Freedom of Expression

Press Release R82/18

The IACHR publishes merit report in case related to the

criminalization of political opinion and deliberation in Cuba


April 11, 2018


Washington, D.C. - During its 167 Period of Sessions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) approved the publication of the merits report in the case (No. 12.127) Vladimiro Roca Antúnez et. al, regarding Cuba. In its decision the IACHR concluded Cuba was responsible for the violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association against the Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, René Gómez Manzano, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, and Félix Bonne Carcassés, who were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and convicted to severe prison sentences on charges of sedition for the mere expression of political opinions.


This group of intellectuals established in 1997 an organization based in Havana, Cuba, dedicated to the study of the country´s socioeconomic problems (Working Group of Internal Dissidence [Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna]). In this capacity they disseminated a series of documents with a criticism and proposals for the situation of their country, including Platform for a Transition ("Plataforma para la transición") and the manifesto the Country belongs to everyone ("La Patria es de Todos").


After processing the victims’ petition in all its stages, the IACHR determined that the State of Cuba violated the rights enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man with respect to these individuals, in particular articles I (Right to life, liberty and personal security), IV (Right to freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination), XXII (Right of association), XXV (Right of protection from arbitrary arrest), and XXVI (Right to due process of law).


The Inter-American Commission concluded that the criminal sanctions imposed on the victims are incompatible with the demands of the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association in a democratic society. In particular, it noted that the trial against Vladimir Roca, René Gómez Manzano, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, and Félix Bonne Carcassés was based on crimes and concepts of national security and public order that were openly contrary to democratic principles and pursued illegitimate aims, such as the criminalization of political opinion.


The IACHR stated that "no democratic idea of national security" or "public order", whose foundations are the respect for human rights and abidance of the law by public officials, may be compatible with this thesis. The intolerance of the Cuban authorities towards any form of criticism or political opposition constitutes the main limitation to the rights to freedom of expression and association in that country. The Commission considered that, in addition to the individual dimension of the impact of these measures on the victims, the criminalization exerted an intimidating or dissuasive effect ("chilling effect") on the entire Cuban society, which could lead to prevent or inhibit this type of opinions and associations.


"With this decision, the IACHR recognizes to the victims the right that each person has to think and communicate with others their ideas and perspectives with the objective of deliberating and participating in the construction of the model of society in which they want to live", remarked Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. "The case also recalls the severe and arbitrary restrictions to the freedoms of opinion and expression that persist in Cuba, especially with respect to dissidents, intellectuals, journalists, and members of civil society," he added.


In the merits report, the IACHR recommended the State to provide reparations to the victims and, if appropriate, to their relatives, for the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages suffered as a result of the violations of the American Declaration established; set aside the criminal convictions of the victims in this case and all of the consequences arising therefrom, and hold a public event in which it acknowledges its responsibility for the violations of the American Declaration established herein. Also, the IACHR recommended the Cuban State to:


·         Take the necessary measures to bring its laws, procedures, and practices in line with international human rights standards. In particular, repeal the criminal provisions, like the offense of sedition provided for in Articles 100 and 125 of the Criminal Code, that are incompatible with the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association.


·         Take the necessary measures to prevent similar acts from being committed again in the future, in keeping with the duty of the State to respect and guarantee human rights. In particular, take the necessary measures to prevent and eradicate the criminalization of persons who exercise the rights to freedom of expression and association.


·         Bring its procedural law into line with the applicable international standards on due process, to ensure that criminal defendants have all of the legal guarantees necessary to exercise their means of defense. 


The Inter-American Commission decided to publish the report, because it considered that Cuba did not comply with these recommendations. The Inter-American Commission will continue to evaluate the compliance by the Cuban State of the recommendations made until it determines that they have been fully complied with.


Access the report here.