GENEVA (IPS)–Cuba has taken the offensive this year in the debate that pits Havana against Washington in the annual meeting of United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
The Havana delegation to the Commission accused the United States of tolerating terrorism against Cuba and other countries and rejected a proposed resolution on its handling of human rights presented by Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay.
Washington, meanwhile, condemned Havana for the arrest of 70 Cuban dissidents as subversives in March.
A motion by the three nations sponsoring the resolution expresses satisfaction with the designation of French jurist Christine Chanet as personal representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Cuba, and urges the Fidel Castro government to help facilitate her mission to the socialist-run island.
Ms. Chanet is to carry out the mandate issued a year ago by the Commission on Human Rights, which ordered a mission to assess the status of human rights in Cuba, but Havana announced on March 14, before the Commission’s annual period of sessions began, that it would not grant her entry.
Havana alleges that the Commission’s resolutions aimed at Cuba–a form of censure that has been approved every year since 1990, save 1998–are in fact promoted by Washington in order to keep the island’s situation on the agenda and to justify the U.S. embargo against the Caribbean nation.
Cuban officials have emphasized on several occasions that any Commission resolution dealing specifically with their country is unacceptable.
Ivan Mora Godoy, the Cuban delegate to the Commission, disparaged the draft resolution presented by the three Latin American countries and the fact that they were trying to pass it off as “harmless.”
From the other extreme, Human Rights Watch criticized what it described as a “mild- mannered” Latin American-sponsored draft resolution.
Ms. Chanet was named to her post as personal representative in February by High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian national.
Ms. Chanet told the Commission April 1 that, given the brief period of her tenure, it would be premature to submit what is intended to be a serious and objective evaluation of the overall human rights situation in Cuba.
An impartial assessment, she said, requires exhaustive analysis of reports from a variety of sources, verification of such elements, and information gathering from the rapporteur and committees within the UN human rights system.
“The government of Cuba has apparently forbidden your entry to the country and reiterates its determination to continue to forbid your entry. Under these circumstances, how do you propose to fulfill your mandate from the Commission?” the U.S. delegation asked Ms. Chanet.
The UN representative said she recognizes that Cuban opposition to her visiting the island is a major obstacle for her mission, because it would be a positive step to be able to evaluate “in the field” the reality in regards to information received about the human rights situation.
The U.S. delegation also pressed Ms. Chanet on the issue of the 70 dissidents arrested in Cuba in recent days.
In this year’s sessions of the Commission, Washington’s delegates had so far refrained from commentary on the draft resolution presented by Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay last year.
But there is word on the diplomatic front that the United States is maneuvering to achieve harsher language in the resolution text and the inclusion of a reference to the recent arrests of Cuban dissidents.
Official inclusion of the amendment sought by the United States would require a vote by the Commission, which has been highly sensitized by international events and could react in unexpected ways, according to comments by leaders of human rights watchdog groups.
The Washington delegation already won a vote in its favor. In late March, it convinced the Commission to reject an initiative to hold a special debate on the human rights situation in Iraq as a consequence of the U.S.-led war in that country.
To achieve a majority among the Commission’s 53 member states, the United States had to press delegates and governments, using tactics that reached “brutal” intensity, commented a Latin American diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The United States began its lobbying efforts last December, targeting the Latin American governments through the State Department, anti-Castro lawmakers from Florida and secret envoys, charged Cuban Ambassador Mora Godoy.
The result of that endeavor is the text presented by Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay, he said.
Mr. Mora Godoy criticized the UN commission for ignoring the fact that the U.S. government, the same that has launched a war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001 “brutal terrorist attacks,” has tolerated and “continues to condone the terrorism planned and carried out from Miami against Cuba.”