Cuban resolution poses moral dilemma for the EU
Campaign News | Wednesday, 21 April 2004
Vote will be on April 22
BY MIREYA CASTAÑEDA of Granma International
April 20: FELIPE Pérez Roque, the Cuban foreign minister, affirmed in Havana on April 20 that the resolution "Question of the arbitrary detentions in the area of the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo" is a unique opportunity for a group of countries to show their coherence as defenders of human rights in the world.
Pérez emphasized that the issue is to be debated for the first time in the UN Human Rights Commission (CHR), given that is a matter of major international concern. According to official reports, including one by the Red Cross, the United States is holding 660 prisoners from 40 countries - including minors - who speak 17 different languages, on its Guantánamo Naval Base.
During a well-attended press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pérez gave an update on the progress of this resolution, which was officially presented in Geneva on April 15, under issue 17, Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, with the number L-88.
He announced that Cuban embassies in more than 100 countries had handed out copies of the text, accompanied by an aide-memoir, and that ambassadors from the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and, separately, Latin America, Japan and some European countries had been invited to a meeting in Havana.
Pérez explained that after presenting the resolution to the HRC in due time and in line with all requirements, the Cuban delegation has being following the official mechanism of open consultations on the text. The first was on Monday, April 19, with the participation of 86 delegates from 50 countries, when those from the Netherlands, Iran, Russia and Switzerland spoke.
The second round of consultations took place on Tuesday, April 20, and more than 200 delegates participated. Cuba presented the text L88-Revision 1, with the Swiss and Russian proposals incorporated.
It was known that the British delegation attempted to persuade European Union (EU) countries not to participate in the consultations, Pérez observed (although Portugal, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands did after the group failed to reach a common agreement), with the argument of not lending themselves to Cuba’s game."
Cuba is not playing with the fate and the rights of more than 600 people incarcerated by the United States in Guantánamo, was Pérez’ response.
Given that the European Parliament has already spoken on this scandalous issue of the violation of human rights in Guantánamo, the Cuban delegation in Geneva requested a meeting with the ambassador of Ireland, the country that holds the presidency of the EU during this semester, to ask it to cosponsor the resolution, Pérez explained. However, the response was that no common position existed on the issue and that it had yet to be discussed by foreign ministers. "What is there to discuss when there are reports from the Red Cross and the European Parliament itself?" he asked.
The Cuban foreign minister noted that some countries have communicated to Cuba their close alliance with the United States, "but it seems to us that that is not an argument," he said. "Why does the EU maintain a different attitude when it is a U.S. matter than when it is a matter of Zimbabwe or Belarus, for example? A balanced position must exist, non-discriminatory treatment."
TEXT OF COOPERATION, NOT OF CONDEMNATION
To allow time for consultations, the Cuban delegation requested - and was granted - a postponement on considering the issue until Thursday, April 22.
Pérez reiterated that the resolution presented is not a condemnation of the United States; rather, it is a cooperative text, in which the HRC is only asked to send several of its verification mechanisms, in effect for all countries, to the Guantánamo Naval Base. They include the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture (given allegations that the prisoners have been subject to physical and psychological torture and degrading treatment); the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and magistrates (to verify if it is a fact that after two years the prisoners have not been charged and have no right to defense lawyers or consular visits), and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions.
The High Commissioner is also requested to present a report for the 61st session of the HRC next year.
In his initial statement, Pérez also said that Washington has been qualifying the Cuban resolution as revenge.
"I reject that idea, it is false. Cuba has merely expressed a widespread international concern," and presented the text under Issue 17, in the first place because it has a cooperative approach rather than a punitive one, unlike Issue 9 (under which the anti-Cuban resolution was presented and voted on), and because it is not an issue involving only one country; rather, it involves another 40, including Cuba (the naval base is on its territory).
Likewise, he told Cuban journalists and foreign correspondents that many delegates, including several European ones, have admitted that it is a fundamental issue of human rights, and if the HCR continues acting as if nothing was happening it will fall into a vacuum, and lose all credibility.
They have also acknowledged - he added - Cuba’s role in bringing the issue to debate and the country’s contribution of faultless wording from a legal and technical point of view. "Here it has posed a serious moral dilemma for the EU: either voting in favor of a motion that the United States does not want or invoking its privileged alliance."
BRUTAL PRESSURE FROM THE U.S.
Pérez Roque warned that the United States is employing "brutal pressure" in order to avoid the subject being discussed. It is already known that Washington has threatened those countries that have prisoners at the Naval Base; if they co-sponsor or vote in favor, it will deny them access to their citizens or interrupt the transfer process.
The foreign minister condemned the fact that the U.S. delegation had met with president of the HRC, the Australian ambassador, "who is not known for his impartiality, he even co-sponsored the anti-Cuba motion," in an attempt to find some procedural formula to avoid the matter being discussed, by evoking, secondary considerations.
The minister reiterated that "the hypocrisy and double standards of many countries is under scrutiny" and underlined the fact that to date no country that supported the anti-Cuba resolution has supported the motion on the prisoners at Guantánamo.
THEY ARE STAMMERING, HIDING AND LYING
He mentioned certain cases, for example the EU: "the standard bearer of human rights in small countries," that are studying the resolution at ministry level; Chile had uttered a cryptic phrase, but we understand that after referring to the situation in Guantánamo during the anti-Cuba vote, its delegation is not going to cosponsor resolution or vote.
In terms of Mexico, "we haven’t yet heard what the White House spokesperson has said; Honduras, a country that we were the first to support, has not said how it will vote" (he then recalled how President Maduro had stated that the resolution against Cuba was that of a friend, for which reason we hope that he’ll want to help that close friend right now); Costa Rica, has one standard for the Third World, the case of Cuba and another for the Naval Base; the Dominican Republic has not yet made up its mind, nor has Peru and in Guatemala, the Siglo XXI newspaper has announced that the president has said he will support the Cuban motion."
He added that Sweden had announced it would not support the motion because it intended to have bilateral talks with the United States. "Why don’t they hold bilateral talks with Cuba? Sweden has said that human rights are the cornerstone of its foreign policy, and yet there are Swedish citizens in Guantánamo. In this bilateralism, where does the UN stand? Or the HRC? Or does this only refer to the Third World?
We hope that the EU, Latin America and those countries allied with the United States in persecuting the Third World support the motion, those ones who are now stammering, hiding and lying solely when the resolution is simply about investigating what is occurring at the Naval Base in Guantánamo, and not a condemnatory one, emphasized the Cuban foreign minister.
Pérez Roque answered several questions, including one on China’s position (the nation has announced it is supporting the resolution), another on the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts in Guantánamo (a secondary matter, the fundamental issue being that the United States is illegally holding more than 600 people there).
The minister went on to say that Third World countries are witnessing a pathetic spectacle, that of the accusers being accused; the censors of yesterday now displaying desperate gestures so that the situation in Guantánamo will not be brought before the Human Rights Commission.
Felipe Pérez Roque concluded by saying that hypocrisy is clearly evident at this moment and like the Pharisees in the Bible, the small and meek are unmasking them and will end up throwing them out of the Temple.