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.
SAME OLD THING
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.
ANOTHER REPORT ON THE SAME ISSUE FROM REUTERS
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)