Sunday, September 16, 2018

The failure of the UN Human Rights Council with regards to assessing human rights in Cuba

Exhibit A and B

Exhibit A

Exhibit B of the failure of the UN Human Rights system has been the failure of its mechanisms to provide an accurate assessment of the dismal human rights situation in the island.  Nor is there any mention of the Cuban government's involvement in gross and systematic human rights violations in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The final outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba will be discussed and adopted on September 20, 2018 at the 39th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The next time that such an examination of the island nation will take place will be in 2023. This examination will not reflect the human rights situation in the island. The Cuban government has corrupted and abused the process turning it into a circus. The Cuban government has flooded the compilation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with front groups celebrating the dictatorship's "human rights achievements" and drowned out the reports by legitimate NGOs.

The compilation provided by United Nations agencies is little better with organizations such as UNESCO providing praise for the dictatorship without taking a closer look at official claims on education and healthcare.

Finally the review itself is loaded up by the most repressive states in the world crowding out as much time with praise for the Cuban dictatorship in what amounts to a mutual protection society of the worse of the worse.

If one looks beyond the propaganda and diplomatic maneuvers to the facts then one finds that the government of Cuba has had and continues to have a terrible human rights record in the island.

Over the past four years that the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba carried out at the UN Human Rights Council should be reviewing that countries human rights record: students and professors have been expelled and fired for their political beliefs, non-violent dissidents have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression or refusing to mourn the death of Fidel Castro, the Cuban human rights group, the Ladies in White, have been regularly harassed and physically abused for trying to exercise their right to freedom of association and other dissidents, including a blind dissident, have been victims of brutal violence, with the May 2015 machete attack of Sirley Avila Leon being one of the most dramatic. Not to mention that extrajudicial killings are still taking place.

Alejandro Pupo Echemendia beaten to death on August 9, 2018
Mr. Alejandro Pupo Echemendia was beaten to death by a government agent on August 9, 2018 while in police custody at the Placetas police station, in Las Villas Cuba. Family members were able to photograph the body of the victim at the General Hospital of Placetas "Dr. Daniel Codorniú Pruna". An eye-witness, human rights defenders, and family members have come forward to demand justice, and have been subjected to police harassment, threats, and arbitrary detentions by Cuban State Security to get them to change or withdraw their testimony. 

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, successor to martyred founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, and unjustly jailed since November 30, 2016 was badly beaten, stabbed twice by three prisoners on December 19, 2017, and subjected to a political show trial, sentenced to three years in prison on March 20, 2017. The December attack with a sharp object was most probably engineered by Castro's State Security in order to permanently silence him. The seriousness of the attack was only learned on January 15, 2018 when his wife was finally able to visit him in prison and see the extent of his injuries.  His health has been worsening and he had been refused religious assistance.
Dr. Eduardo Cardet and his wife Yaimaris Vecino

On May 26, 2018 the Cuban government suspended visits to prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet, and his wife Yaimaris Vecino protested at the time: 
"Today, May 26, we went to the prison in Cuba Si, it was the visit that Eduardo's mother, his sister, my children and I scheduled, and they prevented us from seeing him, the prison authorities alleging  that Eduardo has given "false information" that according to them, the family is spreading and in retaliation suspended visits for six months." Yaimaris went on to say that "this is a new arbitrariness against Eduardo and I seriously fear for his physical integrity."
Thanks to the intercession of the Bishop of Holguin, Eduardo Cardet's family was able to finally visit him on September 13, 2018.  Four months without a visit and weeks without a phone call due to the Cuban government's efforts to silence Dr. Cardet's family's campaign for his release.

It is important to look back beyond the past four years and place them in context, and one should also look beyond the island.

This regime's bad actions extend to the international sphere at high profile venues such as the old United Nations Human Rights Commission and in the present United Nations Human Rights Council. The consequences of the regime's actions extend beyond Cuba and has had an impact on international human rights standards.

ARTICLE 19 and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) condemned a resolution that passed on March 28, 2008 which amended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, as per proposals from the Organisation of Islamic Congress (OIC) and the Cuban delegations eroding and undermining freedom of expression. Both NGOs condemned "the repeated misuse of the Human Rights Council (HRC) process to push for an agenda that has nothing to do with strengthening human rights and everything to do with protecting autocracies and political point scoring."

Consider how the Cuban government has dealt with dissenting voices. Frank Calzon, a Cuban national exiled in the United States, was Freedom House's Washington DC Representative at the UN Human Rights Commission from 1986 to 1997. The Cuban government slandered his good name accusing him repeatedly of being a CIA agent. This continued after Mr. Calzon left Freedom House.

In 2004 Freedom House denounced that "a Cuban delegate punched Mr. Calzon, knocking him unconscious. UN guards reportedly protected him from further assault by additional members of the Cuban delegation. The attack occurred shortly after the Commission passed a resolution critical of Cuba's human rights record." Other members of Freedom House had been subjected to threats and harassment at the UN Human Rights Commission.

If this is what Cuban diplomats do with the eyes of the world on them then what do you think they are doing to Cuban dissidents on the island away from the glare of the cameras?

Perhaps, one day when the current Human Rights High Commissioner is no longer occupying that post these realities will be taken into account instead of the $1,900 dollar donation that earned the dictatorship a positive plug on social media.

This will necessitate understanding how the idea of human rights transitioned from a call for individual liberty from despotic rule to an instrument to white wash tyrannical rule and oppressive regimes.

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