Report to the United Nations on Cuba’s systematic violations of the right to life

Cuba Archive recently prepared a report on Cuba’s systematic violations on the right to life and submitted it on October 5th to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in conjunction with the New York-based Human Rights Foundation and the Tennessee-based Cubalex (until recently based in Cuba). The effort seeks to make sure the matter is addressed during the coming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cuba next May (2018). The last examination by the U.N. of Cuba’s commitments and international obligations on human rights, in 2013, did not address this most critical issue. (See more information on the UPR at the end.)

The 10-page report enumerates Cuba’s most important international commitments on human rights, including its voluntary participation in the Geneva-based UNHRC, whose members must demonstrate their contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights. The document also summarizes the systematic and continuing disregard for human life in Cuba’s laws and practices, citing cumulative totals of cases of death or disappearance from Cuba Archive’s work-in-progress and giving examples of specific cases occurring since Cuba’s last UPR in 2013. A condensed version follows (see all case records and reports at

A. Death penalty by firing squad

3,125 documented executions (after a ruling of capital punishment) are attributed to the Cuban state; most, if not all, lacked due process of law. Victims include minors, citizens attempting to flee the country, and asylum-seekers taken by force from diplomatic missions.

In April 2008, Cuba’s Council of State decided to commute the death sentences of all prisoners to 30 years to life imprisonment, but the Penal Code continues to establish the death penalty, delivered by firing squad, for multiple causes including numerous acts against “the security, independence, or integrity of the state.”

B. Extrajudicial killings

Cuba Archive has documented 1,199 extrajudicial executions by the Cuban state, mostly of civilians, and 14 occurring after Cuba’s last UPR in 2013. 487 occurred in prison or detention, 35 in other countries or international waters. Since 2011, 8 peaceful political opponents have died in mysterious circumstances. 152 were civilians killed escaping Cuba, including dozens of minors and citizens seeking to surmount Cuba's version of the Berlin Wall surrounding the U.S. territory at the naval base Guantánamo. While Cuba is a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the intentional and systematic killing of unarmed citizens attempting to leave their own country may well fit the definition of the crime of genocide.

C. Enforced or involuntary disappearances

The Cuban state is suspected or implicated in the enforced disappearance of at least 147 individuals (see a detailed report here). 40 of these individuals went missing while attempting to escape to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo, 7 after Cuba ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2009, and 3 after Cuba’s 2013 UPR. (In March 2017, the U.N. concluded that Cuba did not comply fully with the obligations to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and detailed the impediments and flaws in Cuba’s legal framework).

Tens of thousands more Cubans are believed to have disappeared at sea, an undetermined number forcibly. Several hundred insurgents and members of the resistance were also forcibly disappeared, presumed killed, in the 1960s. Presently, many short arbitrary detentions occur for political reasons (at least 9,351 in 2016 alone) and many initially involve enforced disappearance.

D. Induced deaths of political opponents

At least 10 cases have been documented of political opponents whose deaths by suicide or denial of medical care have been induced by state agents; 2 occurred after the 2013 UPR.

E. Deaths in prison from suicide (real and alleged) and denial of medical care

Cuba does not comply with its obligations under the Convention against Torture, barring torture and "acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” For decades, conditions in prison have been causing severe physical or psychological pain or suffering to individuals deprived of their freedom. At least 296 cases are documented of prisoners –political and common– who died after medical care was denied or for health reasons induced by prison conditions, 28 occurred since the 2013 UPR; some reportedly died of sudden ailments or heart attacks, often very young men with no prior health issues. 104 prisoners are documented to have committed suicide induced by prison conditions or were reported to have committed suicide without any proof; 5 have occurred since 2013.

F. Other deaths: members of Cuba’s Armed Forces

At least 15 members of Cuba's Armed Forces are documented to have been killed or suspected killed for deserting the obligatory military service, expressing dissent, or committing “treason,” and at least 5 are said to have committed suicide while in the obligatory military service (conditions are usually extremely harsh) –the last such case was in 2014 ...

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