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Posted June 22, 2007 by Cuban American in Cuba Human Rights

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I know its a lot of text but its an important read for both articles, its a very sad day for human rights.

By Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald

Making a mockery of its mission to investigate human-rights abuses around the world, the new United Nations Human Rights Council—presided over by Mexico—has decided to stop looking into rights abuses in Cuba.

Before getting into the Geneva, Switzerland-based council’s overall performance, and into whether Mexico is retreating from its commitment to universal human rights, let’s take a quick look at the council’s agreements at the end of its first annual session this week.

At midnight on Monday, the council—created last year to replace what the United Nations itself now describes as its ‘‘discredited’’ previous Human Rights Commission—agreed on rules that will govern it.

There had been a bitter fight between a group of dictatorships led by China and a group of Western democracies led by Germany about whether the council should maintain its 40 mandates to look into specific countries or issues, such as Cuba, or violence against women.

China and its allies wanted to scrap all mandates for countries altogether, while maintaining the mandates for issues. Germany and Canada wanted to keep both sets of mandates intact.

In the end, the council’s outgoing president, Mexican ambassador to the U.N. Luis Alfonso de Alba, proposed a compromise agreement by which all special mandates will continue, except for two countries—Cuba and Belarus. The full package, which included leaving out these two countries, was accepted by consensus.

‘‘It’s certainly a setback,’’ said Peggy Hicks, a top official of the Human Rights Watch monitoring group, referring to the two countries’ exclusion. ``It’s not justifiable in any sense based on the human-rights record of those countries.’‘

Not surprisingly, the Cuban regime hailed the council’s decision Tuesday as a ‘‘historic victory.’’ An article in Cuba’s official daily Granma said that ``a long battle of 20 years has reached a happy ending today in the new U.N. Human Rights Council, which monitored Cuba from a biased point of view.’‘

The article quoted a ‘‘visibly satisfied’’ Mexican ambassador De Alba as hailing the overall results of the body’s first year as ‘‘a decision of historic dimensions’’ that will mark ``the start of a new culture in the treatment of human rights.’‘


Hmmm. On Wednesday, I called De Alba and asked him whether discontinuing the council’s investigations into Cuba’s human-rights abuses—which had been led by French jurist Christine Chanet—should be something the human-rights community should be celebrating.

‘‘I think you need to consider the alternatives we were facing: We had 40 mandates, of which 12 were country specific, and of those 40 we have preserved 38,’’ De Alba told me from his office in Geneva. ``The end result was highly positive: If we had voted on a case-by-case basis, we may have ended up with only half of the . . . mandates.’‘

I then asked De Alba whether he had issued his proposed package resolution as an independent council president or as Mexico’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva. Hours earlier, a well-placed human-rights advocate in Mexico had told me that De Alba’s proposal marks a shift in Mexico’s foreign policy, away from its previous commitment to human rights.

‘‘The system works in a somewhat ambiguous way: I don’t cease to be Mexico’s envoy to Geneva, but I can’t represent national positions as a council president,’’ De Alba told me. He said that while he represented all council members as president, another Mexican diplomat represented his country at the session.


My opinion: I would love to buy the idea that scrapping investigations into Cuba and Belarus was the price to pay for a renovated Human Rights Council that will from now on look into rights abuses no matter where they take place. And I would love to think that De Alba was acting as a council consensus-builder, rather than reflecting a shift in Mexico’s foreign policy.

But judging from the elated reaction of Cuba’s dictatorship, and the skepticism of prominent human-rights groups, I fear that the new council will be just like its predecessor—a mutual protection club dominated by the world’s worst human-rights offenders.



Cuba sees U.N. rights body’s move as triumph over U.S.
By Todd Benson

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba hailed on Wednesday a decision by the new United Nations human rights watchdog to drop the communist nation from a list of countries with poor rights records, calling it a major diplomatic victory over its longtime ideological foe the United States.

The 47-state Human Rights Council, created in 2006 to replace its discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, agreed on Monday to remove Cuba from a list of nations that will be scrutinized for rights violations.

The decision, which was criticized by Washington, means the U.N.‘s special envoy to Cuba will no longer produce periodic reports detailing alleged rights abuses on the island.

“This is a decision that puts an end to 20 years of manipulating Cuba’s human rights record under the instigation and enormous pressure from the United States in the old U.N. Human Rights Commission,” Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said at a news conference in Havana.

“The Cuban government considers this a resounding and indisputable victory of Cuban diplomacy,” he added.

This month, U.N. rights envoy Christine Chanet expressed “deep concern” about the health of some 60 Cuban dissidents jailed in a crackdown four years ago.

But Chanet, a French magistrate who has never been able to visit Cuba, also recommended that the council stop producing special reports on the country because of Havana’s lack of cooperation.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an illegal opposition group that is tolerated by the one-party state, estimates that about 280 Cubans are in prison for political reasons.
The Cuban government denies there are political prisoners on the island and says the jailed dissidents are “mercenaries” on the payroll of the United States, which has enforced a trade embargo against Havana for 45 years.

The U.S. State Department called the council’s decision to drop Cuba from its black list “seriously flawed.”

In the U.S. Congress, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American from Florida, said she plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit U.S. funding for the council.

Dissident groups in Cuba were also dismayed with the council’s decision.

“Unfortunately, the Cuban government has become the leader of a group of governments that violate human rights,” said Elizardo Sanchez, a veteran rights activist in Havana.

Perez Roque, who dismissed the criticism of Cuba’s rights record as a smear campaign orchestrated by Washington, also said that the European Union should reconsider its policy toward the island in light of the council’s decision.

Since 1996, the EU has conditioned an improvement in relations with Cuba on a transition toward a multi-party democracy and greater respect for human rights.

Perez Roque declined to say if Cuba would accept an invitation to discuss a gradual thaw in ties with the EU, which said on Monday it was ready to resume an open dialogue with Cuban authorities.

“We’ve taken note that the European Union has rectified its previous position of closing all dialogue with Cuba,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes)

  1. Follow up post #1 added on June 22, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Cuban American,

    Thanks for posting this. The UN is pretty much useless on many levels but to come out and basically say that we see no reason to monitor human rights violations in Cuba? That’s absurd.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on June 22, 2007 by viajero

    can the UN also monitor the human rights violations in the US?

  3. Follow up post #3 added on June 22, 2007 by Edward

    That’s a good point…

    Re: United States, one shouldn’t throw stones in glass houses. There are 192 member states in the UN and 27 EU countries. The UN seem to have withdrawn Cuba from it’s human rights black book and the EU are making noises to suggest a dialogue with Cuba.

    The vociferous calls to investigate human right issues seem to be coming mainly from one place.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on June 22, 2007 by Anatasio with 36 total posts

    It should be noted that there is currently a bill on the table over at the House of Representatives to pull the U.S.‘s $20 million worth of funding for the UN human rights body. One would hope that the bill will pass the Senate and that those $20 million would be put to better use. I’m sure there are any number of NGOs across the globe who could benefit from such a donation.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on June 22, 2007 by abh

    The House of Representatives voted to increase the amount of money, not decrease it.  Looks like Ileana was able to convince a group of 66 democrats to side with her under the idea that now is the time to start supporting the dissidents more than ever.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on June 22, 2007 by Anatasio with 36 total posts

    Not sure what you mean, abh - are you referring to the same news I am?


    They’ve barred the funding according to all the wire reports - still, I may be mis-reading what you’re saying.



  7. Follow up post #7 added on June 22, 2007 by abh

    Ooops.  I misunderstood what you were talking about.  I had been preoccupied with the following news report, to which I referred.  Sorry for the confusion.

    House approves increase for Cuba programs
    By Pablo Bachelet

    McClatchy Newspapers


    WASHINGTON - In the first vote on Cuba legislation under a Democrat-controlled Congress, the House on Thursday easily approved a big increase in money for U.S. programs that support dissidents on the island.

    The House also approved a proposal that would provide Voice of America with $10 million to bolster its broadcasts to Venezuela, where news media freedoms have been seen as under attack by leftwing President Hugo Chavez.

    And the House was expected to pass late Thursday a proposal to make big cuts in military aid to Colombia - in the most significant change to the $5 billion U.S. anti-drug trafficking program known as Plan Colombia since its inception in 2000. However, Republicans critical of the proposal agreed to let the bill pass while planning to challenge it later during House-Senate negotiations.

    The $34 billion State Department foreign aid bill for 2008 provided several avenues for Democrats to challenge some of President Bush’s policies on Colombia and Cuba, with the administration and its backers scoring a victory on Cuba.

    President Bush requested almost $46 million for Cuba democracy programs for the 2008 fiscal year, a five-fold jump from the 2007 level, in keeping with a recommendation by an interagency commission that said the money would help bring democracy to the island.

    Democrats on an appropriations panel that oversees State Department foreign aid bills - chaired by Rep. Nita Lowey of New York - had cut the aid level back to $9 million, arguing there was not enough oversight to ensure the money would be well spent.

    An amendment proposed by Cuban-American Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, to adopt the original Bush funding request passed by a 254-170 vote, with 66 Democrats joining 188 Republicans in support.

    The Cuba bill still requires Senate approval. But the vote “significantly strengthened” Bush’s efforts to get more money for the Cuba programs, Diaz-Balart’s office said in a statement.

    Thursday’s floor debate turned passionate at times. While some lawmakers questioned the Cuba democracy program’s effectiveness, supporters argued Fidel Castro’s illness and the impending transition in Cuba meant the opposition on the island needed more support.

    Each side cited passages from a November General Accountability Office report on the Cuba programs.

    That report said there were management and oversight problems and some instances of abuses, such as the purchase of Godiva chocolates and cashmere sweaters. But it also noted that dissidents were receiving radios, literature, medicine and other needed aid.

    Diaz-Balart said the GAO report never recommended any cuts and the U.S. Agency for International Development had incorporated all the GAO recommendations to improve program oversight.

    He told members he had a letter from prominent Cuban dissidents in support of the programs and said similar programs helped the Eastern European opposition against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

    “Let us not turn our backs on the Cuban internal opposition,” Diaz-Balart said. “They will play a key role in the inevitable democratic transition that is approaching.”

    On Venezuela, the House backed a proposal by Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack that would provide $10 million for the Voice of America to boost its broadcasts to Venezuela.

    “Freedom of the press died in Venezuela on May 27, 2007, when Chavez shut down Radio Caracas Television,” Mack said on the House floor, referring to RCTV, an opposition TV station that was denied its broadcast license, triggering international condemnation.

    The initiative must still clear the Senate but Democrats have given indications they are in no mood to go easy on the Venezuelan leader.

    At a hearing Tuesday, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the influential chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned the Venezuelan leader for visiting “the most reprehensible despots in the world” in North Korea, Iran and Cuba and moving toward “his own brand of authoritarianism.”

    On Colombia, the House was set to approve late Thursday an overall $60 million reduction in Plan Colombia, including a sharp $160 million cut in military aid but adding $101 million in economic and social assistance. Democrats argued a new approach was needed as cocaine production appeared to hold despite an expensive U.S.-led effort to fumigate and eradicate coca crops.


    © 2007, The Miami Herald.

    Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.herald.com

    Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


  8. Follow up post #8 added on June 22, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “There are no political prisoners in Cuba”

    attributed to Fidel Castro and the UN human rights council :-(

    Cuba consulting services

  9. Follow up post #9 added on June 23, 2007 by Ralph

    It is outrageous the ’ akkord” relate to the human rights violations in Cuba and Bielorussia.Cuba has gotten the veredict of culprit of human rights violations since ages,all of them from UN and those were fair ones.Now with
    the situation equal or even worse,UN put out Cuba of the list of countries needing a relator,maybe is b/c Cuba never allowed any relator to enter in
    the Island or for lobby’ money and the support of CHINA-Tianemen-Zimbwawe,Korea(My Goodness me) and the Calderonada.In brief,is time for
    The States and Europe stop paying the burden bills from all those fatty cats.Un is a very desprestigious international body,Kofi was out without being
    punished by his evident embellezments,his son Koyo,no punished too,and more and more and more.But nothing on the scale like this human rights committee.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on July 05, 2007 by Maria

    Viva La Revolucion. Viva Castro.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on July 06, 2007 by Anatasio with 36 total posts

    Maria, perhaps it would be easier for you simply to say:

    Viva la Represion! Viva la Dictadura! Vivan los Asesinos!

    Your mindset is not only perverse, but offensive as well.

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