Political Prisoner's Testimony at U.N. Council

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Thank you, Mr. President:
My name is José Gabriel Ramón Castillo. I was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and I testify before this forum as a victim of repression in Cuba. I will refer concretely to two points contained in the Responses provided by Cuba on the recommendations listed under paragraph 131 of the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba (A/HRC/11/22) Adopted during the Fourth Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review.
The ratification of the International Covenants on Civil, Political, Social, Economic, and Cultural rights is still a pending matter. My question concerning this - Will it be possible to put a date on definitive adherence to these Covenants? As long as Cuba does not ratify these Covenants, the human rights situation will continue to depend on the political will of the Government, and there is no guarantee whatsoever that the current situation will change.
On page 2, the aforementioned document indicates that "Cuba is a State Party to the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments (CAT) from May 17, 1995 assures respect for the physical and spiritual integrity of persons. In the country there are no existing practices of torture or of other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments. Cuba has the effective national resources to ensure the rigorous application of the CAT."
The reality is that in Cuba there are hundreds of political prisoners recognized by Amnesty International. Many are ill and do not receive treatment. Human rights defenders enter prison healthy and in a short time suffer serious illnesses as in the cases of, among others, Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Librado Linares García, Normando Hernández González, and Ariel Sigler Amaya, who has been left an invalid. In Cuba, there is physical and psychological torture, and I am a direct victim of these practices.
On page 8, the aforementioned document speaks of the self-determination of peoples, and economic, social, and cultural rights are mentioned. Nevertheless, the self-determination of Cuban workers is not respected in Cuba. Workers lack the right to organizer labor unions independently of the state, and 5 Cubans are currently in prison for attempting to organize independent labor unions. This has been well documented by the relevant international institutions.
The Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs of Cuba has documented 21 deaths in prison in 2009 due to denial of medical attention and/or psychological harassment. There have been 500 cases of arbitrary arrests and 26 imprisonments of human rights activists. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, executive director of the Council, as well as Julio Romero Muñoz of the Free Expression Solidarity Movement, have been persecuted for sending reports to the Universal Periodic Review Committee.
Mr. President, in the name of those thousands of Cubans who have been repressed and tortured, and whose fundamental rights are violated, I ask the Council to do justice for the Cuban people
Thank you.