The Cuban government is one of the last four remaining socialist nations of the Cold War, and it is peculiarly stable despite rampant support for reform within the country and dissatisfaction with the majority Communist party that supports Raúl Castro. The Cuban government maintains nationwide authority by controlling the national media coverage, by banning all forms of public dissidence, and (should all else fail) via aggressive imprisonment strategies to eliminate all persons who represent a threat to the communist state.
Cuba has utilized a systematic program of arbitrary detention and indefinite trials to maintain the second largest prison program in the modern world. The prisons are overcrowded and not meant to support the number of prisoners that they contain. Many of these prisons do not contain the amenities needed for basic human living, and these conditions are used as a form of punishment on the prisoners. Prisoners report being beaten by prison guards, deprived of light and heat, and starved during their prison sentence. Many of these prisoners are being held without a definite release date, and some prisoners do not have a set trial date to receive a proper sentencing.
Human Rights Watch has an extensive record of human rights violations committed by the Cuban prison system, namely violations of articles 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20, and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set forth in 1948 by the United Nations. The prison system is a stabilizing force in Cuba that mitigates any insurrection within the communist state, and remedy of the human rights violations involved necessitate reform of the prison system and judicial system of Cuba. The Cuban government tends to deny the severity of these accusations, and in the past, it has opened the prisons to foreign journalists with mixed results. At times, the prisons seemed adequate enough to house prisoners on a long term basis, and on other occasions, the prisons appeared to be grossly inadequate or hiding behind a staged facade of adequacy.
Former and current prisoners of Cuba such as the Americans, Douglas Moore and Alan Gross, and Cuban citizens, Armando Valladares and Yamil Domínguez, provide evidence that corroborates the claims made by HWR against the Cuban government. Videos have emerged from within Cuba’s prisons that document the conditions that the prisoners are living in and also corroborate these accusations of human rights violations.
President Barack Obama and president Raúl Castro have welcomed the first political discussion between their respective countries of the century. Known as the “Cuban Thaw,” this series of diplomatic negotiations has already introduced the reopening of political embassies between the two nations and the release of political prisoners on both nations’ soil. As the modern first world continues its diplomatic negotiations with Cuba, it will gain insight into what had been previously cut off to parties outside the nation’s borders; the Cuban Thaw has the potential to substantially validate the claims made against the Cuban government. As the home of the central headquarters of the United Nations and as a claimed proponent of human rights, the United States will be expected to address the alleged rights violations that Cuba has committed.
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