Address to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland April,
Mr. President: Members of the Commission:
My name is Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, and I am the Vice-president of the Cuban Committee
for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization founded in Cuba in 1976 to observe the
respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the island.
On the 15 of January 1992 I was arrested in my home by the Cuban political police; the
second time in ten years. On October of that year I was sentenced to 4 years and eight
months in prison for the sole crime of reporting to this Commission the violations of
human rights committed by the government of my country. The labor of those volunteers of
this Commission inside of Cuba are considered by the government as "enemy
I will not enter into the details concerning the multiple irregularities of the
judicial process always against me, nor about the conditions that I had to tolerate for
more than three years. I will refer solely to one aspect of this my last experience in
When I was arrested in January of 1992, I enjoyed excellent general health for a man my
age, 60 years then. I weighed around 170 pounds, and ran 5 to 6 kilometers every morning.
Eight months later, when after a campaign of denunciations of my family I was transferred
finally to a military hospital, I'd lost over 30 pounds and suffered from multiple
My stay in the hospital was not long. In December of 1992 I was transferred to the
Prison of Ariza in the Province of Cienfuegos, over 300 KMS from my home and my relatives.
All of the medical treatments indicated by specialists of the military hospital were
immediately suspended. During the next 30 months that I spent in Ariza my state of health
worsened considerably, and I was systematically denied access to the medications that my
family sent me.
During those 30 months only occassionally did I see inexperienced doctors that gave me
incomplete medical exams and additionally lacked the medication to prescribe me. I have in
my posession a detailed chronology of my repeated denunciations concerning the abandonment
of my health by the Cuban authorities.
In February of 1994, in an attempt to refute my denunciations, the Cuban government
presented before this Commission a strip of video filmed without my knowledge, in which I
appeared to be undergoing a medical exam. That was the second and last time that I was
taken to the hospital, that time for a cardiological exam which had been ordered with
urgency on three previous occasions.
In mid - 1994 I commenced to suffer pains in my left leg, which later spread to the
rest of my extremities. After a rapid examination, a doctor in the prison determined that
I suffered from polineutritis -a deficiency illness very common in the Cuban jails, and he
prescibed treatment with vitamins. The pain continued with me for nearly a year later when
I was liberated as a result of a gesture of the humanitarian organization France Liberte.
A few days after being liberated the pain worsened suddenly. Many weeks later I had to
be urgently admitted to the hospital, were a doctor (friend) discovered that I had a
malignant tumor in the rectum. Finally I had to leave Cuba to recieve medical treatment in
Miami, where my children live. The medical team which examined me in Mercy Hospital
diagnosed a rectal tumor of 8 cm of diameter, with more than a year and a half of growth,
with mestasis in the bones of the pelvis. At only 4 cm from the anal sphincter, the tumor
could have been easily detectable with a simple feel of the area which is included in a
basic medical exam for any man over 50 years old. Attached here are medical diagnosis
which confirm what I've been saying.
These conclusions put the Cuban government in a difficult juncture. Or the Cuban
government didn't know of the existence of the tumor, and in that case they recognize that
they did not give me adequeate medical assistance; or I'm lying and the Cuban government
did know about the tumor and hid that knowledge for more than a year. Or the Cuban
government recognizes itself guilty of criminal negligence in my case, or it recognizes
itself guilty of an attempted premeditated homicide against my person.
Before I finish, I would like to make clear that mine is not an isolated case, but only
an example of the regular practice of Cuban authorities in their treatment of prisoners of
conscience. Out of the group of 6 political prisoners liberated by the Cuban government
after the requests of France Liberte, only two enjoyed good health. In addition to my own
case, Reinaldo Figueredo has cancer in his vocal chords, Luis Enrique Gonzalez Ogra has
pancreatic cancer, and Ismael Salvia Ricardo is nearly blind. Terrible nutrition, crowded
and unsanitary cells, housing with common violent criminals, violent repression, and
reluctant medical assistance - if any- are the norm and not the exception in Cuban
Because of all this, Mr. President, it is urgent that this Commission demand of the
Cuban government that it permit without restriction the access of the International Red
Cross to all the Cuban prisons, and that Cuba comply with the international statutes about
prisoners and the treatment of prisoners. This is the least we can do in the short run to
avoid that cases like mine be repeated, in which medical assistance came-tragically-when
it was already far too late.
Thank you very much,
Sebastian Arcos Bergnes
Return to Index
Copyright © Brothers to the Rescue, Inc.