For 34 years, the United States has reviewed the state of human rights around the world, to provide the U.S. Congress with a record to help it make decisions on U.S. relations with other nations. Human rights begin with a fundamental commitment to the dignity that is the birthright of all people, and the report is a fair measure of assessing how a country measures up to that ideal, in the interests of its citizens and the greater international community. As it has so many times in previous years, Cuba continues to fail in that regard.
Since the 2009 Human Rights report was released, the island nation's government has made no effort to expand political freedoms. One party rule remains the law of the land, and when elections are held they are neither free nor fair. Citizens have no avenues to press for change. There also remain strict limitations on freedom of expression and freedom of movement. Internal travel is restricted and Cuban citizens are selectively denied exit permits to leave the island even for short trips. There is no free press. The government also censors and greatly restricts access to the Internet.
Draconian laws maintain state control, allowing for punishment of any unauthorized assembly of more than 3 persons, including private religious services. The law also provides for imprisonment for vaguely defined crimes such as “dangerousness," a pre-emptive arrest for a crime that hasn't been committed. The government has held numerous opposition leaders on such authority on prison sentences up to 25 years, even for engaging in peaceful political activities.
Underscoring the lack of change in Cuba, the release of this year's Human Rights Report coincides with the anniversary of the 2003 Black Spring crackdown in which 75 activists were arrested. Fifty-three are still jailed. Their imprisonment violates international human rights law, which as a member of the United Nations, Cuba is obliged to respect.
The U.S. again urges the Cuban government to allow the Red Cross and United Nations officials to visit Cuban jails. The necessity for this was sadly demonstrated by the recent death of prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo. And as always, we urge Cuba to release all of its prisoners of conscience.