Committee on Rights of Child examines report of Cuba

Committee on the Rights of the Child
8 June 2011

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the second periodic report of Cuba on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In presenting the second periodic report of Cuba, Abelardo Moreno, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the promotion and protection of the rights of children was a high priority for the Government though there were still areas that posed challenges, including the process of harmonizing age thresholds across legal acts, where the Government was making major efforts to bring national legislation into line with international principles and data collection where a National Statistics Office was created in a joint project with the United Nations Children’s Fund. The existence of a universal, free national health and education system were key pillars of the Government’s policy with 19.4 per cent of total Government expenditure on education. The Vice Minister said that despite the 50 year economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, Cuba had played an important role in international cooperation, including the more than 513,000 Cuban professionals working overseas in 104 nations as well as the programme to help victims of Chernobyl which had provided care to over 25,000 individuals, including 300 children who had received surgical care in Cuba.

In preliminary remarks, Committee Expert Jean Zermatten, who served as Rapporteur for the report of Cuba, raised concerns about the definition of the age of the child which only went to 16 years and said there was no significant amendments to the legislation in Cuba concerning children in over thirty years. The Rapporteur also raised the issue of child prostitution and asked why girls aged between 16 and 18 years were put in an institution rather than being provided with rehabilitation services.

The Co-Rapporteur for the report of Cuba, Aseil Al-Shehail, said the Committee strongly advised a revision of the national legislation to complement the provisions of the Convention and stressed that the lack of a separate, independent monitoring system to coordinate the implementation of the Convention was an issue of concern. The Co-Rapporteur recommended the implementation of a recovery and support system for girls involved in child prostitution.

Other Experts raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, the slow pace of legislative reform over the last 13 years, the restrictions on obtaining nationality for Cuban children born overseas, the 70 per cent of children with disabilities in special education with only 30 per cent in integrated education, confinement measures imposed on girls aged 16 to 18 years engaged in child prostitution, the high death rates from road accidents among young people and the fact that the Government had not ratified the United Nations Convention on Refugees.

The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the second periodic report of Cuba towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on 17 June 2011.

The delegation of Cuba included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, the National Union of Jurists and the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

As one of the 193 States parties to the Convention, Cuba is obliged to present periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to comply with the provisions of the treaty. The delegation was on hand throughout the day to present the report and to answer questions raised by Committee Experts.

When the Committee reconvenes on Thursday, 9 June, at 10 a.m., it will consider the fourth periodic report of Finland (CRC/C/FIN/4).

Report of Cuba

The second periodic report of Cuba (CRC/C/CUB/2) notes that the general provision for the upper age limit of childhood differs depending on the legal circumstances. The Civil Code provides full civil capacity for the exercise of rights and for legal acts at the age of 18. Under the Labour Code, the capacity to enter into employment contracts is acquired at the age of 17, and in exceptional cases, the law allows adolescents aged 15 and 16 to enter into employment contracts. Under the Family Code, women and men over 18 are allowed to marry, however, in exceptional circumstances and with good cause, persons legally authorized to do so may grant under-eighteens authorization to marry provided that the woman is aged at least 14 and the man at least 16. Under the Criminal Code, criminal liability can be enforced against a person who is at least 16 at the time the criminal act is committed and Article 17.1 of the Code establishes a special regime for people aged between 16 and 18, cutting the maximum penalties by half. Under the Elections Act, all Cuban citizens, male or female, are entitled to participate as voters in the periodic elections and referendums held in the country at the age of 16.

The National Defence Act and Decree-Law 224/2001 provide that in the year that male citizens turn 16 they are obliged to formally enrol in the military register. These laws also establish that the minimum age for call-up to military service is 18, while people wishing to enlist voluntarily in the armed forces must wait until the year of their seventeenth birthday. For men, active military service may last for up to two years. For women, active military service is voluntary. Adolescents have the option of working out their term of military service by performing duties of other kinds, which may be economic or social in character.

The nationalization of the health and education systems on the basis of free, universal provision benefits sections of society that had long been discriminated against, such as blacks and mulattoes. Cuban child mortality levels are the lowest in
Latin America, being comparable only to those of developed countries. In 2008, infant mortality was 4.7 per 1,000 live births, a reduction from the 2000 figure of 7.2 and the lowest in the country’s history. Children are given 10 types of vaccinations to protect them against 13 communicable diseases. Reduction of the maternal mortality rate is a priority goal of the Cuban national health system. In 2007 the maternal mortality rate was 30.2 per 100,000 live births, a reduction of almost one third since 1990.

The Office of the Public Prosecutor has ultimate responsibility for the protection of children and adolescents in Cuba. The public prosecutor visits homes and institutions that care for and educate homeless minors and inspects behavioural schools and re-education centres, now known as general development schools to ensure compliance with statutory requirements. Child and adolescent protection centres were created in Havana in February 2005 and in Santiago de Cuba in March 2008 with a view to reducing the number of secondary offences against adolescents under 16 against whom sex crimes have been committed. In January 2008, the Government announced that the views of children over 7 would be heard in court proceedings involving them where the matter at issue is the child’s guardianship.

Presentation of Report

In presenting the second periodic report of Cuba, ABELARDO MORENO, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the report was the result of a broad participative process across civil society and Government. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, there was an eradication of the structural injustices that had led to great suffering and discrimination against young people. The promotion and protection of the rights of children was a high priority for the Government and was addressed through multi-institutional treatment. Despite wide spread successes, there were still areas that posed challenges, including the process of harmonizing age thresholds across legal acts, where the Government was making major efforts to bring national legislation into line with international principles despite traditional practices that made this difficult. Data collection was also a challenge for the Government, although Cuba created a National Statistics Office and in a joint project with the United Nations Children’s Fund, introduced a technology project on child access in Cuba.

In 2004, Cuba adopted a National Action Plan from 2004 to 2010. A cooperation agreement with the United Nations Children’s Fund created a program for children and adolescents to raise awareness on their rights including the establishment of 16 comprehensive education centres along with multi-sectoral implementation teams. Cuba continued to demonstrate its commitment to the protection of human rights and had ratified various instruments, including the Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Cuba signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Government signed the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and recently approved a recommendation to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 182 concerning the worst forms of child labour.

Cuba’s successes included significant modifications of the Penal Code, the Maternity Law of Working Women to broaden the framework for the protection of the Cuban family to be the shared responsibility of both parents, and a draft project to modify the Family Code. The participative character of Cuban democracy showed the commitment of 8 million Cubans to the economic and social policies of the Government. The right to life, survival and development was in line with the priorities of the Cuban State and was derived from the humanist tradition of the Cuban revolution. The existence of a universal, free national health system and education system were key pillars in these principles. More than 50 per cent of the state budget went to spending on health, education, sport and culture. Government spending on education increased 3.4 times from 2000 to 2009, to account for 19.4 per cent of total Government expenditure. The Rate of infant mortality was 4.5 per 1,000 in 2010 and 26 municipalities in the country had zero infant mortality.

Cuba had met the six objectives of UNESCO’s education program, including total matriculation for children aged 0 to 5 years, representing 99.5 percent of the child population. Primary education neared 100 per cent, and those aged between 16 and 14 was 99 per cent. Children provided access to special education needs was 100 per cent. Nationally there were 396 special schools with a focus on vocational training. There was a legal and institutional system to protect children from violence and abuse which included prevention and rehabilitation services. There were no street children or economic exploitation of children in Cuba. The economic, commercial and financial blockade by the United States and the continuing policy of hostility toward Cuba were the most serious and negative barriers, which for more than 50 years had caused economic damage exceeding US 750 billion dollars.

Since 1961 until 2010, Cuban cooperation abroad enjoyed and benefitted from more than 513,000 Cuban professionals working overseas in 104 nations. Operation Miracle was a program of solidarity in ophthalmology which had helped more than 2 million patients. The program ‘Yes, I Can’, recognized by UNESCO, had helped more than 1 million individuals in 29 countries to increase literacy.

Over 55,000 foreign students had graduated in Cuba, and at the moment 26,000 young people from Latin America and Africa studied in Cuba with 22,000 studying medicine. The Cuban programme to help victims of the Chernobyl disaster had run for 21 years and provided care to over 25,000 individuals, including 300 children who had received surgical care in Cuba.

Questions by Experts

JEAN ZERMATTEN, the Committee Member serving as Rapporteur for the report of Cuba, said that Cuba’s report was not in line with the guidelines and had not responded to the concerns raised by the Committee in 1997. The Rapporteur noted that the situation of children in Cuba continued to be affected by the United States’ economic embargo and that there was a new social economic policy of the country since 2011. Cuba had made progress with the ratification of treaties as well as the Optional Protocols and concerning health indicators, the rate of infant mortality, the reduction in maternal deaths and the number of doctors per inhabitants were all impressive.

The Rapporteur raised concerns about the definition of the age of the child of 0 to 16 years and legislation which had not been amended to address the requirements of the Convention. The Cuban Government defined childhood as between 0 and 16 years according to laws regulating the age of marriage, the age of majority, the age of protection against prostitution, and the age for enrolment in the military. This was in direct conflict with the Convention which defined the age of the child as up to 18 years. What was the exact place of the Convention in domestic legislation? For example, if domestic and international law were not in accordance, which would take precedence? The Family Code dated from 1975 and the Rapporteur asked if a new Family Code would incorporate the provisions of the Convention.

The Rapporteur asked which body was responsible for coordination between the ministries and the provinces, especially the municipalities. Were social services operating at the local level and reporting back to the central or provincial levels? What was the role of the national network for abandoned children in this network? What was the role of civil bodies, such as the Association of Cuban Women in implementing the Convention? In terms of the National Action Plan of 2002, how was it being followed up? There were a number of laws and programs, but were they linked to a national action plan for the post 2010 period? The Rapporteur asked for information on the role of independent non-governmental organizations, how were they funded and had they participated in the preparation of the report. At what age could children act independently and was there some conduit for children to express their collective voice, such as youth parliaments?

ASEIL AL-SHENAIL, the Committee Member serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Cuba, inquired if an independent monitoring mechanism system according to the Paris Principles existed and whether or not the Government had taken measures to raise awareness on the negative use of corporal punishment, which was permitted in homes and schools. What was the number of exceptional cases for permitting a lower age of marriage and what was the basis given? What measures were taken to reduce the high number of road accidents impacting children?

Other Experts then raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, the slow pace of legislative reform over the last 13 years, including ruling 197 concerning the voice of the child in custody cases which had not yet entered into law, the restrictions on obtaining nationality, the practice of corporal punishment in schools and homes and that civil liberties were restricted to the exercise and assurance of the objectives of the social society. A Committee Expert asked when 15 political prisoners would be released.

Had there been any cases in which the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been invoked by a judge? Was it possible for children to ensure and recognize the relationship with their parents in terms of DNA testing to confirm paternity? A Committee Expert asked why certain Conventions had not been ratified, including concerning refugees.

A Committee Expert asked about international cooperation; if the Government had not signed The Hague Conventions how could it deal with civil issues related to children outside of Cuba? A Committee Member asked if the legislation on offering greater opportunities for the freedom of expression of children was implemented at any level in the judicial system and stressed that there was an indivisibility of rights, meaning a need to work both on economic and social rights and civil and political rights. What was the Government’s plan for lifting internet restrictions? Were there plans to regulate foreign direct investment in the hotel and tourism sector? Would the Government amend or enact legislation to ban corporal punishment in all settings? Was there a 24-hour free hotline for children to report cases of ill treatment?

A Committee Member raised questions about discrimination against women and how information was captured in the development database on groups of children whose rights were violated. What type of vertical coordination existed in social services? Were there clear directives to staff in these services informing them of the principles of the Convention?

A Committee Expert asked why the Government had not ratified the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees and the Protocols and whether the Government intended to reverse its policy regarding not granting citizenship to Cuban children born abroad.

Response of the Delegation

ABELARDO MORENO, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responding to comments by the delegation, said that the use of political prisoners was an erroneous term as no one in Cuba could be tried on the basis of their political views. However, there were severe penalties for individuals who engaged in mercenary activities. All prisoners referred to by the Committee Expert were released. Concerning ratification of the Convention on Refugees, the Vice Minister said that as long as irregularities concerning the flow of migrants from Cuba to the United States existed the Government would not ratify these Conventions. These irregularities included the automatic granting of refugee status despite the fact that these migrants were economic migrants and the wet feet/dry feet policy, under which irregular immigrants, upon reaching the United States were accepted while those intercepted at sea were returned to Cuba. Cuba was surrounded by a series of internet networks, which were closed off to Cuba so that the bandwidth in the country was limited.

There was an ongoing effort to ensure that Cuba’s legal system was in line with international practices. Recent legislative examples of protection of children included in 1999, decree law 165 which imposed severe sanctions for trafficking and the use of children for sexual purposes. Over the last decade, particular attention had been paid to women in the work force and Decree No. 105 on Social Security covered the broadening of social security services and ensured inclusive coverage for all workers.

Further Questions by Experts

The Rapporteur raised two important points on the harmonisation of age and the issue of legislation. Could the delegation confirm that the Government would extend the age of protection for the child until 18? The Rapporteur asked about the coordinating role of the Permanent Committee for Care of Children, Young People and Women among ministries and between state, local, regional, national and provincial Governments. How was the budget for the Committee managed and derived? The Rapporteur asked if there was a specialized children’s unit in the Attorney General’s Office.

Delegation Response

The Vice Minister said that harmonisation of age thresholds in legislation was still an outstanding issue and the Government was working on it. The Government was reviewing a series of legislative instruments and frameworks with the aim of ensuring all were adapted in line with the Convention.

A proposed draft Family Code, submitted to Parliament in 2008, promoted the concept of the best interests of the child. The principle of the best interests of the child was placed at the centre of each judicial case, requiring a comprehensive review. There were two sentences that were used in a regional court in which Article 9 of the Convention was invoked, on the right of the child not to be separated from its parents.

The delegation explained that the Permanent Committee for Care of Children, Young People and Women was responsible for dealing with all the implementation work of the Convention and worked closely with the National Assembly, ministries, social organizations and non-governmental organizations. The Committee was responsible for addressing specific difficulties and had the right to enter schools, hospitals and child support institutions to ensure that proper monitoring was carried out. The Committee was responsible for planning and strategy, but the ministries assigned budgets through their own process. A central state budget included a planning component for the Committee.

The Attorney General played a key role in protecting the rights of children with a dedicated unit that had departments within each province and municipal offices to deal with local complaints. Complaints were all submitted in writing and were investigated within a timeframe of 70 days which was reduced for young people. The Attorney General could issue administrative orders and sanctions and had the power to intervene in family situations if necessitated by the best interests of the child.

The delegation stressed that the Cuban national background was based on revolution and therefore parliament was the most important organ in the State apparatus providing a monitoring body through the Committee against infringements which would be dealt with by the Attorney General’s Office. The Permanent Committee for Care of Children, Young People and Women was not a Government body and included a number of non-governmental organizations responsible for programs. In Cuba there was not a need for an independent mechanism in compliance with the Paris Principles because non-governmental organizations operated fully.

There was a specialized area in the Attorney General’s office to deal with children. There were judges referred to as specialized children judges to deal with all complaints.

Further Questions by Experts

During the second round of questions, the Rapporteur asked about justice for children and what were the alternative measures for children treated as adults between the age of 16 and 18. Specifically, what were the most severe sentences for this age group? The Rapporteur raised concerns about provisional detention for 16 and 18 year old children, and whether they were held in separate facilities. What were the integrated training schools? Could the delegation provide an explanation on how judges were trained?

Prostitution was considered a crime in Cuba with sanctions imposed on girls. Were there cases in which tourists who had engaged in child prostitution were punished, and were any awareness-raising campaigns conducted to inform tourists that prostitution was a crime? What was the situation concerning domestic violence, data on its prevalence and how were perpetrators brought to justice?

ASEIL AL-SHENAIL, Co-Rapporteur, asked about how the juvenile justice system assured a proper defence for youth and children. Were judges trained on the rules of the Convention? What had the Government done to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs to avoid abortions, which were at a high level? Could the delegation provide more information on travel laws and restrictions for Cuban citizens wishing to reunite with their families? What measures had the Government taken to reduce the institutionalization of children with disabilities?

Other Committee Members raised issues on children with disabilities, noting that integrated education covered only 30 per cent and special education 70 per cent. Had the Government considered altering the situation so that more children had access to integrated education as was the trend around the world?

A Committee Member asked about the 20 per cent unemployment rate and what support the State party had provided to the unemployed, particularly to secure the basic development needs of children. What legal measures had been taken to follow-up on sexual abuse and exploitation of children? What preventive measures were taken against child sale, prostitution and pornography? A Committee Expert asked about the quality measures of day care services and whether day care provided primarily for women who worked. There was an 18 week maternity leave which obliged women to take 6 weeks prior to birth, which shortened the opportunity for the mother to remain with the newborn. Were fathers eligible for parental leave and what percentage had participated in this?

Further Questions by Experts

In a third round of questions, a Committee Expert raised questions on health issues in early childhood development, including that 40 per cent of children under 4 suffered from iron deficiency and 13.5 per cent of children under 5 suffered from obesity; what programs had the Government instituted to ensure that the health of children was addressed during early childhood development? What system was in place to monitor early detection of vulnerability for children in different age groups, regions and socio-cultural backgrounds to sustain Cuba’s achievements in light of the economic crisis?

Committee Experts raised many questions about health and education. Could the delegation explain what non-institutional teacher programmes were and what was the Government’s policy related to inclusive education? Was there an outreach service for children with mental disabilities? Cuba had 100 per cent birth delivery in institutions, but breast feeding was only 70 per cent and a Committee Expert asked how the latter could be improved. What were the factors that made infant mortality rates higher in some regions than others? Why had there been a decline in breast feeding and in baby friendly hospitals?

Concerning the issue of non-governmental organizations, what was the procedure for establishing a non-governmental organisation? Could children themselves establish their own organisation? If a child experienced violence at school or at home, what avenues were open to them?

What happened to women between the ages of 16 and 18 who were caught working as prostitutes on the street? The Committee was troubled when it learned that young women were under the provisions of judges. A Committee Member asked why girls between the ages of 16 and 18 were put in an institution rather than being rehabilitated.

Response of the Delegation

In response to the third round of questions, ABELARDO MORENO, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that most Haitian refugees were economic migrants who landed in Cuba on their way to the United States, and following close cooperation with the International Organization for Migration there was a process of voluntary return to their country of origin. Foreign investment was closely regulated and integrated into Cuban companies so that all domestic legislation was followed. Transnational foreign companies in the hospitality sector had not produced any problems. There was an extensive review process concerning migration in the country. Over the last decade Cuba utilized the principle of reciprocity to manage civil matters with Cuban citizens in other countries. Cuba had agreements with many countries so that Cuban citizens born abroad could simply register at the Cuban embassy and the child would be given Cuban nationality.

Concerning the challenging economic environment, the Vice Minister said that during the first quarter of the 1990s Cuba had already experienced a significant loss in foreign exports and Gross Domestic Product, but had maintained its priorities clearly focused on children. The Government had monitoring mechanisms that were being established and the issue of the double currency was under review to determine if it was still necessary for the proper functioning of the economy.

The right of non-governmental organizations to operate freely and independently was guaranteed by law in Cuba. There were only limitations on the freedom of association for racist organizations or those which jeopardized the morality and integrity of the country. There were more than 2,200 civil society organizations in Cuba covering professional societies and social and cultural issues with no limits on their freedom to associate. The Foundation of Pioneers was an organization that covered school age and university students. Legislation covered the establishment of organisations on cultural, sporting, recreational and other areas; a request in writing could be submitted to the Government to form a new organization which would then be approved by the Associations Directorate. No fee was required to establish a non-governmental organization.

The Federation of Cuban Women was a key player in women’s issues in the country. In Cuba civil society non-governmental organizations supported the Cuban Revolution in terms of specific projects and justice for all. The Federation of Cuban Women permanently monitored the State’s policy for gender equality. The Association of Cuban Jurists had worked to roll out significant activities in training to ensure women’s rights. The first session of a diploma course had been completed in cooperation with the University of Havana, The Federation of Cuban Women and the Association of Cuban Jurists which incorporated human rights.

The Family Code provided for disputes regarding parentage although DNA testing was provided, but would not occur often due to the economic and social embargo which limited access to key components in the test. The delegation explained that a responsible parenting program worked to ensure there was breast feeding for the first three months of life.

The Government worked with teenagers in a national programme to ensure that abortion was not used as a method of contraceptive. In 2002, the Pediatric Cuban Adolescents Society was established which changed pediatric care to cover up to the age of 18 rather than to 9 years old. Abortion and sexually transmitted diseases were all covered by regional branches of the society. Contraceptives were free and readily accessible to adolescents. A free pre-natal programme provided advice to new parents.

There was a confidential anti-drug helpline designed to reach high risk populations. There was an integrated program for the prevention of drugs approved in 1999 which included various ministries and Government bodies with the aim to prepare the population about the individual use of drugs. The Criminal Code defined the production, sale or distribution of drugs as a crime and the penalties were severe, especially when a minor was targeted in these activities.

Iron deficiency was a principal cause of anemia in women of child bearing age and a programme was developed to address this with a target reduction by 2015 of 50 per cent the incidents of anemia in children and women. Statistical data related to road accidents affected 25 per cent of the population and was the primary cause of death for children 5 to 19 years of age. In 1995, the National Programme against Accidents aimed at developing information and communication strategies along with intervention and rehabilitation strategies. Those under 18 years old could not drive cars in Cuba.

In Cuba there was a subsystem for children requiring special needs which provided for dedicated schools that were transit schools. These schools had all the facilities to promote the inclusion of children in mainstream schools, but due to the economic and financial embargo this implementation was moving at a slower pace. Since 1994, the Ministry of Work and Social Security was designated as the coordinating Ministry for persons with disabilities. Civil society had a great role to play in designing programmes.

Concerning domestic violence, in 1997 the National Group to Prevent Family Violence, was created by the Federation of Cuban Women, which aimed at providing assistance, training, awareness-raising and research to roll out a series of inter-sectoral disciplinary projects. There were legislative outcomes, and the provision of training to police, doctors, teachers and lawyers. The new draft Family Code would deal with domestic violence. The new Family Code would also emphasize that children had rights and if there were conflicts between a child and his parents, it would be addressed by the Attorney General. The centres for children could receive children at risk. Not all cases were of a criminal nature and these bodies had the mechanisms to transfer guardianship, if appropriate, or a child could be placed in a foster situation. A mother and father could also have their parental rights suspended. At the moment judges were considering incorporating guiding and fostering processes into Family Law to prevent domestic violence. Currently, a teacher or health specialist communicated with a minor who had been a victim of violence. Resolution 165 was a disciplinary law that included all prohibitions and limitations on workers, including the removal of a teacher from the education institution. When the Office of the Attorney General received complaints, the Office would first contact the parents and either a civil or criminal procedure would be followed, including restricting contact by the parents.

The Government had worked extensively on reporting and prevention techniques in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund. Grass roots groups were established at the local level to support communication between parents and children. The media also played an important role in raising awareness.

Concerning children in contact or conflict with the law, legal responsibility applied from the age of 16 years. Article 17.1 of the Criminal Code provided a special system for those from ages 16 to 18, which reduced penalties to half and those under 20 years old could complete their sentences in exclusive rehabilitation centres separate from adults which prepared them for reintegration back into society. A trial centre in the capital, Havana, was characterized by a focus on educational instruction and vocational training so that the detainees received a basic education.

The Government was currently reviewing an amendment to the Criminal Code to increase the legal age to 18 years old. To ensure social reintegration of young people, there was a joint resolution from 2004 from the High Court that guaranteed that upon return to society, these children were assured a job. Those under 16 years who committed crimes were under the care for minors and were dealt with through an administrative process that relied on interviews in the presence of the parents rather than public hearings. Decree 64 regulated monitoring and care by the Ministry of Interior, including tailored care for children in schools and institutions. Only in an exceptional case when all preventive work was exhausted was there internment in comprehensive training schools, which were educational centres that allowed for advanced care for children who had committed serious acts considered as crimes. These schools were devoid of the security measures that prisons had, the staff could not bear arms and there was no corporal punishment.

Prostitution was not a crime in Cuba. Young women engaged in prostitution were considered victims of sexual exploitation and the Government would not detain them in centres but would provide prevention and care for them. Young girls from 16 to 18 years would never be subject to a confinement measure or trial or legal process before a judge. The issue of child prostitution in Cuba had been misrepresented in the media. Despite this misinformation, child prostitution was a minor problem and the Government had accorded it significant attention. Rather than applying internment measures against these girls, the Government encouraged them to engage in vocational training. Individuals who engaged in pimping activities were punished by severe penalties under the offense of the corruption of a minor which had broad coverage. The delegation said that the issue of child prostitution in Cuba included only isolated cases which had been blown out of proportion by the Western media.

Preliminary Remarks

ASEIL AL-SHENAIL, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Cuba, in preliminary concluding remarks, said the Committee acknowledged the challenges Cuba faced and that despite the economic blockade, the Government had demonstrated that responding to the needs of children required not economic resources but political will. However, the Committee strongly advised a revision of the national legislation to complement the provisions of the Convention and stressed that the lack of a separate, independent monitoring system to coordinate the implementation of the Convention was an issue of concern. The Co-Rapporteur said there was a need to implement a recovery and support system for child prostitution and to promote greater awareness among children concerning their rights under the Convention.

JEAN ZERMATTEN, the Committee Expert serving as Rapporteur for the report of Cuba, in preliminary concluding remarks, said he concurred with the Co-Rapporteur’s comments and that Article 1 of the draft Family Code would address the issue of the definition of the child and urged the Government to bring this legislation into force.

ABELARDO MORENO, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thanked all the participants in the Committee and their desire to ensure that the overall interests of the child would be protected in Cuba. The dialogue today had taken place with respect and had met the key objectives of both the Committee and the delegation. The Cuban situation was complex; not only was the country subject to an economic embargo by the largest power on the planet, but it also suffered from the impact of the economic crisis and climate change. The Government had worked to ensure that the social system would be protected and that the achievements made over the last 53 years would be maintained. The Vice Minister said that concerning child prostitution in Cuba, these were isolated cases and there were mechanisms that enabled for the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of young women that were forced into the conditions of prostitution. The Government understood that human capital was the fundamental resource of the State, which should be protected.


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