Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Announcement to Restablish Relations between the United States and Cuba

December 19, 2014

Washington, D.C. - On December 17, 2014, the Governments of the United States and of Cuba announced their decision to adopt several bilateral measures, including the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, which had been suspended since 1961.  Other measures announced include the facilitation of an expansion of travel from the United States to Cuba, as well as authorization of expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services.  The IACHR welcomes the announcement as a sign of strengthening of relations between two Member States of the OAS, and hopes that such measures will benefit the population of both countries.  In an official statement, the United States “encourages all nations and organizations engaged in diplomatic dialogue with the Cuban government to take every opportunity both publicly and privately to support increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.”

The Inter-American Commission hopes that the recent decision by the Cuban Government is followed by more measures to open up the country to international presence, including by human rights monitoring bodies, with a view to concrete advances in the protection of its inhabitants.  As regards the United States, the IACHR reiterates its position that the economic embargo imposed by this country on Cuba has a negative impact on the human rights of the Cuban population; accordingly, it again calls on the U.S. Congress to lift the embargo, which could happen in the context of the renewed dialogue between both countries.

Several mechanisms have been used by the Inter-American Commission in the last decades to monitor the situation of human rights in Cuba, including individual petitions and cases, precautionary measures and country reports.  In its 2013 Annual Report, the IACHR found, among other things, that “the restrictions on the political rights to association, freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas, the lack of elections, the lack of an independent judiciary, and the restrictions on freedom of movement over decades have come to shape a permanent and systematic situation of violation of the human rights of the inhabitants of Cuba.”  On a positive note, the Inter-American Commission highlights the strength of the Cuban health care system and the significant contribution made by its medical doctors to fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during this year.  The World Health Organization reported in October 2014 that Cuba was at that moment the biggest single provider of healthcare workers to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, more than the Red Cross or developed nations.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 156/14