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Discursos e Intervenciones

4th Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review. Human Rights Council.

Statement by the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Cuba , Maria Esther Reus.
Presentation of the National Report.Geneva, February 5, 2009

Mr. President:

Cuba is honoured to present its National Report to the Mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council.

This is the result of a wide participative process of consultations that involved numerous government and state institutions, Parliament, hundreds of non-governmental organizations and other institutions.

Mr. President:

Cuba places great importance on this exercise which coincides with
the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. This remarkable event, for the first time in history, allowed every single Cuban to fully enjoy all of their human rights.

The profound transformations taken up by the Cuban Revolution made possible the eradication of the structural injustices inherited from the colonial and neo-colonial period of domination under which the country suffered until 1959.

The Cuban political system is the expression of the will of its people. It is a genuinely autochthonous project, based on a rich history of struggle for equality and solidarity between men and women, independence, sovereignty, non-discrimination, unity and social justice.

The key quality of the Cuban political system is its capacity for constant improvement according to the needs set out for bringing to fruition full, genuine and periodic participation by the people in the leadership and monitoring of society.

The Constitution of the Republic (passed in 1976 by a popular referendum receiving an affirmative vote of 97.7% of the electorate), is the supreme law of the Cuban State. It determines the competencies of the executive, legislative, administrative, judicial, fiscal, control and defence bodies. The Constitution establishes the political, economic and social bases of the state and its government, the fundamental rights, obligations and guarantees of the citizens, as well as the bases for its respect, execution and protection.

The National Assembly of the Peoples’ Power is the supreme body of state power. It represents and expresses the sovereign will of all the people and is the only body having constituent and legislative authority.

The Provincial and Municipal Assemblies of the Peoples’ Power, as the highest local bodies of state power, are endowed with the highest authority to exercise state functions within their districts.

The people nominate and directly elect their representatives to the local power. The free, direct and secret vote by the people decides the composition of the National Assembly and of the higher authorities of power in the provinces and municipalities. The members of the Council of State, together with its president, require previous election as deputies.

Every Cuban citizen has the right to elect and to be elected. We possess a model of participative democracy which includes the activities of the social and grass-roots organizations.

The composition of the National Assembly of the Peoples’ Power represents a cross-section of the Cuban people. All sectors of the population are represented by the 614 parliamentary deputies. More than 28% are workers, peasants, service sector workers, teachers and health workers; 43% are women; 36% are black and of mixed race. More than 56% of the deputies were born after the triumph of the Revolution.

The system for legal protection of human rights in Cuba is not restricted to its constitutional expression. Human rights are duly developed and guaranteed by other substantive and procedural regulations in effect according to the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration and the other international instruments for human rights.

Their promotion and protection is guaranteed via their effective institutionalization and the application of policies and programmes directed towards their practical implementation and the universalization of their enjoyment. We are determined that nobody shall be excluded.

The rights to life, liberty and security of the person are based on the principle of respect for human dignity and they constitute the mainstays for the conduct of Cuban authorities and of society as a whole.

In our country there has not been one single case of extra-judicial execution, enforced disappearance or torture since, in 1959 the Revolution put an end to the dictatorship that murdered or disappeared tens of thousands of Cubans.

Cuba is a secular State respects and guarantees freedom of religion with no discrimination whatsoever. There are approximately four hundred religions and religious institutions in existence, all having their temples and places of worship in order to carry out their activities.

Freedoms of opinion, expression, information and the press are recognized for every citizen as established in the Constitution. The high educational and cultural level of the people, the social and public nature of the information media and the exercise of peoples’ power facilitate the material conditions for its enjoyment,

In 2008, a broad process of debate on the subject of the Cuban reality was developed. There were more than 215,000 public meetings held, in which more than 5 million Cubans from all sectors of society participated. More than 1,300,000 presentations, critiques and proposals were made; all of them are being dealt with.

Information and communications technologies are at the service of all the people. Training in their use is free of charge and access to them is proportioned through social and community centres and institutions.

Equality and non-discrimination are fully guaranteed.

Advances achieved in subjects related to gender equality are substantial. The National Plan of Action for Follow-Up to the Beijing Conference guarantees the mainstreaming of a gender perspective to the policies and programmes being applied and it encourages actions directed towards ensuring full exercise of women’s rights.

We women make up 46% of the work force and 66% of the technical and professional workers in the civil state sector. The number of women in leadership positions makes up 38% of the total. In the Council of State, elected in 2008, the number of women increased their presence from 16% to 26%.

Cuba has also attained significant advances in the achieving of economic, social and cultural rights.

Education is universally accessible and free of charge at all teaching levels. Cuba has more than surpassed the 6 goals of the UNESCO Education for All Programme.

73% of young Cubans between the ages of 18 and 23 are enrolled in universities. Cuba possesses 1 teacher for every 30 inhabitants. 100% of girls and boys with special education needs receive that kind of attention in schools outfitted for that purpose.

Important projects addressing improvements in teaching are being carried out:

1. computer education right from the primary level;
2. use of technical-didactic aids such as TVs and VCRs in every classroom;
3. the setting up of two national educational TV channels;
4. the establishing of special teaching programmes for seniors;
5. the creation of university teaching units in every municipality of the country with the goal of making access to this level universal.

The right to culture is fully guaranteed and is within the reach of every social sector, including those people living in rural areas. Culture and the sciences in all their manifestations are encouraged and promoted as well as freedom for artistic creation.

The right to employment possesses a constitutional status in Cuba and it is not dependant upon blind market rules. At the end of 2008, we reached an unemployment rate of 1.6%. There are programmes in existence that look after the special needs of women, youth, persons with disabilities and the labour reinsertion of those who have served sentences of privation of liberty, among others.

Labour and social legislation is consistent with the international requirements adopted by the ILO and it even surpasses international requirements of the more than 80 agreements we have ratified, granting more wide-ranging rights, benefits and protection to all workers.

Every Cuban is assured access to quality health services that are free of charge. The National Health System is totally state funded and has a wide assistance network. Cuba shows health indicators that compare with those in developed countries. Infant mortality in children less than a year old was 4.7 for every thousand live births registered in 2008 and life expectancy at birth is 78 years.

We are moving towards preventative examinations of the entire population for the early diagnosis of disease and we are improving mother-child and vaccination programmes; the vaccination programme guarantees one of the world's widest immunization coverages.

In the midst of the difficult circumstances in which we have had to carry forward our Revolution, not only have we achieved progress in the promotion and protection of all human rights of our people. Cuba has shared what it has, contributing in solidarity to the carrying out of human rights for other peoples throughout the world. Thousands of Cuban professionals have taken health and education to hundreds of countries, helping to preserve the fundamental right to life.

From 1963 to 2008, Cuban cooperation abroad has included the participation of more than 341,000 civilian volunteers in 154 countries.

At the present time, almost 51,000 Cuban professionals and technicians are providing their services in 96 countries, of these more than 38,000 are working in the health sector in 74 countries.

Operation Miracle has allowed more than 1,300,000 patients from 33 countries to recover their sight.

The “Yes, I Can” Cuban method has supported the teaching of more than 3.6 million people in 26 countries to read and write.

Between 1961 and 2008, Cuban universities have graduated more than 52,000 young people from 132 countries and 5 overseas territories.

Mr. President:

In Cuba we have a wide and effective inter-institutional system that includes the participation of political and social organizations to receive, process and respond to any complaint or petition, whether from individuals or groups, relating to the enjoyment of any of the human rights, as expressly established by the Constitution of the Republic.

The Attorney General’s Office of the Republic, the bodies of the central State Administration, social organizations, the Secretariat of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers, the institutions of the Peoples’ Power and the Council of State itself all participate in the system.

Other autochthonous mechanisms contribute to the task of supervising and enabling the carrying out of human rights. That is the case of the social workers who provide their services to the community and identify the support needs to the Cuban families, following the maxim of not overlooking even one single human being.

The Cuban prison system is based on the principle of permanent human improvement. Cuba is complying with the precepts of the International Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and favours a preventive approach via numerous social programmes, among these those directed towards turning the prisons into schools.

The goal is to ensure that human beings who have served their sentences are fully reintegrated into society. Every inmate is guaranteed no-cost medical and stomatological care on a par with the rest of the Cuban population.

Cuba possesses a long record of international cooperation in the area of human rights. The country has shown its unequivocal willingness to engage in genuine dialogue on all subjects, as long as respect and impartiality are being respected.

Cuba is a State Party to 41 of the most important treaties in this area and we have historically cooperated with the human rights mechanisms being applied on a universal and non-discriminatory basis.

In February 2008, we signed the International Covenants on Human Rights as a demonstration of our will and commitment to the postulates of both of these instruments.

Cuba is proceeding to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

In the past, our periodic reports were sent to the Committee for the Rights of the Child and to the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We have already begun drawing up the report to the Committee Against Torture and it should be ready for delivery at the end of the first half of this year.

The elimination in 2007 of the anti-Cuban mandate imposed by the United States, allowed for a qualitative deepening of the country’s traditional cooperation policy on the subject of human rights. We received the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and we have extended an invitation to the Special Rapporteur against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment to visit us as well.

Mr. President:

The work of the Cuban Revolution and its achievements in favour of human rights has been possible despite the existence of colossal obstacles. The genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade, aggressions and terrorist acts and the permanent anti-Cuban hostile policy of successive US administrations constitute the most serious of these obstacles.

To the preceding, climatic phenomena and the negative impact of an unjust international economic order that has been aggravated by the current financial, energy, food and climatic crisis affecting humanity have been added.

In spite of all this, the steady political will, endeavour and the efforts of the Cuban government and people have allowed for significant steps forward. Cuba continues moving ahead, deepening its revolutionary transformations with the goal of building a society that is ever more just, free, independent, equitable, democratic, solidary and participative.

Cuba is taking on this exercise with the full sense of responsibility and defending its right to self-determination, independence and sovereignty adhering to the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity that should be characteristics of international cooperation in the field of human rights.

Cuba is attending the Universal Periodic Review in defence of the truth. We are open to dialogue and we will provide the necessary information and clarifications. All we demand is due respect and the complete objectivity that ought to characterize this process.

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