mercoledì 2 dicembre 2009


Question 1 by Bernd Posselt
How does the Council assess the current human rights situation in Cuba, in particular with regard to political detainees? Does it have information about the conditions under which the Cuban doctor Darsi Ferrer and fellow-prisoner Alfredo Dominguez are being held, which are clearly inhuman in the extreme?

Cecilia Malmström, President-in-Office of the Council. − I am of course ready to move from the US to Cuba and Mr Posselt on a very serious matter, so thank you for your question, Mr Posselt.

The Council remains seriously concerned about the human rights situation in Cuba, in particular the lack of progress for civil and political rights. The people of Cuba do not enjoy freedom of speech and assembly. There is no free press. Access to information, including the Internet, remains limited. Restrictions on citizens’ freedom of movement into and within Cuba have not changed. There are currently 208 political prisoners in Cuba. This figure has decreased from 2 034 in 2007, but most of the releases were due to completion of sentence. Member States’ missions in Havana are closely monitoring the list of political prisoners and have a special human rights working group where important cases are discussed.

Prison conditions, according to human rights defenders and testimonies of political prisoners and their families, are far below the United Nations’ standard minimum rules for treatment of prisoners. Some prisoners are in very bad health, according to their families, and do not have access to adequate medical care. There have been a number of reports of cruel and degrading retreatment, including beatings of prisoners, denial of appropriate health care and psychological pressure. Still, however, there are no reports of prison guards or police being prosecuted for abuse.

The Cuban Government denies the existence of political prisoners and regrettably continues to reject international scrutiny of human rights from independent human rights organisations. The Council approach towards Cuba was set out in the common position of 1996, which has since been evaluated by the Council on an annual basis. In October 2008 the EU and Cuba agreed on the resumption of a comprehensive political dialogue. This dialogue, in accordance with EU policies, not only includes the Cuban authorities but also civil society and the democratic opposition. The Council pays special attention to the principles of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in the 2009 annual evaluation of the common position.

In the conclusions from June this year, we made clear that these issues will remain one of the EU’s key priorities in the relationship with Cuba. The Council particularly urged the Cuban Government to release unconditionally all political prisoners, including those who were detained in 2003, and we expressed our concerns for the prisoners and their health condition.

Furthermore the Council called upon the Cuban authorities to facilitate immediate access of international humanitarian organisations to Cuban prisons. Since the initiation of the political dialogue with Cuba last year, the EU side has brought up the issue of political prisoners at each and every meeting. As stated in the last Council conclusions, human rights should always be addressed on these high-level visits and, when appropriate, meetings with the peaceful pro-democracy opposition will be part of these visits.

The Council decided to pursue the dialogue with Cuba because it provides an opportunity to discuss open issues of mutual interest and concern, including the human rights situation, but we remain seriously concerned about the situation in Cuba and we will continue to follow individual cases, particularly prisoners with serious health conditions.

Regarding the particular situation of one of the prisoners mentioned by the honourable Member, the European Union has made a manifestation of solidarity initiated by the Swedish Presidency in Havana in August. The manifestation was held to show the family of the arrested Dr Darsi Ferrer that the Union is concerned that national criminal procedural law is not being observed by the Cuban authorities. Equally the case of the other prisoner, Mr Alfredo Domínguez, is also being watched by the Presidency and raised in the dialogues with Cuba, and we do have contact with his family.

debate en parlamento