 page report Premeditated Convictions: Analysis of the Situation of the Administration of Justice in Cuba and links to the full report in Spanish and Executive Summary are found below.

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Executive Summary

I.  In collaboration with our Cuban counterparts, Race and Equality has investigated the administration of justice in Cuba, particularly the criminalization of human rights defenders, journalists, and other political activists (hereinafter “independent activists,” to refer to the three groups of people). We have conducted a thorough study of Cuban laws and the Cuban state’s international obligations.

II. We have found that Cuban laws lack the necessary protections to ensure respect for due process and other human rights of persons accused of committing crimes. The guarantees that do exist are not respected by authorities in the majority of cases of independent activists.

III. The Cuban State uses its Penal Code to criminalize people who express opinions against the State, in violation of its international human rights obligations. Speci­fically, authorities use charges that are not clearly de­nied in the Penal Code, such as “contempt,” “assault,” “disobedience,” and the determination that someone has a “dangerous state,” in order to impose lengthy sentences after trials that lack basic due process guarantees.

IV. While detained before or after their conviction, political prisoners are frequently subjected to inhumane prison conditions. In some cases, the State denies visits or telephone calls with friends and family. The State has also denied medical assistance and treatment to prisoners.

V.  Independent activists are also frequently prohibited from leaving Cuba. In particular, authorities forbid travel in order to prevent independent activists from participating in international events where they expose the human rights violations committed by the Cuban regime. This practice contributes to Cuba’s isolation from the rest of the world.

VI. The State exercises particularly strong repression against two groups of independent activists: the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). These groups are internationally recognized and speak out strongly against the Cuban government. Their members are frequently subjected to both short-term and long-term arbitrary detentions.

VII. Cuba recently approved a new constitution that includes more due process protections than its predecessor. However, drastic changes in the current laws and in the behavior of authorities are necessary to achieve real progress. Additionally, the new constitution represents a setback regarding respect for the international treaties that Cuba has signed, given that Article 8 states: “The Constitution of the Republic of Cuba takes precedence over these treaties.”

Executive Summary in English available online here in PDF format:

Informe completo en castellano disponible en línea aquí en formato PDF:

Cuban Lady in White Dolia Leal addresses audience on the human rights situation in Cuba.

Cuban Lady in White Dolia Leal addresses audience on the human rights situation in Cuba.