The human rights and the civic duties are the basis and the measuring stick to promote and evaluate the pacific and prosperous cohabitation of the nations.
This is a conviction that has grown throughout the history of humankind and reached its highest degree with the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by the United Nations Organization on the tenth of December 1948. Cuba was then the country that had the honour to submit the Declaration to the Plenary of the Assembly to be voted. It was presented by the person of Guy Pérez Cisneros, who was a Cuban academician, an art critic and a diplomat. Cuba had also made a contribution to the text while it was drafted.
Those 30 rights passed by the United Nations are universal, indivisible and inalienable thus it is impossible that they be ascribed to some cultures or countries and not ascribed to others. Ones from the others cannot be separated, for instance, the civic and political Rights cannot be violated with the justification of guaranteeing the economic, social and cultural rights or vice versa. They cannot be either alienated or unknown or falsely interpreted and they cannot be violated by any authority or power no matter how strong or legitimate it is. The rights are intrinsic to human nature and thus inseparable from the dignity and happiness of each one and all persons.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is then a source and inspiration for all of those who work and fight pacifically throughout the world for the spreading, the education and the defence of all of the human rights for all of us.
This step made in 1948 was the most mature step of civilized humankind, however, it was only a non-binding declaration that is, it is not legally mandatory for the States to enforce it or make it to be enforced. It only obliges morally, ethically, which is already enough.
That is why after one decade, the very Organization of the United Nations promoted the drafting of two Universal Covenants, which, after being freely adopted by the nations of the world became legally binding instruments and they are entirely mandatory on the part of the signing governments and on the part of all of the citizens as well.
Thus on the 16th of December 1966, those two Covenants were put at the disposal of all of the countries in the world: The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. As the human rights are indivisible the nations and their governments should adhere to both legal instruments.
To adhere to these Covenants two steps are needed to be taken: it is necessary that the governments of the countries sign the Covenants by taking their protocols to the Site of the United Nations. The other step is to ratify the Covenants by the Parliament or by the legal authority that each country has got in order to give them force of superior law. From that ratification on, the Constitution and other laws of the country must be modified or adjusted to make them coherent with those international instruments. From the second step on, and in the term that it is prescribed, the Covenants are binding for that country and are obliged morally and legally as well. The violation of these covenants can be carried before the International Court of the United Nations in The Hague in order to be judged.
The safeguard of the human rights for all citizens transcends the national boundaries and it is a responsibility of the whole international community and the competent world organizations. The national sovereignty cannot be used as a pretext for any government to violate the human rights with impunity. The reason is very simple and enough: the sovereignty and the independence of the countries emanate and legitimize themselves through the sovereignty and independence of each one of their citizens who are the sovereign ones. If the sovereignty of the citizen is violated the national sovereignty does not exist anymore. It would be then the sovereignty of one group or government above the defencelessness of the rest of the society.
There are countries such as the United States that have not been adhered to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and there are other countries such as the whole European Union that have adhered themselves not only to both Covenants but they have written a European Chart on Human Rights. This Chart inspired the Lisbon Agreement which is a kind of regional constitution though it doesn’t have this denomination. There are persons and governments that have been judged and condemned by the International Court of the United Nations and others are being prosecuted because of their failure to comply with the Covenants they have ratified. There was a brilliant Latin saying in the times of the genesis of Law which states: “Pacta sum servanda”: the agreed must be observed, respected and fulfilled. It’s the key to pacific cohabitation. Its nonobservance is the reason for all the ancient and present wars and conflicts.
Cuba was one of the leader countries in the drafting and signing of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. Some of the articles of the best Constitution Cuba ever had, the one of 1940, were an inspiration for some articles that stayed as part of the Universal Declaration. However, 44 years after being emanated Cuba has not ratified the binding instruments yet.
On the 28th of February 2008 the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs at that moment signed, on the part of the Government of Cuba, the International Covenants in the Site of the United Nations. But the signing is no more than the first step and it does not turn Cuba into a negotiating country and a country committed to fulfil the covenants and make them to be fulfilled by law. It is necessary that these covenants be ratified by the Cuban Parliament or by the authority that according to our Constitution has the jurisdiction to ratify international covenants.
During the last months a group of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have been released and exiled. We are glad for them and their families and at the same time we share their sorrow for their deportation so unjust as their indictment and the 7 years of prison served by those 75 brothers of ours, just because they thought and acted pacifically in favour of democracy in Cuba. They and the Ladies in White; the memory of the martyr Zapata and the strikes performed by Fariñas (the Sajarov Award has been bestowed upon him), will be eternal reminders in the national memory of the sacrifice and of the methods that can lead the Cuban nation toward greater degrees of freedom and reconciliation.
This gesture, though incomplete and insufficient could be the door that leads Cuba to ratify the two Covenants on Human Rights thus starting the gradual reform of its legislation with the purpose of turning it coherent with the spirit and the letter of those international instruments that have already been signed by the Cuban Government two years ago.
Cuba must ratify the two Covenants on Human Rights because it would be the best thing for the stability and the political participation. Only then we could speak of a “process” of openness or “updating” of our country according to the conscience universally assumed. The only way to prevent forever the unjust persecution or imprisonment of hundreds of brothers for reasons of conscience or political option is enjoying freedom and responsibility on the part of all citizens, having an absolute respect for all of their rights and duties and all of them under the guarantee of a legal framework. It’s a matter of democratic governance. If not, the prisons will be filled again as long as there is a Cuban, man or woman, who tries to exercise pacifically his civic, political, economic, cultural or social rights and duties, which are inalienable and inseparable from pacific cohabitation in its highest degree. To ratify the Covenants is therefore to fulfil a debt to the political mission of the State which is to create and safeguard a framework of Law that protects the citizens and makes easy for them their full and democratic participation in the institutions and in the independent associations of the civil society.
Economic and Social Reasons.
There is another reason why Cuba must ratify the Covenants on Human Rights: because it would be in correspondence with the wish of progress and welfare of the present and future generations of Cubans, men and women. All the respected economists and sociologists of our time coincide in the criterion of linking deeply the economic welfare with the holistic human development and linking the civil and political liberties with the development of the peoples. Let’s remember the anthological treatise by Amartya Sen who is a Nobel prizewinner on Economics. The name of the treatise is “Freedom and Development”. The two Covenants therefore complement each other inseparably. Without economic, social and cultural rights the civic and political rights cannot be properly exercised and vice versa. The economic independence promotes and demands the liberties of the citizen. Without respect to the inherent laws of market, even when they are properly regulated, there is no economic right or material autonomy to exercise the political rights. The same way, without respect to the rights of the peoples it won’t be possible the fair distribution of the created richness. To ratify the Covenants is, therefore, to fulfil a debt to the Cuban vocation for the economic progress, for social justice, and for a holistic human development.
Civic and Patriotic Reason.
Another reason to ratify the two Covenants on Human Rights is because it corresponds to the most genuine and deeply-rooted inheritance left by the founding fathers of the nation: since Fr. Varela to Luz y Caballero, from Céspedes to Ignacio Agramonte, from Antonio Maceo to José Martí; they not only fought for the freedom and the rights of all Cubans but they were educators of those rights and duties in each of the epochs they lived. The Apostle of our Independence proposed precisely the following: “the first law of the Republic should be the cult of the Cubans to the full dignity oh man”. To ratify the Covenants that represent today the maximum endeavour of humankind to reach such dignity for all men equally, is therefore, to fulfil a debt to the roots of our Fatherland.
Cuba must ratify the two Covenants on Human Rights, besides, because that corresponds to the essence of our national identity. Even when they did not have the political liberty, the first Cubans who thought with their own brains and taught us how to think, wrote constitutional precepts that guaranteed the fundamental rights: Starting by that kind of constitutional essay written by Joaquín Infante in 1810; also the proposal made by Fr. José Agustín Caballero in 1811; the one by Claudio Gabriel Zequeira in 1811 up to the one presented by Fr. Félix Varela in the Spanish Constituent Assembly in 1820: he had been democratically appointed to be a deputy. Then, at the very beginning of the first wars of Independence the Cubans, women and men wanted to define and guarantee the rights of the free citizens: Starting by the original Constitution of Güáimaro (1869), also the one of Jimagüayú (1895) and the one of La Yaya (1897). From the Constitution of the Republic of 1901 up to the Constitution of 1940: the most democratic, progressive and inclusive one of all of the Constitutions in the Cuban nation, including the Socialist Constitution of 1976 which established the dictatorship of one class over the rest of the nation. We can say that in the Cuban culture there is an indelible influence of democracy even when all of these constitutions were, in some way and in a diverse degree, ignored, violated in part or totally, by foreign interventions, coups or unfair laws. In order to assure the democratic and constitutional tradition in the soul of Cuba is enough to remember the very current doctoral thesis by the lawyer Ignacio Agramonte. To ratify the Covenants on Human Rights is, therefore, to fulfil a debt to the essence of our national culture.
Cuba must ratify the two Covenants on Human Rights, all in all and above all, because those instruments of International Law, even when they are perfectible, are considered the age of majority, the respect and the safeguard of the dignity of each man and woman. They are and should be the best way to reach the maximum personal fulfilment, the social cohabitation and a democratic participation for all Cubans, men and women, with no exclusions. Every economic, social and political system should have as a principle and end the securing of the happiness of every human person and the common good for the whole society. Without educating, respecting and defending the rights and duties in a systematic and unrestricted way, no nation can live in peace or progress material or spiritually. The human person, who is the centre, the subject and the end of all the institutions, is at stake. To ratify the Human Rights Covenants is therefore, to fulfil a debt to the search for happiness and the holistic development of all of the Cuban citizens.
So because of these and other reasons we must look for, spread and propose among all of us, the ratification of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a priority, it’s a duty and a significant step in the path to place Cuba as a full, normal and supportive member in the community of all nations. The international community and several regional groups ratify each year their will that Cuba be treated with no restrictions or embargos whether these are internal or external, political or economic. The international community and the regional groups have the moral authority to recognize, demand or criticize and accompany any country in the world in the respect and decriminalization of the exercise of Human Rights, even when in their own countries they are not fulfilled in part because no nation is perfect. If that moral authority is so valid and recognized to condemn every economic restriction ethically unacceptable, it should also be useful to denounce the violation of other civil and political rights inside the nation that endures the embargo. Cuba should thank the international concern for its welfare and happiness.
Once both Covenants are ratified, a new stage will be opened for Cuba. We have the conviction that the new stage could move forward in a dynamic and efficient way based on two fundamental axels: the civic education for all and the legal reform with the participation of all.
Any person can ask himself: what is the impact that the ratification of some international Covenants will have on the every day life? If the Covenants are well implemented the life of the citizens will change. If the national laws are adapted to the Covenants all of us will know what to do and will know our spaces and the spaces of others. It will open to each person a new field for creativity and initiative whether it is private, cooperative or public. An atmosphere of personal and civic security will be created and the defencelessness to which all of us are exposed will be healed. It will be, for each citizen, like an oxygen cylinder that will spread out the asphyxiated lungs of the enterprising persons and the creators. Everyone will notice.
Under democracy, with a supportive commitment and the accompanying of the international community, the cohabitation inside Cuba will have a qualitative improvement. The institutions will be healed under the rule of law and not under arbitrariness and the corruption of the ones who decide in these institutions as if they “ruled a camp”. Each one of the Cubans will have the tools for our security and the exercise of rights and besides, the impartial mechanisms for defence in case those tools fail, in case they those tools are violated or fall under the mafia or the corruption.
All might remain the same if the Covenants were dead letter and if the unjust laws are not changed. But everything could start changing if the citizens educate ourselves civically and legally and use those tools to demand the right to democracy. When this starts to happen, the short-sighted evaluations will stop and also the conspiratorial delays and the connivance between the economic or commercial convenience and the agonizing search for undecipherable signs of a substantial change that does not exist. It won’t be necessary anymore to scrutinize in an incessant discernment, with a magnifying glass and gestures, in order to decipher the question if things are changing in Cuba. All of us will be able to see it in daylight and with the indelible and clear letters of a legal framework internationally guaranteed and accompanied.
To ratify the Covenants on Human Rights is a duty of governability.
Cuba needs it urgently.
Pinar del Río, October 20th 2010.
Day of the Cuban Culture.