United Nations condemns the imprisonment of political prisoners in Cuba and targets the Criminal Code and the lack of independence of lawyers

OHCHR - Oficina del Alto Comisionado para los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas

Cuban Prisoners Defenders’ press release, February 17, 2020:


  • The first three cases reviewed are that of Josiel Guía Piloto, Iván Amaro Hidalgo and Marbel Mendoza Reyes, in a new resolution of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which comes to endorse and extend the resolution of the case of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces.
  • In its resolution, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention attacks against the figures of contempt, disorder, social danger and attempt, contained in the Criminal Code, which “are extremely vague and lack the requirement of sufficient accuracy to provide legal certainty to the population”, and which have been the cause against these three political prisoners.
  • Likewise, it indicates that “the criminal types for which Mr. Guía Piloto, Ms. Mendoza Reyes and Mr. Hidalgo were tried and deprived of liberty, being extremely vague, do not allow to specify their meaning or identify the conduct to be regulated, so that they contravene the international obligations of Cuba, and invalidate them as the legal basis of the arrest, which makes it impossible to invoke a legal basis to justify the detention, making it arbitrary”, which is a “violation of article 9” and also “Articles 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration”, as well as Articles 10 and 11, for the “impossibility of accessing evidence” and affecting “their right to defend and receive effective legal assistance” and in “detriment of the obligation of publicity”.
  • In the same way, UN accuses Cuba of carrying out a systematic methodology on political activists and that these arrests “were made within the framework of a systematic arbitrary detentions of political opponents, committed by Cuban authorities of recent years.”
  • UN recalls that « the Inter-American Commission [IACHR] recognized that arbitrary detention is systematically used in Cuba as a» method of harassment «against opposition political organizations, such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba, noting that people are accused of public disorder, pre-criminal social danger and contempt. He has also identified that persons deprived of liberty in this context have been subjected to «aggressions, threats and ill-treatment and their access to medical care and treatment would be restricted within prisons”. »
  • The United Nations agency concludes in its resolution that the detentions are “the result of the exercise of human rights” and that “there are no proportional grounds that justify the detention and, therefore, the criminal trial.”
  • It reminds Cuba of the need, already expressed by the Committee Against Torture, to « reform the provisions of the Criminal Code with regard to pre-criminal social danger, to “end administrative detention based on subjective criminal figures, vague and inaccurate.» »
  • The agency attacks legal defence system in Cuba, and ensures that “the Working Group was able to verify that, under Decree-Law on the practice of Law and the National Organization of Collective Law Firms, and its Regulations (issued by the Ministry of Justice), the Ministry of Justice exercises extensive regulatory and supervisory functions over the legal profession. This includes the high inspection of the National Organization of Collective Law Firms, the determination of rates for legal services, serves as an administrative instance of appeal against decisions that deny entry or separate individuals from the legal profession, receives reports from the National Board of Directors, can authorize the exercise of the profession, approves the creation and extinction of collective law firms, supervises the training regime for newly graduated lawyers, among many other control activities (see articles 3, 11, 20, 29 and Special First Provision of Decree-Law, as well as articles 20 and 42 of the Regulation).
  • It indicates that “This is not the first time that the Working Group has been analysing a case where it is alleged that there have been serious irregularities in access to legal assistance for detainees in Cuba; otherwise, it has been verified in recent cases that detainees have not had the fundamental guarantee of access to a lawyer who can exercise their defence without limitations or interruptions. The Working Group has even received cases of lawyers who have been subjected to arbitrary detention.
  • The United Nations Working Group indicates as usual to find “serious irregularities in access to legal assistance” and that detainees have not “had the fundamental guarantee of access to a lawyer who can exercise their defense without limitations or interruptions”. “The Working Group has even received cases of lawyers who have been subjected to arbitrary detention,” they sentence.
  • The United Nations reminds Cuba that « the Committee against Torture has indicated with concern that «there have been no significant changes in the justice system of the State party since the presentation of its initial report in 1997. In particular, it notes with concern the lack of independence from the executive and legislative branches of both the judiciary and the role of lawyers.” »
  • The United Nations therefore ruled that “Guía Piloto, Mendoza Reyes and Amaro Hidalgo did not have the fundamental guarantee of independent legal assistance, which represented their rights and exercised the defense of the accused freely, in accordance with the international standards”, and that “the Cuban authorities seriously disregarded international norms relating to the right to a fair impartial trial to the detriment of Mr. Guía Piloto, Ms. Mendoza Reyes and Mr. Amaro Hidalgo, which contravenes the provisions of the Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
  • The United Nations, in view of everything presented in these cases by Prisoners Defenders, indicates that it will also refer the cases “to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; to the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; to the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.”
  • The United Nations states that “the appropriate remedy would be to place Mr. Pilot Guide, Mrs. Mendoza Reyes and Mr. Amaro Hidalgo immediately in full freedom and grant them the effective right to obtain compensation and other types of reparation, in accordance with the international right.»

Prisoners Defenders hopes that Cuba understands that the best way out of this situation, and that of all political prisoners on its list (129 on February 1, 2020), is to conduct an audit of the cases, as the United Nations has done to these cases and, in an act of judicial rectification, agrees the absolution of the inmates, as well as the compensation of the damages that have been caused to them with all processes. Such gestures would allow us to believe that there are in Cuba officers os the State who want to get out of a human rights situation on the island, created by the State Security -the regime- that, if it continues, will only bring more misery and isolation to the Government of Cuba.

Case documentation

United Nations resolution (MAIN DOC): VER

Reply of Prisoners Defenders to Cuba: VER

Response of Cuba to Prisoners Defenders / UN: VER

Reports sent to the UN:

Case of Josiel Guía Piloto:
ReportExtension sent to IACHR and UNResolution IACHR

Case of Iván Amaro Hidalgo:
ReportExtension sent to IACHR and UNResolution IACHR

Case of Marbel Mendoza Reyes:
ReportExtension sent to IACHR and UN

Additional considerations

As for the pre-criminal convictions, like the case of Marbel Mendoza Reyes, it should be remembered that there are more than 8,400 cases in Cuba in prison and more than 2,500 in house sentences (11,000 in total).

It is necessary for Cuba to carry out a process of review of multiple fundamental human rights deficiencies, caused by the State Security’s action on state officials and professional workers, a review that has been requested by Edel González, President of the Judiciary Provincial in Cuba, in a presentation in Madrid.

About Cuban Prisoners Defenders

Cuban Prisoners Defenders is an independent group of analysis, study and legal action, which counts on the collaboration of all dissident groups on the island and the relatives of political prisoners to gather information and promote the freedom of all political prisoners and rights Humans in Cuba. Cuban Prisoners Defenders is part of Prisoners Defenders International Network, a legally registered association based in Madrid, Spain, whose focus of action is the promotion and defense of human rights and democratic values, and whose Internet address is www.prisonersdefenders.org.

The works of Cuban Prisoners Defenders are adopted by numerous institutions and are sent, among others, to the United Nations Organization, Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Defenders. Freedom House, European Parliament, United States Congress and Senate FNCA, ASIC, UNPACU, Government of Spain, Spanish Transition Foundation, International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, FANTU, Party for Democracy Pedro Luis Boitel, College of Pedagogues Independent of Cuba and the Citizen Movement Reflection and Reconciliation, among many other institutions and organizations of equal relevance.

REQUEST FOR REPORTS: Entities wishing to receive the work of Cuban Prisoners Defenders (list of political prisoners and of conscience, legal studies of political prisoners, legal studies on Cuba, studies on repression and prisons in Cuba, etc) please contact Cuban Prisoners Defenders at info@prisonersdefenders.org or by whatsapp or phone at +34 647564741. Disambiguation: Prisoners Defenders generates its contents and reports in Spanish, and then translates them into other languages with the sole purpose of facilitating reading, but in case of any need for nuance or disambiguation, it will be the reports generated in Spanish that prevail and are official, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Our website is www.prisonersdefenders.org and our Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/CubanDefenders. Our Twitter, in addition, is @CubanDefenders.

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