FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2018
WASHINGTON, DC – Citing reports of threats against Cuban advocates calling for stronger constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today called on the government of Cuba to honor its pledge to conduct an inclusive and legitimate constitutional process and to include language that upholds international standards for religious freedom, according to USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga.
“The integrity of this historic process is in serious question if religious leaders are being ignored, then pressured to publicly support a new constitution that fails to protect their rights,” said Vice Chair Arriaga. “We urge the Cuban government to immediately cease all intimidation tactics and to fully consider the proposals put forth by religious organizations to ensure freedom of religion and conscience for Cubans of all faiths or none.”
The initial draft constitution produced by Cuba’s National Assembly was revealed to have omitted several points of protection for religious freedom and the words “freedom of conscience,” which had existed in the prior constitution. Also missing was language protecting religious freedom from Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Cuba signed in 2008.
“The exclusion of these tenets, the vagueness of the new language, and the current legal provisions that limit protection of religious freedom raise great concerns about the Cuban government’s commitment to ensuring this basic human right for its citizens,” said Arriaga. “This is a pivotal point in Cuba’s history when the government has the opportunity to effect real reform through its new constitution.”
Following months of gathering public input on the initial draft of the new constitution, the Constitutional Commission is reviewing proposals for changes and is expected to submit a revised draft constitution to the National Assembly for approval in January. In February 2019, Cubans will vote on the new constitution through a public referendum.
USCIRF has documented the widespread harassment of religious leaders and activists in Cuba, which continues today, in its 2018 Annual Report. USCIRF has also expressed concern that, while the current Cuban constitution guarantees freedom of religion or belief, in practice, this right is limited by other constitutional and legal provisions and the country’s Office of Religious Affairs.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion or belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-703-898-6554.