The denial of basic civil and political rights is written into Cuban law. While Cuba’s domestic legislation includes broad statements of fundamental rights, other provisions grant the state extraordinary authority to penalize individuals who attempt to enjoy their rights to free expression, opinion, association, and assembly. Cuban legislation also undercuts the right to a fair trial, by allowing the country’s highest authorities to control the courts and prosecutors, granting broad authority for warrantless arrests and pretrial detentions, and restricting the right to a defense. Unfortunately, Cuban courts have failed to observe the few legal guarantees of due process available to defendants under the law.
In recent years, rather than modify its laws to conform with international human rights standards, Cuba has approved legislation further restricting fundamental rights. Only a restoration of religious freedoms stands out as a notable exception to this trend. But Cuba has consistently refused to reform the most objectionable elements of its laws. Cuba’s concurrent refusal to amnesty politicalprisoners and its continued prosecutions of nonviolent activists highlight the critical role of Cuba’s laws in its machinery of repression.27
The Cuban constitution guarantees ‘the full freedom and dignity of men, [and] the enjoyment of their rights….’28 However, multiple constitutional provisions undermine these guarantees. The constitution nullifies freedoms when they are contrary to ‘the goals of the socialist State,’ ‘socialist legality,’ or the ‘people’s decision to build socialism and communism.’29 The breadth of these terms allows for arbitrary, politicized denials of fundamental rights. The constitution has been used to undermine international human rights treaties ratified by Cuba by providing that any treaty, pact, or concession that disregards or diminishes Cuba’s ‘territorial sovereignty’ is illegal and void.30 In international fora for the protection of human rights, Cuba often invokes sovereignty as a justification for non-compliance and non-cooperation.”