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Nations should condemn Havana repression

In rare UN vote today on Cuba's rights record, nations should condemn Havana repression

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez told reporters at a press conference in Havana last week that the U.S. amendments shifting the focus of his government's draft UN resolution to Havana's own human rights record were “a political maneuver.”

GENEVA, November 1, 2018 – In today's first UN vote on Cuba's human rights record in over a decade, countries that truly care about the Cuban people "cannot under logic and morality vote for Havana's annual resolution condemning the U.S. embargo, which has some impact on Cubans, without also voting to condemn the regime's gross and systematic violations of their own citizens' most basic human rights, which massively harms the Cuban people," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights group that has been a leading voice at the world body for Cuban dissidents.

Every year Cuba initiates a UN resolution condemning the U.S. for its embargo on Cuba. This year, however, in today's session, the UN will be obliged to also consider new language sponsored by the U.S. that shifts the focus to Cuba’s “complete absence of judicial independence,” “arbitrary arrests and detentions,” as well as its “prohibition on the right to strike,” and denial of “civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information.”

Human rights activists welcomed the new language. “For the first time in more than a decade, the United Nations will today consider a draft resolution focusing on the oppression of the Cuban people by its own dictatorial regime,” said Neuer.

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“The old Commission on Human Rights had a special monitor on Cuba’s rights abuses, but that annual mandate was scrapped in 2006 with the advent of its supposedly improved successor, the Human Rights Council. Ever since, there has been neither a monitor nor a resolution on Cuba, and not even any attempts to adopt them. Therefore, these new amendments mark an important moment, and we hope a majority of member states will rise to the occasion. Failure to adopt today's provisions for human rights victims in Cuba will cast a shadow on the UN’s credibility,” said Neuer.

In 2006, an Australian bid to introduce a similar change to the text, was killed by a Cuban “no action” motion, in a 126-51 vote against the amendment. This year’s U.S. bid may well meet the same fate.

However, if the U.S. amendments are adopted, the Cuban-sponsored resolution would also call on Havana to “end widespread and serious restrictions” on “the right to freedom of expression, opinion, associations and peaceful assembly,” including by “ending the harassment, intimidation and persecution of political opponents, human rights defenders, women’s and minority rights activists, labour leaders, students’ rights activists, journalists, bloggers, social media users, social media page administrators, media workers, religious leaders and lawyers.”

Moreover, the U.S. amendments would have the resolution strongly urge Cuba to “release persons arbitrarily detained for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, to consider rescinding unduly harsh sentences for exercising such fundamental freedoms and to end reprisals against individuals, including for cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.”

Finally, the resolution would call upon Cuba to “launch a comprehensive accountability process in response to all cases of serious human rights violations,” including those involving the Cuban judiciary and security branches, and it would call upon the Government of Cuba to “end impunity for such violations.”

In 2006, Australia’s delegate submitted the first-ever amendment, which would have added an operative paragraph noting that U.S. laws and measures on the embargo “were motivated by valid concerns about the continued lack of democracy and political freedom in Cuba”.

The additional provision would have had the Assembly call on the Cuban Government to release, unconditionally, all political prisoners, cooperate fully with international human rights bodies, respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and comply fully with its obligations under all human rights treaties to which it was a party.


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