Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cuba to invite U.N. torture investigator to visit

Cuba to invite U.N. torture investigator to visit
Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:25pm GMT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba is inviting the U.N. special investigator on
torture to visit the country this year, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez
said on Wednesday.

Perez announced the planned visit of Manfred Novak as he elaborated on
plans for Cuba to testify next month before the U.N. Human Rights
Council on the situation in the Communist-run nation.

"Cuba is a country where in the last 50 years there has not been a
single person ''disappeared'', case of torture nor extrajudicial
execution," Perez said.

For decades Cuba refused to cooperate with the U.N. Human Rights
Commission or receive investigators, claiming they were part of U.S.
efforts to besmirch and undermine the revolution.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission was reorganized into the Human Rights
Council with less western influence in 2007. Cuba has cooperated with
the new body and is a member.

Novak has the title of "Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The U.N. special
rapporteur for food visited Cuba in 2007.

U.N. member governments must present a report on the human rights
situation in their country to the U.N. Human Rights Council every four
years .

Cuba at times imprisons opponents of the one-party state for subversion
and the dissidents charge prison conditions they suffer often amount to
cruel and unusual punishment.

The government labels all opponents as mercenaries working for the
United States and denies charges of unsanitary prison conditions, poor
food, and other abusive treatment.

Elizardo Sanchez, president of the illegal but tolerated Cuban
Commission on Human Rights, said inviting Novak appeared to be a
positive step, but questioned the government's sincerity.

"The visit could be positive if the government is sincere, something
which I do not see at this time," he said.

The group puts the number of political prisoners on the island at 219.

Perez insisted his government was sincere in preparing its human rights
report and inviting the U.N. investigator.

"Cuba has prepared for next month in a serious, broad and participatory
manner that has included nongovernmental organizations," Perez said.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by David Storey)

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