Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cuba agrees to U.N. political and civil rights pact as it cracks down on dissidents

The government of Cuba has announced it will sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a similar pact on economic and social rights. The agreements will allow U.N. monitoring of Cuba’s human rights record. The Cuban government has refused to signs the pacts since they were first adopted by the United Nations in 1976.

The announcement came as police broke up a demonstration of dissidents honoring International Human Rights Day and demanding the release of political prisoners. The dissidents included the “Women in White” – female relatives of political prisoners. Women from Europe and Latin American joined the group protesting political repression on the island nation. Government supporters, reportedly coordinated by the state security apparatus, harassed the demonstrators.

This from the BBC:
Cuba has announced that it will sign two major UN agreements on civil and political rights and allow periodic UN monitoring of its human rights record.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Cuba would allow scrutiny by the UN Human Rights Council in 2009.

The council was established last year, replacing a body Havana had argued was manipulated by the United States.

As Mr Perez Roque spoke, government supporters mobbed dissidents who were marking International Human Rights Day.

Mr Perez Roque said Cuba would soon sign the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and a similar agreement on social, economic and cultural rights.

These two legally binding protocols, which make up the UN Bill of Human Rights, will commit Cuba, among other things, to allowing freedom of expression and association, and the right to travel abroad.

Communist Cuba had long refused to sign the agreements. Havana also refused to be visited by a special rapporteur who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Commission.

The BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says now the commission and the post of rapporteur have gone, Cuba no longer feels under threat and therefore in a position to sign the two protocols.

The Cuban foreign minister told a news conference: "This decision reflects our desire for full co-operation with the UN on the basis of respect for our national sovereignty and the right of the Cuban people to their self-determination."

But as he spoke, just a few streets away from the foreign ministry a small group of opposition activists were mobbed and shouted down by government supporters, as they tried to hold a march.

Dissidents reported that police also picked up several organisers in the hours before the event. Also on Monday, the Cuban authorities deported eight Spanish women who took part in a protest by a group called the Ladies in White, which gathers every Sunday to call for the release of their imprisoned husbands.

The Cuban government says dissidents are "mercenaries" paid for by the US and that tourists have no business meddling in the country's internal affairs.

The treatment of the protesters, our correspondent says, is a reminder that old approaches continue.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

Should we take this as evidence that Castro's reign is coming to an end and that there will be a more open policy towards the world at large?

Or is this just an anomaly?