Torture in Cuba
May 2012
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Posted on Sunday, 05.27.12

The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Lies, damned lies and Cuban 'diplomacy'

OUR OPINION: U.N. body's questions put Cuba in the dock

By The Miami Herald Editorial

Even by the standards of Cuban diplomacy — a web of deceit and cover for

espionage — the performance of the Castro representive before the

Geneva-based Convention on Torture last week has been a mind-lowing

exercise in hypocrisy and Orwellian double-talk.

• To the committee's questions about penalties against dissent, Cuban

representative Rafael Pino Becquer, deputy attorney general, said no one

declared "socially dangerous" by law has been sanctioned: "Rather, they

were influenced by programs and thus re-educated." File that

under punishment by another name.

• How about Cubans detained without notice and held incommunicado?

According to the Convention's own report of the session, Pino said

incommunicado detention does not exist, and that "detention upon arrest

may not exceed 24 hours and that every detainee had access to a doctor."

Deny, deny, deny.

• Asked about harassment of defenders and independent

journalists, Cuba's representatives simply declared that they "were not

genuine human rights defenders." An outright lie.

And so it went. The entire Cuban reply to the questions posed by members

of the U.N.-affiliated body consisted of a series of clumsy evasions and

pants-on-fire whoppers. ("The intelligence services did not [i.e., do

not] detain people." Or this one: "Any person who suffered damage or

prejudice caused by State officials acting within their official

function could claim reparation and compensation by law.") The trick

there is "by law" — not by practice. The reality of Cuba is that the law

on any given day is whatever the Castro brothers ordain.

To listen to Cuban officials, the island is a virtual civil liberties

utopia, with habeas corpus enshrined in law and rigorously enforced (as

if), and their prisons model venues of rehabilitation: "Cuba had a

progressive approach to detention."

If the latter is true, why does Cuba forbid the International Red Cross

to visit the island's prisons? Why has Manfred Nowak, the U.N.'s expert

on torture, repeatedly been denied access to those prisons, despite a

supposed "invitation" from Cuba back in 2009?

Maybe it's because conditions in those prisons are so horribly wretched,

as a video smuggled out of the and posted on The Miami Herald

website makes plain, that Mr. Nowak would be nauseated if Cuba allowed

him to conduct a genuine inspection.

The Convention on Torture's questions will lead to a report on Cuba

which, we hope, pulls no punches. Meanwhile, anyone interested in the

real Cuba can visit non-government websites online such as the Cuba

Archive Project, or read a letter signed by over 100 former inmates with

a total of 3,551 years in Cuban jails who can attest to prison conditions.

No matter what the Convention ultimately finds, of course, it's not

likely to alter Cuba's behavior, but at least it will be put on notice

that the regime is not fooling anyone.

The last report issued by the panel on Cuba, published in December of

2005, contained a host of recommendations that Cuba ignored. They

included investigating complaints of abuse, public inspection of

prisons, an independent judiciary and allowing independent NGOs to

monitor the protection of human rights.

We won't hold our breath, but for the moment, at least, it's refreshing

to see a U.N. agency sending a signal that Cuba is a routine violator of

human rights, instead of cozying up to the Castro dictatorship as too

many U.N. agencies have done for decades.

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