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  HOME | Cuba

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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