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Pinocchio And Pacific Patsy’s Double Act at the UN

Pinocchio and Pacific Patsy’s Double Act at the UN Commission on Human Rights

By Julie Webb-Pullman

Well, knock me down with an F-11 if those damn yanquis aren’t back up to their old tricks in Latin America. Not that they ever actually stopped, it was more of a smoko break in the East, slaughtering several hundred thousand innocent Afghanis and blasting the bejesus out of Baghdad, if he ever was there in the first place. But now that everyone on that side of the world completely loathes and despises them (with one notable exception) and the governments of the “Coalition of the Willing” are falling like daisy cutters over Iraq, here they are in the hallowed halls of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, trying to divert attention from their own criminal breaches of human rights (yes, on 13 March 2004 the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan at Tokyo found George Walker Bush guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and omnicide, to mention only three of the seven findings in the judgement…see SCOOP 16/03/04).

And like the playground bully who broke a couple of little kids’ arms but hasn’t got the guts to face the music, the US leaned on weak little Johnny no-mates, and pulled his strings until he obediently went whingeing to mum, or the Commission on Human Rights, bleating on about the illusory wrongs and imaginary transgressions of some innocent bystander. Unlike mothers, who, in common with most civil jurisdictions can quickly make distinctions between genuine complaints and those that are merely frivolous, vexatious, or lacking in substance and dismiss them accordingly, the Commission on Human Rights, year after year since 1987, wastes much valuable time and resources debating the same tired old anti-Cuban tattletales. Sadly, rather than reflecting fact or actuality, they resemble more and more the Christmas present no-one wants, and that every year is re-wrapped and handed on to someone else. Despite the new wrapping, however, the article remains as unwanted and unpopular as ever, and the identity behind the bearer is as clear as if it had ‘Made by Geppetto’ stamped on its ever-growing nose.

This year it’s Honduras’ turn to ‘pass-the-parcel’. That we might just be able to understand, but word is out that it is co-sponsored by New Zealand?!!! Que Linda! Whose dumb idea was this? NZ used to have a reputation for independent foreign policy, for standing up for the truth whatever the cost – they didn’t even join the foray into Iraq, for Allah’s sake. So what’s the story – they missing out on the spoils? The trade deals scored by little Johnnie-across-the-ditch? What’s the carrot being dangled in front of this donkey’s nose?

Pinocchio and the Pacific Patsy aside, one might even be forgiven for thinking that this year at least the Commission on Human Rights would have enough critical work on its plate. Consider the illegal wars waged by the US and others on both countries mentioned above, and the consequent well-documented human rights abuses of their populations, as well as the plethora of abuses of Palestinians’ rights in the last 12 months let alone the last 37 years (even the East Timorese didn’t have to wait THAT long), not to mention the outrageous kidnap and ouster of democratically elected Haitian President Aristide by the US and France, denying Haitians the fundamental right to sovereignty and self-determination, which involves this crazy notion of international respect for the freely and democratically elected government of Haitians’ choice…and the constant and ongoing ‘undermining’ of the similarly freely and democratically elected Venezuelan government (by an enormous majority, to boot) …and the constant and ongoing ‘undermining’ of the similarly freely and democratically elected Cuban government (enjoying even more overwhelming majority support)…which is the point where the US, like a cracked record, gets stuck. Cuba. Castro. Pinko commie bastards who put people before profit. Who not only fed the poor, but gave them free medical care and education as well!!! And it’s contagious! It’s spreading through the continent like an epidemic, this idea that people can freely choose a government that addresses the social and economic inequities that result in 80% of their populations living in abject poverty, with little if any access to the fundamental necessities of life, let alone human rights, while parasitic US corporations and the IMF suck the lifeblood of their economies.

But by crikey, despite more than 45 years of US-supported and/or sponsored terrorism both covert and overt, attempted invasions, biological warfare, an inhumane and illegal blockade, and every method of bribery and corruption known to man, those goddamn Cubans just won’t roll over. But hey, telling porkies in every international forum worked for Iraq – let’s give it another go for Cuba!

Draft Resolution

The first point of their graft resolution, sorry draft resolution, informally translated, “Expresses that the Government of Cuba... should avoid the adoption of measures which could threaten fundamental rights, freedom of expression and the right to due process of its citizens. In this regard, regrets the facts which occurred last year in Cuba in respect to sentencing of political dissidents and journalists, as has been reported by the international news media.”

That rehashed hogwash, which was roundly rejected at last year’s session by a vote of 31 against and 15 for, refers not to the arrests, trial, and sentencing of ‘dissidents’ and ‘journalists’, but that of 75 mercenaries in the pay of the US government, who in contravention of Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were specifically hired to destabilize the Cuban Government - and who in accordance with due process were tried, convicted and sentenced for serving a foreign power. Not for being ‘dissidents’, not for being ‘journalists’, but for their actions in accepting payment from the US Government for activities designed to destabilize and overthrow the legitimate and democratically-elected Cuban Government. And the US does not deny this, but proudly and publicly confirms it! The Director of USAID on 15 January 2004 said that between 1997 and January 2004 they allocated $26 million to finance the creation of an internal opposition in Cuba, and they’ve allocated another $7 million in the 2004 budget. The cheques, the invoices, the payrolls were all produced in court in evidence, and photocopies of many of these documents are widely available, including in the book “Los Dissidentes”. Further, only two of the defendants were actually journalists, and only five had jobs – the rest were unemployed (but for their blood money from the US) and 20% of them had prior convictions, including for rape and homicide. The cream of the US House of Representatives, perhaps, but of the Cuban intelligentsia – I think not!

There we have it – the ‘international news media’ have no apparent difficulty reporting that the US government is funding Cubans (and others) for the purpose of ‘regime-change’ by fair means or foul, but they are seemingly incapable of using the correct terminology when the US mercenaries are sprung by the Government under attack ie ‘dissidents’ and ‘journalists’ rather than ‘opportunistic low-lifes’ – on second thoughts, perhaps ‘journalist’ is the right word - they are applying it according to their own standards…! And who is advising the NZ Government on these matters? I know NZ has had to bring Cuban literacy experts in to teach Maori to read, but surely at least a couple of MFAT employees could be expected to have minimal research skills, and to rely on more than CNN for their evidence!

And what of the Cuban trials? Could the facts get in the way of this folie a deux? Let’s try. Unlike the situation for the detainees held by the US in Guantanamo, no special military or ad hoc courts were set up with appointed judges - all of the defendants exercised their right to be heard at oral trials by regular Cuban judges in regular civil courts. Nearly 3,000 people participated in the 29 trials, including relatives, witnesses, experts, and other citizens. Also unlike Guantanamo, the physical and moral integrity of all defendants has been respected at all times. Coercion, pressure, threat and blackmail were never used to obtain statements and/or confessions from the defendants. Seizures and confiscations of assets were carried out only with a warrant, and after proving their illegal origin.

All of the accused were informed of the charges against them, and all exercised their right to rely on a defense attorney, of which 80% were appointed by the defendants themselves or their relatives. All of the defense attorneys had prior access to the files containing
the charges, unlike the five Cubans imprisoned in the United States, whose lawyers have still not been permitted to see 80% of the supposed evidence against them five years later, even during the appeals process. All of the defendants and their counsels exercised the right to contribute evidence and witnesses in their favor, introducing 28 additional witnesses into the trials, of whom 22 were authorized by the court and gave testimony.

All of the defendants were entitled to appeal the sentences at a higher court, in this case the Supreme Court, and most did. There are still a dozen cases going through the appeal process.

These are all matters of verifiable fact, yet they have NOT been reported…which, given the cosy relationship between the US government and the media magnates, probably explains the curious wording in the draft resolution “…as has been reported by the international news media”. Or maybe it’s because all those poor international journalists are in Cuban jails and can’t write their stories! Yeah, right…But that does not excuse NZ’s abject failure to acquaint themselves with such minor details as the evidence, including the Cuban Constitution, before rushing in.

The second paragraph of the draft resolution almost made me wet myself – with petrol, and a lighted match. Get this - “Expresses its hopes that the Government of Cuba will… put into place measures with the objective of facilitating the transition toward the establishment of a fruitful dialogue with all the currents of thought and organized political groups in its society, despite the precarious international environment, with the objective of promoting the full development of democratic institutions and civil liberties."

That eerily echoes the objectives of the so-called “Commission of Assistance to a Free Cuba,” a US governmental commission led by Secretary of State Colon Powell, which has just two objectives: to expedite the end of the Cuban Government and materialise what they call the “transition towards democracy”. It sits nicely with George W Bush’s statement to an assortment of Miami terrorists and sycophants in the Rose Garden on 10 October last year that "The Cuban regime is not going to change on its own, but Cuba must change", and the USAID contribution outlined above. Article 17 of the Vienna Declaration states "The acts, methods and practices of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations …are activities aimed at…threatening territorial integrity, security of States and destabilizing legitimately constituted Governments…". Now, I realise George W is dyslexic, and incredibly stupid, and as such is probably deserving of sympathy and understanding from a more generous person than myself, and I realise that NZ has a serious literacy problem, but what are they missing here! Having unsuccessfully poured more than the annual gross national product or several developing nations into trying to create ‘organized political groups’ in Cuba to destabilize its legitimately constituted government, George is now pulling the strings on his Boy of Wood and Pacific Patsy to get the Commission on Human Rights to demand that Cuba establish a ‘fruitful dialogue’ with these terrorists!!! What Member State of the Commission on Human Rights could be so irrational as to vote in a manner so clearly contrary to the Vienna Declaration??!!

That Declaration also says, “democracy is based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives”. Not for George W to determine, not Colon Powell (yes, the mis-spelling is deliberate – they’re both full of shit), nor Rumsfeld nor Cheney, but for the people of Cuba, of Iraq, of Haiti, of Venezuela to determine.

Cuba’s Participatory Democracy

Cuba is a democracy - although it is a ‘one-party’ state, that party is not a political party in the traditional sense. It is not an electoral party, and it does not decide on the formation or composition of the Government. In fact it is not only forbidden to nominate candidates, but it is also forbidden to be involved in any stage of the electoral process.

Although it is probably not to be found in the ‘international news media’, even a cursory reading of the Cuban Constitution will demonstrate that Cuba’s electoral process has all of the hallmarks demanded by ‘democracy’, and more. Cuba holds periodic elections, and observes universal suffrage, and secret ballot. In addition, the voting age is 16, and there is direct nomination of candidates by the citizenry (as distinct from party-selected candidates). All candidates have the same public exposure, the only ‘campaign’ advertising allowed being publication of a biography listing their qualities and history. Candidates must receive over 50% of the vote to be elected, and there is a ‘deputy’ elected for every 20,000 voters. There are several levels of representation, from Municipal Assemblies to Provincial Assemblies to the National Assembly. Every Municipal Territory is represented in The National Assembly, which in turn elects the Council of State. The President of the Council of State is the Head of State and Head of Government. The Cuban Head of State and Government must go through two elections - he or she must first be elected as a deputy by the population in their electoral jurisdiction, and then by the National Assembly, both being free, secret and direct ballots requiring the candidate to exceed 50% of votes cast. Further, since the National Assembly is the Supreme Organ of State Power and since the legislative, executive and judicial branches are subordinated to it, the President cannot dissolve it. So much for being a totalitarian dictatorship! And there has been over 95% turn-out in every election held since 1976.

A more direct and participatory democracy than Cuba’s is difficult to find anywhere in the world, and in terms of the Vienna Declaration, there can be no doubt that the Cuban people have been, and continue to be, able to freely express their will to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and to participate fully in all aspects of their lives - except as they are impinged on by the effects of the illegal and immoral blockade imposed by the US…and mischievous machinations such as this.

Cuba may not be perfect – nowhere is – but hey, I’d like to know just which ‘democratic institutions’ and ‘civil liberties’ they’re promoting in this draft resolution! Maybe that shining example of democratic representation, the UN Security Council, with its elitist ‘permanent members’ and power of veto? Maybe the US electoral system where the loser gets to be President? Maybe those other illustrious US institutions such as the State Department, the FBI, the CIA and their respectful attitudes to human rights, self-determination and sovereignty in Chile, Nicaragua, Granada, Panama, Colombia, Haiti, Marshall Islands, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba and others too numerous to list? And civil liberties – well, we just can’t go past those at Guantanamo, or throughout the US if you happen to be Muslim – oh, but I forget the rider that some States have been obliged to intensify security measures (now, why is it okay for the US to act on ‘perceived’ threats to their national security, yet it is a breach of human rights for Cuba to act on flagrant and publicly funded and announced violations of theirs???!!!)

What about the civil liberties of several billion people around the world, including in the US, unable to participate meaningfully in most forms of civil life because they are functionally illiterate, or too sick, or both? Or completely marginalised because of their race, their gender, their HIV status? Or living in refugee camps, or failed states such as the Solomon Islands? Or in Haiti, Iraq or Afghanistan? Or maybe they could try being children in care of the New Zealand Department of Children, Youth and Families, if they really want the high life. They just don’t know how good they’ve got it compared to those poor suffering Cubans with their monthly rations, their guaranteed housing and jobs, their free healthcare and education, their vibrant social and cultural life!

The third paragraph is a real last ditch doozy, and the clearest indication of the paucity of their evidence – it is a matter of public record that Cuba has continuously co-operated with the Commission on Human Rights. Let’s just look at the facts:

  • - In September 1988, at the invitation of the Cuban government, a Mission headed by the President and five other members of the Commission on Human Rights went to Cuba to observe the human rights situation there, and report back to the Commission. Their report clearly stated that there was no human rights situation in Cuba to justify the establishment of a special monitoring procedure.
  • - In 1989, following decision 1989/113, Cuba expressed its willingness to continue cooperating with the United Nations Secretary General in following up on the recommendations included in the Mission’s Report.
  • - In 1994, Cuba was one of the first countries to invite, and be visited by, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mr. José Ayala Lasso.
  • - In 1995 on the invitation and with the support of the Cuban government, a delegation of non-governmental organisations, including France Liberté, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Doctors of the World, and Human Rights Watch visited Cuba and achieved all its goals, including visits to several jails and meetings with prisoners in whom they were interested.
  • - In 1998 Cuba extended two invitations to the Commission’s Special Rapporteurs on the use of mercenaries and on violence against women. Both went to Cuba in 1999.
  • - The Cuban government has always responded promptly and fully to requests for information about alleged violations of human rights, through the different procedures and mechanisms of the Commission, as well as the mechanism set in place by Social, Economic and Social Council’s resolution 1503. Cuba has met, as few other countries have, its commitments to submit periodic reports to the bodies set up under international human rights treaties.
  • - Cuba has ratified a significant number of international instruments relating to human rights, and is State party to 15 of the 26 most important. The US, by contrast, is one of only two countries in the world not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and unlike the other, Somalia, the US has no intention to ratify it, not least because it was one of only two countries in 2003 to apply the death penalty to a child.
  • Not only has Cuba complied with the purposes and principles which govern the Charter of the United Nations, it has far exceeded many of the goals set out by various UN bodies, such as UNESCO, WHO, and UNICEF. In addition it has participated meaningfully in many multilateral efforts such as regarding the use of mercenaries, and to prevent drug trafficking. Cuba has also assisted numerous other developing and developed countries, including New Zealand, in trying to meet UN goals, and is renowned for its work in the prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Unlike the US, whose most significant exports are exploitation, suffering, war, and terror, Cuba’s exports are doctors, teachers, vaccines, and hope. What insanity induced NZ to hitch their human rights horse to the US hearse??!! We deserve answers, and fast.

    Demonising Cuba in the Human Rights Commission is a cynical replay of the lies told about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq. This resolution is the testing of the international waters for the traditional resort of US 'florid' policy – the mandatory election-year invasion (Haiti doesn’t count – no-one noticed…let alone did anything. Besides, the US needs a base for the next step – have you noticed which two countries are right next door? Yes, Cuba and Venezuela….)

    The citizens of Member States, and the citizens of the world, have the reasonable expectation, if not the right, to expect the work of the Commission on Human Rights to be conducted in good faith, efficiently, transparently, and without fear or favour. Its resolutions should be based on verifiable evidence, and its resources should not be squandered on spurious and self-serving allegations, manipulations, and untruths. The citizens of New Zealand have a right to expect that their Government’s actions, especially in international fora, are evidence-based and themselves in keeping with the principles of the UN Charter, most fundamentally being respect for the self-determination and sovereignty of all countries, and everything that this entails.

    This facile piece of mischief masquerading as a Draft Resolution against Cuba should be disposed of forthwith and the Members of the Commission on Human Rights should get down to the urgent and critical work literally screaming for their attention in Haiti, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, for starters.

    **** ENDS ****

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