Worst of the Worst 2011: The World’s Most Repressive Societies
Published by Freedom House
4 July 2012
Available at UNHCR RefWorld
Freedom House has prepared this special report entitled Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies, as a companion to its annual survey on the state of global political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World. The special report provides summary country reports, tables, and graphical information on the countries that receive the lowest combined ratings for political rights and civil liberties in Freedom in the World, and whose citizens endure systematic and pervasive human rights violations.
The report includes eight additional countries whose ratings fall just short of the bottom of Freedom House’s ratings scale [incl]… Cuba… – which received ratings of 7 for political rights and 6 for civil liberties — offer very limited scope for private discussion, while severely suppressing opposition political activity, impeding independent organizing, and censoring or punishing criticism of the state.
The Worst of the Worst 2012 – Cuba
Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6
Status: Not Free
2011 Key Developments: In 2011, the government continued its negotiated release of the 52 remaining political prisoners from a 2003 crackdown on democratic activists. In total, 166 political prisoners were freed under an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government, though a sharp increase in politically motivated short-term detentions was reported during the year. In April, the ruling Cuban Communist Party held its Sixth Congress, at which President Raúl Castro formally replaced his brother, former president Fidel Castro, as the party’s first secretary. In October, as part of the government’s incremental relaxation of long-standing economic restrictions on individuals, Cubans obtained greater leeway to buy and sell privately owned cars and houses.
Political Rights: Cuba is not an electoral democracy. Longtime president Fidel Castro and his brother, current president Raúl Castro, dominate the one-party political system, in which the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) controls all government institutions. All political organizing outside the PCC is illegal. Political dissent, whether spoken or written, is a punishable offense, and dissidents frequently receive years of imprisonment for seemingly minor infractions. The absolute number of politically motivated short-term detentions in Cuba increased from 2,078 in 2010 to 4,123 in 2011. Meanwhile, the total number of longer-term political prisoners decreased from 167 as of July 2010 to an estimated 73 as of December 2011. In December 2011, the Cuban government released 2,999 prisoners who had mostly fulfilled their sentences, but only seven of those had been imprisoned for political reasons. Official corruption remains a serious problem.
Civil Liberties: The news media are owned and controlled by the state. The government considers the independent press to be illegal and uses Ministry of Interior agents to infiltrate and report on the outlets in question. Independent journalists, particularly those associated with the dozen small news agencies that have been established outside state control, are subject to harassment by state security agents.
Foreign news agencies may only hire local reporters through government offices. Access to the internet remains tightly controlled, and it is difficult for most Cubans to connect from their homes. The estimated internet penetration rate is less than 3 percent.
Websites are closely monitored, and while there are state-owned internet cafes in major cities, the costs are prohibitively high for most residents.
The Catholic Church has been playing an increasingly important role in civil society, mediating in the case of the 2003 political prisoners, enabling discussion of topics of public concern, and offering material assistance to the population, especially in the countryside. Nevertheless, official obstacles to religious freedom remain substantial. Churches are not allowed to conduct ordinary educational activities, and many church-based publications are subject to censorship by the Office of Religious Affairs.
The government restricts academic freedom. Teaching materials for subjects including mathematics and literature must contain ideological content. Limited rights of assembly and association are permitted under the constitution. However, as with other constitutional rights, they may not be “exercised against the existence and objectives of the Socialist State.”
The unauthorized assembly of more than three people, even for religious services in private homes, is punishable with up to three months in prison and a fine. This rule is selectively enforced and is often used to imprison human rights advocates.
The Council of State, led by Raúl Castro, controls the courts and the judicial process as a whole.
Freedom of movement and the right to choose one’s residence and place of employment are severely restricted.
Attempting to leave the island without permission is a punishable offense.
The Cuban constitution establishes full equality of women. About 40 percent of all women work in the official labor force, and they are well represented in most professions.