Restrictions on freedom of expression, association and movement continued to cause great concern. Nearly 70 prisoners of conscience remained in prison. The US embargo continued to have a negative effect on the enjoyment of the full range of human rights in Cuba. The economic situation deteriorated and the government attempted to suppress private entrepreneurship. More than 30 prisoners remained on death row; no one was executed.


There was increasing international concern about Cuba's failure to improve civil and political rights. In April, in a highly politicized process, the UN Commission on Human Rights condemned Cuba once again for its human rights record.

The government maintained a tight control on those who criticized it, and detained several human rights defenders and political dissidents. However, in May the Assembly to Promote Civil Society – a coalition of more than 350 independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – held an unprecedented meeting of dissidents in Cuba.

The authorities launched an energetic campaign to tackle informal economic activities and widespread corruption in the state sector.

Prisoners of conscience

Prisoners of conscience continued to be arrested and sentenced for their peacefully held views. Some were released for health reasons.

  • René Gómez Manzano and Julio César López Rodríguez were detained, along with several others, in the capital Havana after participating in a peaceful anti-government demonstration on 22 July. René Gómez Manzano, a member of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, and eight others remained imprisoned awaiting trial.
  • On 13 July around 20 people were detained while participating in a peaceful event in Havana. They were commemorating the "13 de Marzo" tugboat disaster of 1994, in which some 35 people were killed while attempting to flee Cuba when their boat was reportedly rammed by the Cuban authorities. Six remained in detention without charge and one was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for "peligrosidad predelictiva" defined as "a person's special proclivity to commit offences as demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly contrary to the norms of socialist morality".
  • Prisoner of conscience Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 2003, was conditionally released on health grounds on 1 December.

Restrictions on freedom of expression, association and movement

Human rights activists, political dissidents and trade unionists were harassed and intimidated. Such attacks were frequently perpetrated by quasi-official groups, the rapid-response brigades, allegedly acting in collusion with members of the security forces.

Freedom of expression and association continued to be under attack. All legal media outlets were under government control and independent media remained banned. Independent journalists faced intimidation, harassment and imprisonment for publishing articles outside Cuba. Human rights defenders also faced intimidation and politically motivated and arbitrary arrests.

The laws used to arrest and imprison journalists, relating to defamation, national security and disturbing public order, did not comply with international standards. According to the international NGO Reporters Without Borders, 24 journalists were imprisoned at the end of 2005.

  • Oscar Mario González Pérez, an independent journalist, was arrested on 22 July after covering a demonstration. He remained in prison without charge.

Dissidents continued to face restrictions when attempting to travel abroad.

  • Miguel Sigler Amaya, a member of the unofficial Alternative Option Movement (Movimiento Independiente Opción Alternativa), was detained at Havana International Airport when he and his family were about to board a plane to the USA even though they had exit visas as political refugees. He and his family were released several days later and finally left Cuba on 5 October. Miguel Sigler Amaya's brothers, Guido and Ariel, both prisoners of conscience, continued to serve sentences of 20 and 25 years respectively.
  • In December, representatives of Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco), a group of prisoners' female relatives who had marched every Sunday since March 2003 demanding the release of their husbands, brothers and sons, were not given official permission to travel to attend the award ceremony in Strasbourg, France, to receive the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

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