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Posted April 15, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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BRUSSELS, April 15 (Reuters) - The European Union has condemned a crackdown by Cuba on dissidents that has strained relations with the bloc and could jeopardise EU aid.

EU foreign ministers sounded their warning at the end of a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. It followed the jailing of 75 dissidents and the execution last Friday of three men who hijacked a ferry in a bid to reach the United States.

The EU Council of Foreign Ministers said it “condemned the recent actions of the Cuban authorities, notably the executions, the large-scale arrests of dissidents, the unfair trials and the arbitrary and excessive sentences imposed.”

“These latest developments which mark a further deterioration in the human rights situation in Cuba will affect the EU’s relationship with Cuba and the prospects for increased cooperation. The Council will keep the situation under close review,” it added.

Cuba has yet to join the Cotonou Agreement, an economic assistance pact between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific nations. Membership could see a significant increase in European aid to Cuba where economic hardship is widespread since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago.

The EU is already Cuba’s largest trading and investment partner, and the main source of its international aid.

International human rights group Amnesty International also slammed what it called the end of a three-year de facto moratorium on executions and expressed concern about at least 50 people it said were on death row in the country.

“Amnesty International is concerned that these people may also face imminent execution given that the moratorium has ended, and has taken action by calling on authorities to urgently commute all pending death sentences,” it said on Tuesday.

“This represents a return to extreme repressive measures in use decades ago which cannot be justified,” it added.

Cuba does not give figures for its prison population or those facing possible execution. It denounces criticism by foreign rights’ groups as politically motivated.

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