Thursday, March 18, 2021

Remembering the Black Cuban Spring, the failure of the UN Human Rights Council, and the legacy today

 Remembering the Black Cuban Spring, the long winter, and the future spring

2003 - 2021 Spring will return
Eighteen years ago on March 18, 2003 a crackdown began in Cuba on the eve of the United States going to war in Iraq. Scores of Cuban dissidents were rounded up and subjected to political show trials. 75 were condemned to lengthy prison terms of up to 28 years in prison. This became known as the Black Cuban Spring
The majority of the imprisoned activists had participated in the Varela Project, a petition drive that called for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses. 11,020 signatures had been turned in 10 months earlier on May 10, 2002. 
The regime responded with its own mandatory petition drive to make the Cuban Constitution unchangeable. 
The Economist in its December 14, 2005 issue published a conversation with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas titled "An unsilenced voice for change" that outlined what had taken place:
Between 2001 and 2004, Mr Payá's movement gathered 25,000 signatures in a vain attempt to persuade Cuba's National Assembly to change the constitution to allow multi-party democracy. Activists of his Christian Liberation Movement made up more than two-thirds of the 75 dissidents and journalists rounded up and jailed for long terms in April 2003. [...] Spain is “complaisant” with Mr Castro's regime, Mr Payá says. “We need a campaign of support and solidarity with peaceful change in Cuba” of the kind that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa and to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
It took over eight years, but the last of the group of the 75 were eventually released. Oswaldo was murdered along with the Christian Liberation Movement's youth leader Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. His successor Eduardo Cardet was a prisoner of conscience from November 30, 2016 through September 3, 2019. He was jailed for giving a frank assessment of Fidel Castro's legacy following his death on November 25, 2016.

11,020 Varela Project signatures turned in on May 20, 2002

On April 2, 2003 three young black men were arrested, tried and executed by firing squad nine days later on April 11, 2003 for trying to flee the island in a hijacked ferry, in which no one had been physically harmed. This drew worldwide condemnation at the time, and became known as Cuba's Black Spring, but it did not prevent the end of the mandate for monitoring human rights violations in Cuba in a backroom deal for the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council on March 15, 2006.

Fifteen years ago the United Nations Human Rights Council was founded on a small moral compromise that sacrificed human rights oversight in Belarus and Cuba in what U.N. officials called the dawn of a new era. Special rapporteurs with mandates to specifically monitor the human rights situation in those two countries were formally gotten rid of in 2007 and a code of conduct established that undermined the independence of all special rapporteurs.

Ending oversight of Belarus and Cuba not only left the victims of these dictatorships exposed to more repression, with impunity by their oppressors, but emboldened these dictatorships not only to worsen their practices at home but to undermine human rights abroad. Worse yet, both would be elected to serve on the UN Human Rights Council with other outlaw regimes.

These failings have real world consequences.

Cuba led the charge to back up China's new security law for Hong Kong that strips citizens of Hong Kong of their human rights last year. On July 1, 2020 the Cuban dictatorship introduced a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council praising China for passing the Hong Kong National Security Law, also known as the 66 article law. 53 governments backed this resolution, endorsing the death of a free Hong Kong. Official Chinese media "celebrated" their victory at the human rights body. Belarus has also continued to back the new security law at international forums.

In spite of Cuba's terrible human rights record at home, and leading the charge to back China stripping Hong Kongers of their rights the Castro regime was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council on October 12, 2020 with 170 out of a possible 192 votes at the General Assembly.

This did not improve Havana's behavior.

"Cuba, speaking on behalf of 64 countries including China [on March 12, 2021], said Xinjiang is 'an inseparable part of China' and urged states to 'stop interfering in China’s internal affairs by manipulating Xinjiang-related issues, (and) refrain from making unfounded allegations against China out of political motivations'." These countries led by the Castro regime are defending an ongoing genocide

Over the past 15 years the world has entered a long winter when it comes to human rights.

Spring will return to Cuba, but the struggle continues today in 2021 and the failures of solidarity by the international community with free Cuban is having a negative impact on human rights globally as the Castro regime backs the end of a free Hong Kong, and defends genocide in Xinjiang.

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