Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UN Calls On Cuba To Free Political Prisoners -- Cuba Rejects

UN Calls On Cuba To Free Political Prisoners -- Cuba Rejects

GENEVA -- The U.N. Human Rights Council wrapped up its evaluation of
Cuba's domestic human rights situation on Monday, with Havana's
representatives expressing satisfaction for the acknowledgement of the
social advances made on the communist-ruled island but rejecting calls
to free all of the regime's political prisoners.

Cuban Justice Minister Maria Esther Reus emphasized the "focus of
cooperation and constructive and respectful dialogue" with which the
review of Cuba's situation was conducted and said that her government
accepted 60 of the recommendations presented by assorted countries, that
it will examine another 17 and that it objected to only a few.

The latter correspond to statements and recommendations made by several
European countries, Israel and Canada regarding the curtailment of
freedom of conscience, expression and association, and to the
persecution of people who attempt to exercise them, as well as to the
situation of Cuba's estimated 205 political prisoners.

Reus said that Cuba rejected them because of "their incompatible nature
with the exercise of the right to the free determination of the Cuban
people, because we will not put at risk our sovereignty or the ideals of
the Revolution."

The Havana regime routinely dismisses dissidents as "mercenaries" of the
United States trying to undermine the 50-year-old revolution and the
island's independence.

In general, Reus said that the review of Cuba in the council was "very
positive because there was a respectful exchange, we were permitted to
discuss our experiences and hear the criticism of other delegations."

On the other hand, among the recommendations that Cuba confirmed it will
study and on which it will respond before next June is one to ratify and
implement as soon as possible the U.N. pacts on political and civil
rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.

Also to be studied is a recommendation to adhere to the Rome Statute
creating the International Criminal Court, to issue a standing
invitation to the U.N. human rights rapporteurs to visit the island and
to permit independent observers from other organizations to enter Cuba.

Other recommendations Havana said it will study include: reducing the
number of crimes that carry the death penalty, considering abolishing
capital punishment altogether and establishing a system of review of the
island's prisons by the U.N., among others.

The delegate for Amnesty International in Geneva, Peter Splinter, said
that the "real test" for Cuba will be the manner in which it responds to
that group of recommendations that for the moment it has neither
accepted nor rejected.

He said it was "unfortunate" that Cuba was maintaining its position
rejecting freeing its political prisoners and the calls "to respect
basic human rights," including the rights to freedom of conscience,
expression and association. EFE

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