As summarized in a previous post, Cuba’s human rights record is now undergoing its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. That post also discussed Cuba’s national report, submissions by stakeholders (NGO’s and others), a summary of U.N. information about Cuba and information about a pre-session hearing. Now we look at the questions submitted to Cuba in advance of the Council’s hearing on May 16 and an unusual criticism of Cuba by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights along with additional background information about the Council and the UPR.
Advance Questions for Cuba
The following advance questions were submitted by other Council members:
|Belgium||1. When does the Cuban government plan to ratify human rights conventions to which it is not yet party?
2. Does Cuba plan to extend an open invitation to the special procedures of the Human Rights Council?
3. Will Cuba respond favorably to requests for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders and Freedom of Expression, which have been pending since 2015 and 2016?
4. Does Cuba now guarantee access to independent lawyers to all persons deprived of their liberty?
5. What concrete actions has Cuba taken to release persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons.?
|Brazil||1.How does Cuba guarantee the rights of the LGBTI?
2.How does Cuba ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary?
|Germany||1.Does Cuba plan to ratify the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights?
2.What will Cuba do to enable independent journalism?
3.Identify blogs and websites currently blocked and the reasons for same.
4.Will Cuba abolish travel restrictions for persons on parole or for those in certain professions, including the medical sector?
5.Will Cuba establish an independent national human rights institution?
|Liechtenstein||1.Will Cuba ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court in its 2010 version?
2.Will Cuba join the Code of Conduct for U.N. Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes?
|Malta||1.What steps has Cuba taken to increase the effectiveness of control by the people of the activities of States bodies, elected representatives and civil servants.?|
|Portugal||1.How does Cuba coordinate the implementation of UPR recommendations that it accepts?
2.How does Cuba coordinate the implementation of recommendations/observations by U.N. human-rights Treaty bodies and Special Procedures and by regional mechanisms?
|Slovenia||1.Provide more information on how non-governmental organizations operate in Cuba and details on any consultation process with them.|
|Spain||1. Is Cuba reforming its Law on Associations and the Electoral Law to promote a higher level of inclusion and social participation?
2. Which multilateral instruments on Human Rights does Cuba plan to sign and/or ratify?
|Sweden||1.Provide more information on Cuba’s prevention of trafficking in persons.
2.Provide more information on Cuba’s effort to improve internet access.
3.Has Cuba denied exit visas for human rights defenders and ndependent civil society members?
4.How will Cuba secure free and unrestricted travel for all of its citizens?
|Switzerland||1.What did Cuba do to guarantee free and open participation of all citizens in its last election?
2.How many Cuban citizens were candidates in the election “without being a member of an officially recognized Cuban institution [e.g. Communist Party]?
3.Is Cuba broadening the list of legal private businesses (cuentapropistas)? Is Cuba reviewing the definition of cuentapropistas to include self-declared human rights organizations, independent journalists and bloggers and community-based organizations?
4.Will Cuba amend its constitution to eliminate the subordination of the Supreme court to the National Assembly and to the Council of Ministers?
5.How is the Cuban Criminal Code’s concept of “pre-criminal social dangerousness” interpreted?
6.How do families have transparent and open information about a family member who is a temporarily detained as an alleged criminal?
|United Kingdom||1.Will Cuba allow the development of independent political parties, including their legal registration and participation in future elections?
2.How does Cuba ensure that all Cubans are able to participate fully in political and electoral processes?
3.Will Cuba end laws and policies that apparently give primacy to the principle of national unity?
4.Will Cuba move towards international independent verification of the condition of its prisons and detention facilities?
5.Will Cuba bring its laws into compliance with international human rights standards on freedom of expression, association and assembly?
|U.S.A.||1. Will Cuba ensure that members of the political opposition, including independent candidates, can participate freely and without threats?
2. When will Cuba allow members of Ladies in White and all other citizens to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, religion and association?
3. How does Cuba ensure that those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights and labor rights (including members of the police, military and security services) are investigated and held responsible?
4. Will Cuba respect the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of assembly, expression and association of members of the Independent Union Association of Cuba and all other workers and representatives?
5. How is Cuba promoting access to information and access to an Internet that is open, interoperable, reliable, secure and affordable to its citizens?
U.N. High Commissioner’s Criticism of Cuba
At a May 11 press briefing, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released statements of concerns about human rights in Cuba and four other countries. Here is what was said about Cuba:
“There are deeply worrying reports that officials in Cuba have prevented a number of human rights defenders and civil society representatives from boarding flights to travel to meetings abroad on the pretext of requiring more detailed identity checks. These measures have resulted in passengers missing their flights and therefore the meetings, which in some cases were organised by a UN entity.”
“So far this year, the UN Human Rights Office has received direct information relating to 14 cases of Cubans being told by officials that the computer system required extra screening. We are also aware of reports that dozens of other people may have been stopped in this way from travelling, allegedly with no explanation by the Cuban authorities as to why they were held up nor on whose orders”
“These cases suggest that these additional checks are being used deliberately as a form of intimidation, pressure and harassment against certain individuals. Civil society organizations have also told us that they were informed verbally by the authorities that their representatives would not be allowed to leave the island before June.”
“We have previously expressed our concern at the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Cuba, including the arbitrary arrest and short-term detention of individuals, particularly before, during and just after demonstrations. “
“We call on the Cuban authorities to respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression and to freedom of movement, and to ensure that human rights defenders and civil society representatives are not unjustifiably prevented from travelling, including those planning to attend UN meetings, in particular the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba on 16 May in Geneva.”
“Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”’Article 19 of the Universal Declaration states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’”
“The UN Secretary-General presents an annual report to the Human Rights Council on intimidation and reprisals, and in October 2016 the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, was designated to lead the monitoring and response to reprisals for cooperation or intimidation, including that which aims to discourage or prevent future co-operation with the UN system. Cuba was among the countries named in the last two reports.”
“The UN Human Rights Office will continue to monitor such cases to ascertain whether they merit inclusion in the next report.”
U.N. Human Rights Council Membership
The Council is made of 47 U.N. Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the U.N. General Assembly through direct and secret ballot. The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
The Council’s Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. The seats are allocated on the following geographical basis:
- African States: 13 seats
- Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
- Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
- Western European and other States: 7 seats
- Eastern European States: 6 seats
The current members include Cuba and the United States, both of whose terms expire on December 31, 2019, while Venezuela is also a member with its term expiring on December 31, 2018.
Council’s UPR Working Group for Cuba’s UPR
The UPRs are conducted by the Council’s 47 members acting as an UPR Working Group. In addition, any other U.N. Member State can take part in the review.
Each State’s review is assisted by a groups of three States, known as a “troika,” who serve as rapporteurs. The selection of the troikas for each State is done through a drawing of lots following elections for the Council membership in the General Assembly
For Cuba’s third UPR the Troika members are Egypt, Nepal and Peru.
The May 16 hearing will last three and a half hours, during which the state under review is given 70 minutes to present its report, as well as answer questions made by other states and present concluding remarks. The remaining 140 minutes are allocated to states participating in the review to ask questions, make comments and recommendations to the state under review.
The second stage of the process will be take place during the Council’s 39th period of sessions in September 2018, at which time the final report will be presented by the Troika.
 U.N. High Comm. Hum. Rts., Press briefing note on Yemen, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Montenegro (May 11, 2018); The UN denounces the blockade of the Cuban regime on the departure of human rights defenders, Diario de Cuba (May 11, 2018).