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Cuba: The State of Human Rights

The recent request for information by the United NationsCommittee Against Torture with regard to alleged human rights abuses in Cuba has got bloggers talking.

Diaspora blogger Uncommon Sense said that despite the fact that “the United Nations has far from a pristine history when it comes to holding the Castro dictatorship accountable for its 50-plus years of repression…the UN's Committee Against Torture deserves applause…” Why, exactly? For causing the Cuban government to deny that anyone “has been persecuted or sanctioned for exercising their rights, including those of free expression and association” – to which the blogger responded:

No one, except the thousands of political prisoners, past and present, who have languished in the Castro gulag because they exercised the rights given to them by God.
No one, except the activists who every day risk what little liberty they enjoy to ensure that one day they and their successors enjoy those rights freely.
No one, except those Cubans, like Zapata and Villar, who were permanently silenced, who were murdered by the Castro regime because of the threat that they, and their commitment to those rights, posed to the dictatorship's survival.
That one of the dictatorship's flunkies would stand before the world and deny the undeniable, is evidence enough that whatever action the UN takes against Cuba as result of the latest inquiry, the Castros live in fear that their time is up.

The Cuban government's position is at loggerheads with two different reports, one by the U.S. State Department and the other by Amnesty International, about the human rights situation on the island. Havana Times blogged about Amnesty's findings, reporting that:

According to Amnesty, the Cuban government continued its ‘repression’ on freedom of expression, association and assembly with hundreds of arrests and brief detentions, although it freed the last 11 prisoners of conscience who had been held since 2003, as well as another 62 ‘political prisoners,’ some of whom had been in jail since the 1990s.

The NGO human rights defender, which hasn’t been allowed to enter the country since 1990, also expressed its opposition to the US embargo and highlighted the negative impact the measure has on the health of the Cuban population, especially marginalized groups.

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, meanwhile, addressed “two (of the many) misstatements by the Castro regime at the Committee Against Torture”:

First false statement, the claim that “the persons mentioned in these questions and the rest of the list of questions are supposed ‘human rights defenders', do not qualify as established in the The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations” on December 9, 1998 citing article 3.

The Cuban Black Spring of 2003 in which the majority of the organizers of the Varela Project, an initiative that sought to reform the current Cuban constitution to bring it into line with international human rights obligations, were imprisoned and sentenced in summary trials to up to 28 years in prison for engaging in a legal right recognized by the Constitution. The claims made by Rafael Pino Bécquer are demonstrated as patently false by the above mentioned crackdown and the numerous cases of dissidents being imprisoned with the sole purpose of the dictatorship enforcing political conformity.

Second false statement, the regime's representative claims that the facts have been misrepresented in order to serve a shadowy conspiracy. At the same time the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture was formally invited by the regime on January 28, 2009 and to the present day the dictatorship has not agreed on a date for the visit. International human rights organizations have requested permission to visit the island and be able to study the situation on the ground to be able to arrive at their own conclusions on the human rights situation, but the Cuban regime has denied them all permission to visit the island. Human rights organizations are relying on reports from human rights groups operating inside and outside of Cuba that are slandered and libeled by the dictatorship.

The United Nations and human rights watchdog organisations may be waiting for answers, but diaspora bloggers continue to highlight instances of persecution and repression.

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