government: Communist state
state of civil and political rights: Not free
constitution: 24 February 1976; amended July 1992 and June 2002
legal system: based on Spanish and American law, with large elements of Communist legal theory
legislative system: unicameral National Assembly of People's Power (Asemblea Nacional del Poder Popular)
judicial system: People's Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo Popular), president, vice president, and other judges are elected by the National Assembly
religion: Catholic majority
death row: 0 (Sources: Afp, 28/12/2010)
year of last executions: 11-4-2003
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (signed only)
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Penal Code presently in force provides for the death penalty for 112 offences, 33 of which are common crimes.
Offences punishable by death include: crimes against external State security; crimes against internal State security; crimes against peace and international law; acts against State security (like the violation of Cuban territory by participating as a member of the crew or travelling on board a ship or plane); crimes against the normal development of sexual relations and against the family, infancy and youth (rape when the victim is under 12 years of age or serious injury or illness results; pederasty with violence when the victim is under 14 years of age or serious injury or illness results).
A February 1999 reform of the penal code expanded the application of the death penalty to crimes of drug trafficking with aggravating circumstances, violent assault and corruption of minors.
On December 20, 2001 Cuban lawmakers unanimously approved an expanded antiterrorism law that reaffirmed the use of the death penalty for the most extreme acts of terror. The new law toughens and expands Cuba's previous terrorism law, listed as a crime against the state in the nation's penal code.
The life sentence was adopted in the February 1999 reform of the Code. Under Cuban law, people under 20 and pregnant women cannot be sentenced to death.
The death penalty has been used in Cuba since the 1959 revolution, after which Castro's triumphant revolutionary forces tried and executed scores of supporters of former dictator Fulgencio Batista.
According to teacher Armando Lago, a consultant to the Stanford Research Institute, 5,621 executions have since taken place on the island, the majority of them for politically related crimes.
The death penalty was common in the 1960s and 1970s, but in more recent years, the death penalty, carried out by firing squad, has been reserved for cases like terrorism, armed rebellion or particularly gruesome killings or serial murders.
After three years of de facto moratorium - or absence of information - on executions, on April 11, 2003 Cuba put to death three men found guilty of hijacking a passenger ferry with the intent of sailing it to Florida. Within the space of three days, the three hijackers were put under trial, sentenced to death and had their appeals rejected by the Supreme Court and the State Council, the highest executive branch in Cuba, presided over by Fidel Castro, they were then executed. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the summary nature of the trial and defined the executions as an ‘arbitrary privation of human life’.
According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, there were approximately 50 prisoners on death row on the island in March 2004. They were being held in ten of the 50 maximum security prisons around the country. "They are held in their cells in inhuman conditions", denounced the dissident group on the basis of information obtained either directly from prisoners or from their relatives.
On December 18, 2008 and December 21st, 2010, Cuba abstained on the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.