Today, the U.S. and Cuba will hold the first Legal Cooperation Technical Exchange in Havana, Cuba.
The U.S. delegation will include working-level representatives from the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Improving legal cooperation has been one of several important topics discussed as part of the Law Enforcement Dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba and Obama’s broader initiative to mend relations between the two countries.
Many observers believe Cuba’s judiciary operates without the independence that Western societies believe is vital for preserving property and other rights. Cuban lawyers are organized in collectives and cannot practice as independent lawyers as they do in the U.S.
Cuba is governed by a legal system based on principles derived from European Continental law, also known as civil law, which has been adapted to a socialist system. According to the Cuban Constitution, major principles include strict regulation of personal property, an economic system based on the “socialist property of the people over the fundamental means of production” (arts. 14, 21), government control of the economy (art. 16), and certain rights for citizens, including the right to education and health (Chapter VII, arts. 50, 51). The Constitution states that the Communist party is the leading and guiding force in the Cuban society (art. 5). The Constitution of Cuba was passed in 1976, and then substantially amended in 1992 and 2002. Among other major principles, the Cuban government states that the legal system includes:
- Independence of judges;
- Administration of justice by professional judges with support from citizens; and
- Availability of an appeal process for all disputed judicial decisions.
The Cuban Supreme Court publishes select recent decisions on its website. Additionally, the Court publishes a biannual review of its rulings and practices in applying and interpreting the law. It is mandatory for all lower courts to follow guidance issued by the Supreme Court.
Those who are interested in doing business in Cuba have to comply with a number of statutes, including Law No. 118 on Foreign Investments, which includes guarantees for investors, a special tax regime applicable to foreign investments, and dispute resolution procedures. Additional information can be found on the website of the Cuban Center for Promoting Foreign Investment.
Technical requirements applicable to food products, agricultural machinery, environmental protection, etc., are included in a catalog of Cuban technical standards.
Authority over intellectual property issues is exercised by the Cuban Office on Industrial Property (OCPI). A comprehensive list of statutes and regulations on industrial property, including patents, trademarks and relevant treaties, is available on OCPI’s website (click on “Legislación”).
The Cuban Customs authority has published a list of customs regulations in force.