Amnesty International criticises US for the way it uses the UN Human Rights Commission
Campaign News | Monday, 25 April 2005
US relationship with Cuba is having a negative influence, says report
By Joel Wendland of Political Affairs mgazine
Geneva April 24: In its assessment of the 61st Session of the UN Commission Human Rights (UNCHR), international human rights organization Amnesty International criticized the undue influence of the US relationship with Cuba on the overall work of the commission.
In a press statement Amnesty's UN representative Peter Splinter said, "The highly politicized relationship between Cuba and the USA continued to have a negative influence on the Commission." In fact, the positive work of the commission, in Amnesty's view, was overshadowed by this tension between Cuba and the US.
Splinter referred to a resolution sponsored by the US that called for investigations of the situation of human rights in Cuba. The resolution, motivated purely by the Bush administration’s animosity for the island country, passed by a narrow margin.
Splinter also addressed the resolution proposed by Cuba calling for a special examination of the situation of US prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay by a representative of the UNCHR. This resolution was not adopted.
The UNCHR's 61st session closed on April 22nd without specifically addressing the atrocities occurring in any US-run prison in Cuba, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
An official statement by the Cuban Government pointed to the economic, political and military power of the US over key states on the commission that pushed both resolutions to an outcome favored by the US. The Bush administration resorted to "intimidation and blackmail" to get what it wanted from the commission.
To date, the US has refused to respond to a UNCHR request made last year to visit the detention facilities to verify reports about the treatment of prisoners held there. Despite the failure to respond, a US representative to the UNCHR, Lino Piedra, told the media that the previous UNCHR request to visit Guantanamo Bay made the Cuban resolution redundant.
He couldn’t deny the fact of human rights violations at US-prison facilities Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Piedra did not mention when UN representatives would be allowed to visit.
Joanna Weschler of Human Rights Watch (HRW) chided the international community for its timidity on holding the US to account for torture and other atrocities in its facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan. "The international community should not shy away from addressing the issue of the legality and treatment of detainees held by the United States at Guantánamo," said Weschler. "The United States should grant the UN special rapporteurs access to Guantánamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan and other detention locations."
Cuba presented a similar resolution in 2004 about the Guantanamo detainees, but withdrew it when some European countries requested it do so.
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According to Havana, "At that time, the evidence we have today, on the flagrant and systematic violations of human rights of the detainees at the illegal Guantanamo Base, was not available. There are over 500 prisoners from more than 40 countries, including Europeans and even minors, and it was not known that apparently it was this facility where the methods of torture, later extended to other US detention centers located outside its territory, were first tested."
Cuba also accused the European Union delegation for failing to abide by instructions ordered by the European Parliament, which passed a resolution in October of 2004 that "requested the government of the United States to allow an impartial and independent investigation on the allegations of torture and mistreatment of all persons deprived of their freedom and under their custody." This resolution also instructed the European Union to present a draft resolution on this issue to the 61st session of the UNCHR.
The EU delegation failed to do so and voted against the only resolution on the issue of torture addressed specifically to the United States and the infamous atrocities that have taken place in its prison facilities.
The EU's decision came quickly after the US circulated a document expressing its opposition to the Guantanamo resolution
Cuba described the US political maneuvering as an attempt by the Bush administration to prevent the world from truly understanding what is happening at Guantanamo Bay.
One Cuba diplomat in Geneva added that torture and mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay is not the work of a "few bad apples" but of the official policy of the administration.
Both Amnesty and HRW criticized Cuba for announcing its refusal to abide by the US-sponsored resolution. Their criticisms, however, failed to reference the disparity of power wielded by the US and the enormous pressure put on other countries to support its wishes.
Human rights groups and the Cuban government agreed that the outcomes of this session make reforming this important commission imperative if it is to maintain credibility.
Joel Wendland can be reached at email@example.com.
Scandalous EU vote in Geneva reflects an inability to form its own policy
Statement by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Havana April 21: THIS morning, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Geneva voted on the draft resolution “Question of Detainees in the Area of the United States Naval Base in Guantánamo”, which was submitted by Cuba last 14 April 2005.
The result of the voting of such text, 8 votes to 22 with 23 abstentions, is further proof of the hypocrisy and double standard prevailing in the CHR, which our country has publicly and repeatedly denounced.
As usual, the United States government resorted to intimidation and blackmail to prevent the adoption of this draft resolution.
Thus, that government tried to silence international outrage in the face of the horrendous photographs of tortures in Abu Ghraib and other U.S. detention centers, the revealing testimonies of detainees and of other persons who have had access to them, and the outery and condemnation of personalities from every walk of life, of parliaments, international organizations, NGOs and the world public opinion.
It will be recalled that Cuba presented a draft resolution on this issue to the Commission on Human Rights last year. Then, we did not insist on putting it to the vote, mainly at the request of the European Union.
But at that time, the evidence we have today, on the flagrant and systematic violations of human rights of the detainees at the illegal Guantánamo Base, was not available. There are over 500 prisoners from more than 40 countries, including Europeans and even minors, and it was not known that apparently it was this facility where the methods of torture, later extended to other U.S. detention centers located outside its territory, were first tested.
Neither was it known that such system of torture had been officially sanctioned at the highest levels of the U.S. government and legally justified by a decision written in the White House by the present U.S. Attorney General.
The scandalous vote in bloc against this resolution by the countries of the European Union is an additional indication of their submission to the U.S. government and of their inability to pursue a policy of their own, even in an issue on which their respective public opinions, the European Parliament and their national parliaments have demanded a strong European position in condemning such practices.
For example, the Resolution adopted on 28 October 2004 by the European Parliament not only requested the government of the United States to allow an impartial and independent investigation on the allegations of torture and mistreatment of all persons deprived of their freedom and under their custody, but also instructed the Member States of the European Union to present a draft resolution on this issue to the present session of CHR.
Hence, it was to be expected that the abovementioned Cuban draft resolution would have been well received, at least by the Member Countries of the European Union which, not having presented their own text, as their Parliament had requested, should have co-sponsored the Cuban initiative or, at least, voted in favor.
The Cuban delegation held three rounds of consultation on our draft resolution, attended by EU delegations, where their support was requested. In addition, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed our ambassadors to call on European Foreign Ministries to ask for their co-sponsorship and their vote in favor on this significant issue.
However, several countries did not even receive our ambassadors and the Foreign Ministries of others intentionally scheduled the meeting at a date after the vote in Geneva. In no case did we have a positive response. What our diplomats received were only evasive answers - at times courteous, at times disdainful and, even, many times with shame.
More than one official of European Foreign Ministries, when asked the reason for their unwillingness to support the Cuban draft, responded that the European policy consisted of “defending their interests while not opposing the United States”. The extreme was that an European officer, seemingly furious, told a Cuban ambassador that Cuba was to blame for the “situation created” in Geneva, in obvious reference to the fact that European countries did not know what to do, faced with the quandary of upsetting the United States or confronting their own public opinion.
The truth is that not a single EU country member of the CHR co-sponsored the resolution as had been requested from them. The EU surrendered yesterday morning, as denounced by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz on his TV appearance last night and agreed to vote against the Cuban draft in bloc, in spite of the protest by EU countries not members of the CHR, which - by not having to vote - argued for a vote of abstention as it would not risk US retaliation.
But the worst is that some of them actively worked in African, Asian and Latin American capitals and even in the meeting room in Geneva, in close coordination with U.S. diplomats, to prevent the adoption of the Cuban draft resolution.
The Cuban draft resolution calls on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Enjoy Physical and Mental Health and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers - CHR mechanisms which the United States itself considers impartial and universal - to determine, on the field, the truth of the serious charges being brought against the U.S. government for its acts in violation of the human rights and dignity of their Guantánamo prisoners.
Our people, like hundreds of millions of citizens worldwide, have legitimate concerns over what is happening at the U.S.-usurped Guantánamo Naval Base. We will not be held back by the fact that the offender is the one that continuously presents draft resolutions against our country at the Commission on Human Rights, which in an unjustified, selective, discriminatory and politized manner, attempt to accuse us of being violators of human rights, and being used as a pretext to maintain and reinforce the economic, commercial and financial blockade and to create conditions that would justify a possible aggression against Cuba.
Cuba has more than enough moral authority and sense of justice to face the resolution against our country, co-sponsored and supported by the European Union and other satellites in the Imperial orbit, without having to resort sophistry of any kind;. Cuba has more than enough gallantry to openly present its opinions and proposals, and to request an investigation of what has already become an affront that shakes the conscience of mankind.
Our moral standing is based on the undisputable fact that political assassinations, disappearances, extra-judicial executions, death squads, torture, humiliation and mistreatment of detainees have never existed in revolutionary Cuba, neither during our hard struggle for the final liberation of our people, nor during the 45 years elapsed since the triumph of the Revolution.
In all, it is not a surprise for Cuba that our draft resolution was not adopted at this bureaucratic vote of the CHR. It was expected that EU countries and some others - with their proverbial hypocrisy and double standard - would fail to overcome their dependency on the United States, to have justice prevail, and to demonstrate their much-ballyhooed concern for the respect of human rights worldwide.
The countries that voted against the Cuban draft resolution today have been exposed and have become direct and public accomplices to the tortures, humiliations and violations of the human rights of the persons illegally detained, including some of their own citizens, at the US Guantánamo Naval Base and elsewhere.
With this vote, we have fulfiled the valuable objective of putting an end to the impunity hidden behind pretense and complicit silence regarding torture.
It has been proven that the Commission on Human Rights is beyond cure. UN Member States, in order to build a totally different and universal body that is truly at the service of the noble cause of human rights, cooperation and dialogue, will have to avoid the danger that the reform of the CHR does not give birth to a worse creature.
Our people will never give up its struggle and will persist in its denounciation of the crimes committed by the ruling fascist clique in the United States.
With a greater morale than ever, Cuba will redouble its struggle in the defense of justice, rightness and ethics in favor of the attainment, by all the citizens of the planet, of the enjoyment of all human rights.
Havana, 21 April 2005
Human Rights Commission rejects Cuba’s call for Guantanamo probe
Geneva April 21: The UN Human Rights Commission rejected Cuba’s call to launch a probe into the US mistreatment of detainees at its detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.
The 53-state body rejected the resolution by 22 votes to 8, with 23 other members abstaining.
Nations who backed Cuba’s call were China, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sudan, Malaysia, Guatemala and Mexico.
The rejected resolution stressed the "serious concern" expressed by UN experts about the conditions for Gunatanamo detainees.
It would have demanded the US to "to authorize an impartial and independent fact-finding mission" to the naval base in eastern Cuba.
Juan Antonio Fernandez, the Cuban delegate who proposed the resolution, expressed disappointment in the EU members for siding with the US in rejecting the move.
"Not even one of them dared to challenge the threat of the hegemonic superpower," he said.
Former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, head of the U.S. delegation, welcomed the decision, claiming that the United States is “a leader in human rights,"
Dutch ambassador Ian de Jong, speaking for the EU, said that an independent probe is not needed because the U.S. was already in discussions with the UN about allowing special rights investigators to visit Guantanamo.
The United States holds over 540 detainees at Guantanamo. Some UN fact-finders are seeking the U.S. permission to visit the military base, and question the detainees there as part of a series of wide-ranging, international human rights investigations.
But the U.S. prevents human rights officials from accessing the naval base.
Only members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as officials from U.S.-ally countries, have been allowed to see the detainees, often under the U.S. supervision.
From Cuba's Daily Granma:
European Union pressured for vote against an investigation into the situation of prisoners in Guantánamo
BY GUSTAVO BECERRA
THE European Union has voted against a resolution presented by Cuba in the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, asking for an impartial and independent investigation into the status of prisoners of the United States on its illegally occupied Guantánamo base on Cuban territory.
The Cuban resolution received the backing of Belarus, Syria, Malaysia, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of Korea while, in addition to the EU countries, the United States, Peru, Honduras, Costa Rica, India, Canada and Romania voted against it. There were 23 abstentions.
The previous day, President Fidel Castro condemned the hypocritical attitude of the EU in relation to its position on human rights and cited reports from the Madrid Digital publication, which indicated that the European bloc used pressure so that the Cuban resolution at the HRC would not be passed.
According to the Spanish publication, the European Union and countries from the former Eastern Europe socialist bloc pressured delegations from the developing nations on that Commission to prevent the resolution, which raises questions about the detainees on the US naval base in Guantánamo, from being considered and thereby avoid calling the US government into question.
Cuba had presented a second version of the resolution that is not as encompassing as its initial one. The new version merely requests the United States to authorize an impartial and independent commission, comprised of representatives of four HRC permanent agencies, to identify the situation of persons deprived of their liberty in Guantánamo. Based on that investigation, the resolution requested that the HRC High Commissioner prepare a report with the results of the investigation, to be presented to the Commission next year.
During his special presentation on Wednesday (April 20), in which he continued exposing the unsanctioned presence of terrorist Posada Carriles and his accomplices in the United States, Fidel recalled how last year, the EU virtually got down on its knees and begged Cuba not to put it in the difficult position of having to vote against the United States, and Cuba decided to withdraw the resolution. “But this time, it isn’t going to be like that,” he stated, and the Europeans are confirming their extremely sad role as reptilian states toward, joined by others in Latin American such as Honduras and Guatemala.
Last Friday, April 15, the United States publicly asked in the HRC for the resolution to be withdrawn, claiming its inadmissibility, timelessness and lack of support.
Fidel also characterized the known position of the HRC member countries in relation to the resolution. He condemned the lack of ethics, embarrassing conduct and nature of countries referred to as independent, noble and good, and highlighted their hypocritical concern for human rights, progress and democracy. He once again condemned the pretentiousness of what he called “the misnamed European Union,” which is attempting to send “envoys” to Cuba to pass judgment on the situation of human rights while ignoring the situation in nations such as Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
He indicated that illiteracy, a scourge that had virtually disappeared in Nicaragua, is currently affecting 30% of the population, and recalled that the death squads are back in power in El Salvador committing terrible crimes, matters that should be recalled to feel repugnance of the hypocrisy of that system, he affirmed.
EU refuses to condemn states that torture
BRUSSELS April 19 - Last Friday, the European Commission (EC) stated that the European Union (EU) would not be sponsoring the Cuban resolution before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva concerning the situation at the Guantánamo naval base.
At a press conference, Kristina Nagy, spokesperson for the European institution, stated in response to a question from Notimex, that "the European Union does not intend" to sponsor the said resolution, nor does it intend to do so in the future.
On Thursday, April 14, the EU co-sponsored a US resolution against Cuba in Geneva.
In that context, the day before Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque had referred to the European Union decision to support the US resolution against Cuba as "hypocritical" and "pathetic."
The situation between the EU and Cuba is once again tense, after a certain rapprochement between the two sides with an agreement to resume a political dialogue.
Political dialogue between Cuba and the European Union was frozen in the wake of the prison terms handed down to 75 Cubans who were engaging in activities against their own country under US instructions during 2003. The EU condemned the measure and imposed diplomatic sanctions on Cuba in June 2003.
In January 2005 the European Union decided to temporarily lift the diplomatic sanctions imposed on Cuba, but under pressure from Czechoslovakia - in its turn acting on behalf of the U.S. - has confirmed that it is to reconsider them in July.
In response, Foreign Minister Pérez Roque has made the Cuban conditional on the position that the EU takes in July.
At the same time an EFE cable reports that Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spanish minister of foreign affairs, has defended Europe’s support for the resolution condemning Cuba brought before the UN Human Rights Commission.
In a press conference after meeting with Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, Moratinos spoke out in favor of "continuing to work with the Cuban authorities" and evaded any direct response to the Cuban foreign minister’s criticisms on EU support for the US resolution it cosponsored.
Relations with Cuba was one of the issues addressed by Moratinos in his meeting with Rice after which the Spanish minister highlighted the secretary of state’s satisfaction at the joint sponsorship of the resolution before the UN Human Rights Committee.
Cuba calls on the EU to cosponsor a resolution to protect US prisoners in Guantánamo
BY MIREYA CASTAÑEDA -Granma International staff writer-
Havana April 16: CUBA has called on the European Union (EU) to cosponsor a resolution demanding an investigation into the human rights situation on the US naval base in Guantánamo.
Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said that he expects the EU to give its backing to this resolution in the same way as it did to the US anti-Cuba one in the Human Rights Commission (HRC). Citizens of the EU and other countries have suffered terrible torture after being imprisoned for several years without trial or legal assistance on that naval base that the U.S. illegally occupies in Guantánamo, southeastern Cuba.
The foreign minister affirmed that the approval of a US resolution against Cuba in Geneva was possible only because of the brutal pressure brought to bear on HRC member countries.
During a press conference, Pérez Roque extensively analyzed the voting process, and immediately announced that a resolution titled The question of detainees on the United States Naval Base area in Guantánamo has already been registered with the General Secretariat.
As he began his nearly one-hour presentation, the Cuban minister stated that the United States used force to impose the spurious resolution (21 for, 17 against and 15 abstentions), and discussed some of the situations surrounding the vote.
First, he explained, the U.S. successfully pressured Saudi Arabia, a country that in 2004 voted against the resolution and this year voted in favor. It is known - he commented - that the crown prince is to be received on April 24 at President Bush’s ranch.
The Ukraine is the second country to radically change its vote (against in 2004 and for this year). "Everyone knows," the foreign minister said, "that the new Ukrainian president recently traveled to Washington, where he promised in writing to support the United States in its campaigns against Cuba and Belarus."
"But it was in Africa," Pérez Roque emphasized, "where Washington really went for the jugular, exploiting the grave economic and social situations confronted by those countries to get some of those who voted "no" in 2004 to change their votes via brutal pressure and threats. (Burkina Faso, Togo and Swaziland, which voted against in 2004, abstained this year).
The foreign minister provided some examples - without mentioning countries by name - of these mostly economic pressures: threats by the U.S. to close its doors to imports of cotton and deny legal benefits giving lower tariff access to US markets.
"But what is really impressive," Pérez Roque noted, "is that nine African countries held firm and voted "no," and Eritrea (which abstained in 2004) joined that "no" vote."
With respect to Asia, he referred to the case of Pakistan, "involved in a complex geopolitical situation," and added that after seven years of voting in Cuba’s favor, Pakistan decided to abstain.
From that part of the world, some of the outstanding "no" votes were issued by China, India and Indonesia. If the number of inhabitants in those countries are taken into account, the minister said, the greater part of the Earth is on Cuba’s side.
Continuing his analysis, Pérez Roque emphasized that the so-called "Latinamericanization" failed in Geneva, given that the voting itself reflected changes taking place in that region: "Thus, not one single Southern Cone country - for the first time - voted in favor of the resolution." Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay were joined in abstaining by Peru and the Dominican Republic, which he qualified as positive gestures.
He then reviewed Central America, with the traditional "yes" votes by Costa Rica and Honduras, adding that it could not be overlooked that once again, the Mexican government, in voting for the resolution, had opted for confrontation and had betrayed the fraternal and generous ties between the two peoples.
He recalled that the Mexican Senate, non-governmental organizations and public opinion had asked the government for a rectification. "To the Mexican people, we express our gratitude for their support," he said, commenting that the latter are not being represented because "other interests prevailed."
The Mexican government, Pérez Roque noted, negotiated the vote against Cuba in the interest of obtaining the OAS General Secretariat.
The minister judged that the Mexican government is reflecting on its isolation in Latin America and is moving against the winds of integration that are blowing across the continent. "Mexico is crossing the border of the Rio Grande, heading north."
A large part of Pérez Roque’s presentation was dedicated to the case of the European Union, which "with the to-date unprecedented co-sponsorship en bloc of the resolution, has once again bowed to US anti-Cuba policy," in an attitude that he qualified as capitulative and servile, and behavior that is hypocritical, which shows the EU’s inability to formulate its own policy towards the island.
He reviewed the dialogue that was beginning to develop between Cuba and the EU, but - he affirmed - "with this act of co-sponsoring the resolution, and others, the EU is renouncing its own interests, subordinating itself to the United States, and once again choosing the road of confrontation instead of dialogue, as the junior and accomplice of US policy.
The foreign minister explained that Washington was obliged - after six years - to present its resolution personally, because no other country would do so.
In analyzing the en bloc vote, he pointed out that in the HRC (comprised of 53 countries), the majority (32) rejected a "yes" vote on the resolution, either voting "no" or abstaining.
Likewise, he emphasized, in order to get another 20 countries to join it, Washington had to give up on condemning Cuba; it had to make concessions in order to reach a final text, which Pérez Roque described as a "deceitful, discriminatory and interventionist" document that maintains the unjustified monitoring of the island and achieves the goal of keeping the Cuba issue in the HRC.
"Frankly and clearly, I say that Cuba does not acknowledge the legitimacy of this resolution, and will not cooperate with it," given that it considers it illegitimate. Thus the mandate of the high commissioner is likewise illegitimate, and his or her entry will not be admitted.
To culminate his press conference, the foreign minister announced that on April 14, Cuba registered a resolution with the General Secretariat of the HRC in Geneva titled: The question of detainees in the United States Naval Base area in Guantánamo. The resolution seeks an in situ investigation; requests entry for the UN rapporteurs on arbitrary detention and on torture, the right of all persons to enjoy the highest possible level of physical and mental health, and the independence of judges and lawyers; requests that a report be drafted on those detained, and asks that the resolution be reconsidered during the 62nd session of the HRC next year.
Pérez Roque added that Cuba is officially requesting the European Union to cosponsor and vote in favor of this resolution, in order to be consistent with its concern for human rights regarding this issue that has universal ethical implications.
"Given the seriousness of the situation," Pérez Roque warned, "we guarantee that whatever the case, we will bring this resolution to a vote.
The foreign minister stated that the U.S. is presenting the liberation of the people as a reason for changing a country’s regime. "However," he warned, "Voting is one thing but attacking Cuba is another, because it would be at an incalculable cost.
VOTING BY COUNTRY ON US-EU RESOLUTION
FOR (21): Armenia, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom, United States,
AGAINST (17): China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Zimbabwe.
ABSTENTIONS (15): Argentina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Bhutan, Ecuador, Gabon, Mauritania, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Togo, Paraguay.
EU talks in jeopardy
HAVANA, April 14 (Xinhuanet) - Cuba said on Thursday that the open dialogue with the European Union (EU) is "on the brink of ruin", after the approval of a statement against the island country at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, presented by the United States and co-sponsored by the bloc.
Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque rated as "pathetic, failing and subservient" the role of the EU, at a press conference in Havana.
The commission passed the US proposal on Cuba by a 21-17 vote with 5 abstentions, renewing resolutions from previous years condemning the country's human rights record.
Perez Roque said the EU has joined again in the "aggressive policy" of Washington against the island.
"Its performance has been hypocritical and their alignment with the United States against the small countries like Cuba is a shame," he said.
He also referred to the "incapacity" of the EU to adopt an independent policy toward the Caribbean nation, saying: "it is an economic giant but a dwarf in terms of political influence."
Cuba had "unfrozen" the European embassies in Havana and proposed a dialogue on human rights and trade, but now it "will carefully analyze in the immediate future the evolution of the stances and actions of the EU" to decide whether to continue these actions, according to Perez Roque.