Torture in Cuba
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Posted on Friday, 05.03.13

Watchdog group: Cuba cheated on its UN review

From the summary of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR):
• More than 30 NGOs reported “that there is a separation of powers in
Cuba, which ensures that the judiciary can perform its duties without
interference from the other branches of government.”
• “Some 66 organizations drew attention to the (Cuban government’s)
cooperation with universal human rights mechanisms.”
• Two dozen NGOS indicated that torture had been eradicated in Cuba, the
summary added, and more than 100 noted that in 2009 the island’s
government commuted all pending death penalties to 30-year sentences.
• The All- Women’s Federation in Beijing “added that the employment
rate of women had increased significantly and that the female
unemployment rate was only 2.0 percent.”
• And the Federation of Students reported that Cuba has “an
effective … system for protecting citizens’ rights which allows for the
participation of social and grass-roots organizations and which
guarantees that complaints will be addressed.”
By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuba committed “fraud … on a massive scale” to influence a U.N. review
of its human rights record by using hundreds of “front groups” to submit
comments favorable to the island, a watchdog group reported Thursday.

While 454 non-governmental organizations submitted comments for Cuba’s
review, 48 NGOs commented on ’s — the second highest number of
comments — and 32 on Russia’s, according to the report by the group UN

Although “critiques by genuine NGOs do appear, they are overwhelmed by
an unprecedented amount of submissions by fraudulent ‘NGOs’ that, if
they do exist, are mere puppets of Cuba and its allies abroad,” the
report said.

“This is fraud committed on a massive scale,” added the report, timed to
coincide with Cuba’s review this week by the U.N. Human Rights Council
in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHRC audits each nation every four years
for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

“Cuba used hundreds of front groups to hijack the United Nations
compilation of NGO submissions and turn it into a propaganda sheet for
the Castro Communist regime,” UN Watch’s 13-page report said.

The UPR is not binding on anyone “but does have an impact because it’s a
megaphone, a podium, which does shape the way people think and it’s a
source of legitimacy,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch
and A Canadian lawyer.

UN Watch is a Geneva-based NGO that monitors the U.N.’s work on human
rights. Affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, it often
criticizes the UNHRC because many of its members have poor human rights
records themselves.

During a UNHRC meeting Wednesday on Cuba, Syria and North Korea praised
Havana while Western nations criticized its abuses and lack of
democracy. All the comments and Cuba’s responses are eventually added to
the UPR.

The UN Watch report, titled “Massive fraud: The corruption of the 2013
UPR Review of Cuba,” did not directly challenge the praise heaped by the
NGOs on the communist-run island. It simply listed some of their
favorable comments and some of their names.

Among the “NGOs” were several organizations controlled by the Cuban
Communist Party and government, such as the Federation of Cuban Women,
the Federation of University Students and the Pioneers, the island’s
politicized version of the Boy Scouts.

Also commenting were “solidarity” groups such as the Dambovita branch of
the Romanian-Cuban Friendship Association, the Leogane Club of Friends
of Cuba in Haiti and the Sri Lanka National Committee for Solidarity
with Cuba.

Another comment came from the Organization of Solidarity with the People
of Asia, Africa and Latin America, founded in Havana in 1966 to support
communism and “national liberation movements” — usually guerrillas — in
the Third World.

Many of the NGOs listed in the UPR summary of their comments were based
in countries that have friendly relations with Havana, and especially in
the nearly 70 countries where Cuba has sent medical, teaching or sports

Out of 105 numbered paragraphs in the UPR summary, UN Watch reported, 72
included “robust praise” for Cuba’s human rights record.

“Approximately 77 reports mentioned that Cuba’s constitutional and
legislative framework recognized and guaranteed basic human rights and
freedoms,” according to the UPR summary.

“More than 26 (NGO) contributions indicated that human rights defenders
are protected and nobody had been persecuted or penalized for peacefully
exercising their

rights,” the summary said.

The Iran-based House of Latin America (HOLA) and the Jose Marti Cultural
Society in Havana both noted “the active role of civil society in the
decision-making process regarding all matters of the political,
economic, social and cultural life.”

And “approximately 57 organizations added that Cuba has been the victim
of a campaign to discredit its performance in human rights,” the UPR’s
summary of the NGO comments showed.

In one of the few critical comments noted, the French-based Reporters
Without Borders wrote that all of the journalists jailed during a 2003
crackdown were freed in 2010 and 2011, “though most were required to go
into exile.”

UN Watch also attacked the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) and the U.N. Country Team for Cuba — essentially
its embassy in Havana — for their “grossly misleading” praise for Cuba
in their own reporting for the UPR.

One UNESCO report “noted that civil society was recognized as a key
player in Cuba’s cultural life and played an active role at local level
through its work with the

Houses of Culture and the People’s Councils.”

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