US trying to block Cuba from UN Human Rights council

Campaign News | Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Campaign aimed at stopping Cuba from becoming member of new body

MEXICO CITY, April 15 - The United States government is carrying out a campaign to prevent Cuba from entering the UN Human Rights Council, the Mexican daily La Jornada revealed Saturday.

In a dispatch by its correspondent in Geneva, Switzerland, the daily gives details of a letter by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice referring to the campaign, reported Prensa Latina.

The 47-member Council has the mandate to replace the 53-member UN Commission on Human Rights and has set elections for May 9. The new UN body is scheduled to begin operating on June 19.

In the letter to US-allied governments, Rice tries to impose her criteria on the principles she says countries aspiring for membership on the Council must follow.

Cuba and other countries that are accustomed to US government hostility against efforts to promote progressive social changes, have denounced the manipulation of UN entities by the White House in an attempt to impose its will.

La Jornada recalls that on April 6, when the Bush administration announced that it would not seek a seat on the new Human Rights Council, it assured it will "actively campaign" against the membership of Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Burma, Sudan, and North Korea.

On March 15, the US government became a pariah by voting against the creation of the new Council; however, there is now a list of conditions the US considers must be fulfilled by countries aspiring to be members, the Mexican daily noted.

US refuses to join new UN Human Rights Council

Fit of pique or fear of failure prompts Bush not to run for membership of new body

New York 7 April: US will not seek a seat on the new UN Human Rights Council this year, it was announced on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Kofi Annan said it was a disappointing decision while Human Rights observers speculated that the action might have been taken because the US feared not being elected due to the Bush administration's worldwide unpopularity.

"The secretary general is obviously disappointed that the US has decided not to participate in the election ... this year," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

"However we very much hope that the US will continue to be an active player, to defend universal human rights and support the work of the Human Rights Council."

The 47- member council's first election is scheduled for May 9. Cuba has already stated its intention to be considered for membership and is expected to be elected.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said earlier on Thursday that Washington would be likely to run next year.

He added the United States would still back the work of the council, which Washington opposed as too weak.

McCormack made it clear Washington's intention is to work with other countries to encourage the council to attack countries it does not like such as Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Sudan and North Korea.

Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch, criticised the US decision and said it was probably taken because it feared it would not be elected.

"It's childish that the US will not co-operate with the new Human Rights Council," he told AFP. "It co-operated for decades with the vastly inferior, old Commission. The Council would be much more powerful if the US joined and contributed its enormous influence."

Commenting on the reason for the US move, Brody said: "It might be that the US feared it would not win (a seat). It's unfortunate that the Bush administration's disturbing human rights record means that the US would have difficulty getting elected. This decision may be an effort to make a virtue out of necessity."

Washington had criticised the previous 53-member UN Human Rights Commission because it claimed it was ineffective. In reality the US was frustrated because, as a democratic body, it did not always concede to its demands to condemn countries it wished to see criticised.

The US therefore pushed for reform but then opposed the move to replace the old body with a council that would be elected by an absolute majority of the 191-member General Assembly.

Washington insisted on a smaller grouping whose members would be elected by a two-thirds majority. This would have enabled it to prevent the election of countries it did not wish to see represented on the Council.

Developing countries refused to accept this plan and after weeks of wrangling a compromise was worked out which the US refused to accept.

Now, either as a result of a fit of pique or out of necessity to prevent losing face, the US is acting in a way that undermines the new body before it starts.,,2-10-1462_1912727,00.html

UN axes Human Rights Commission

United Nations, Mar 23 (Prensa Latina)

The Geneva-headquartered UN Human Rights Commission received notification it will be officially shutdown on June 16, following sixty years of work.

A resolution approved, without formal vote, by the 54-nation UN Economic and Social Council abolished the commission, largely discredited given its politicized, selective and double-standard approach.

Projects that impelled creation of the Human Rights Commission in February 1946 were obstructed during the last two decades by US and European manipulations to meet their geopolitical interests.

The elimination of the commission paves the way for the establishment of the Human Rights Council, approved last week 170-4-3 (US, Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau voted no, Belarus, Iran and Venezuela abstained).

The first session of the Council will be on June 19 in Geneva.

The vote to create the council of 47 members will be held May 9.

<. Posada currently remains detained in El Paso on immigration-related charges, and since no other country has come forth to of<er him asylum, it is unlikely that Washington will get around to prosecuting him for more serious offenses. In fact, there is every reason to believe that on some slow news day - likely on a rainy weekend - the Bush administration (just like the first President Bush did with Posada’s compadre Orlando Bosch) will release him into the general public.

Bosch secured sanctuary in this country as a result of a presidential pardon partly at the behest of then U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Otto Reich, with undoubtedly an assist from anti-Havana ultra Jeb Bush - both of them tireless advocates on the terrorist’s behalf. Once back in the U.S., Bosch lived the life of a free man, even though he continued to plot against Cuba. As for Posada, he was one of the self-acknowledged leaders in a lethal scheme to cripple Cuba’s all-important tourist industry by commissioning bombing and machine gun attacks on tourist destinations in downtown Havana. Other exile sorties included repeated attempts to infiltrate the island in order to assassinate Castro or propagate other acts of violence. While, on rare occasions, U.S. authorities assisted in blocking the plans, the authors of these plots were never indicted. The reason for this was that they had been granted a virtual immunity from prosecution by the White House. So much for Washington’s hubris over sanctioning other countries for not being faithful enlistees in the War Against Terrorism, when itself was a faithless servitor of its cause.

A Disgraceful Double Standard: The Sad Case of the Cuban Five

Washington’s selective indignation when it came to Cuban issues has always been on display. This led Havana to come to a fateful decision to attempt to check these repeated U.S.-sanctioned or tolerated acts of terrorism from its territory by sending five agents to South Florida to monitor and report back to Havana the plots about to be hatched by extreme members of the Cuban community. These men were not counter-espionage professionals and their activities did not include attempting either to acquire classified information or penetrate secure government facilities. Rather, their mission was to prevent future attacks on the island from the exiles’ safe havens on the U.S. mainland.

Their punishment was hardly commensurate with their relatively mild offenses. Their draconian treatment began with a patently biased and grossly incompetent Dade County judge, Joan Lenard (who was later overruled), who presumably had concluded that the right ruling could further her career. She therefore proceeded to hand out unprecedented sentences that added up to four life sentences and 75 additional years (one defendant received 2 life terms, another, life plus 18 years, a third, life plus 10 years, one simply 19 years, and one received 15 years). Lenard’s service to Miami’s politicos extended to the degree that she also denied them standard family visiting privileges. All of this was based on a crime - operating as a foreign agent without notifying the government - which at worst would have merited deportation, as had been the case for other crimes in this category. Yet when it comes to Castro Cuba, terrorism is defined not necessarily by its misdeeds, but by Washington’s political rant of the day.

The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba exemplifies the grossly unprofessional behavior of State Department diplomats - Otto Reich, Roger Noriega, James Cason, and Michael Parmly. Tom Shannon, who, for a few brief moments after being appointed to the State Department’s chief Latin America position, seemed to be relatively immune to tawdry policy making, like the others, got in line to be an enthusiastic and loyal Bushista. This can hardly provide a source of pride for those who have committed their careers to seeking a rational and high-minded role for U.S. diplomacy regarding this hemisphere. Historically, the reason for such an illogical policy is that both Democrats and Republicans tried to outbid each other in pandering to Miami’s extremist exile leadership, both for campaign donations and electoral support. The State Department confesses that it is “not aware of specific terrorist enclaves in [Cuba].” However it cannot make the same claim about the ones operating out of Miami.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns and Research Fellow Michael Lettieri

May 23, 2006

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