Cuba Feels Vindicated On Human Rights

Cuban flag
The U.N. Human Rights Commission's failure to condemn Cuba for its recent crackdown affirmed the island leadership's belief in the right to defend itself from attempts to subvert its system, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Friday.

"The unquestionable majority vote is a clear signal from the Human Rights Commission that Cuba has the right to apply its own laws," Perez Roque told a news conference. "`This was a resonant victory for Cuba, and we express our profound satisfaction."

The top United Nations watchdog on Thursday rejected a proposed amendment criticizing Cuba's recent crackdown on opponents, instead approving a milder resolution calling for a U.N. rights monitor to visit the island.

The 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission, which regularly criticizes Cuba on its rights record, voted 31-15 during its meeting in Geneva against condemning the communist state's month-long drive against dissidents and other opponents.

Cuban tribunals earlier this month sentenced 75 dissidents to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years on charges of being mercenaries who worked with the American government to harm the island's socialist system. The dissidents and the U.S. government deny the accusations.

The rejected amendment expressed "deep concern about the recent detention, summary prosecution and harsh sentencing of numerous members of the political opposition" and called for them to be released.

Governments and human rights groups around the world have condemned Cuba for jailing dozens of dissidents. The crackdown was followed by the April 11 executions of three men convicted of the hijacking nine days earlier of a ferry filled with passengers.

Perez Roque accused the U.S. government of concocting the failed attempt to condemn the communist-run island and questioned the human rights records of those countries that backed the measure.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday that despite the measure's defeat, the United States was pleased that the commission passed a Cuba resolution.

"It sends a strong message of support for the courageous Cubans who struggle daily to defend their human rights and their fundamental freedoms," Boucher said.

Although Perez Roque acknowledged that the final measure was not a condemnation of Cuba's, he said his country would not comply with it.

The milder resolution, passed 24-20, urged the Caribbean nation to accept a visit by U.N. human rights investigator, French jurist Christine Chanet. There were nine abstentions.

Cuba has previously refused to allow Chanet to visit, claiming such a visit could infringe on its sovereignty.

Latin American countries voting in favor of the resolution that passed included Mexico a longtime Cuban ally as well as Paraguay, Chile, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Argentina and Brazil abstained on the resolution that was approved. Venezuela, a strong political ally of Cuba, voted against it.

The commission also turned down a proposal 26-17, brought by Cuba itself, that criticized the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

By Anita Snow