HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TAKES UP SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
IN BELARUS AND CUBA
12 June 2007
Human Rights Council MIDDAY 12 June 2007
Many Speakers Urge Council to Abolish All Country-Specific Mandates, Others Call on Belarus and Cuba to Cooperate with the Experts
The Human Rights Council took up the situation of human rights in Belarus and Cuba in a midday meeting today, triggering numerous calls for the Council to abolish all country-specific mandates, while others urged the two countries to cooperate with the Council’s Special Procedures.
Adrian Severin, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, said he had encountered for the third consecutive year the refusal of the Government of Belarus to cooperate. The present report proved once again that Belarus encountered dramatic problems with regards to the respect of its international human rights obligations. The Government continued to ignore recommendations made by Special Procedures, and outstanding reports were not forwarded to Committees. During 2006, the situation of human rights in Belarus had constantly deteriorated. Systematic violations of civil and political rights and the deprivation of citizens’ right to effectively take part in the conduct of public efforts had continued to be observed.
Speaking as a concerned country, Belarus said once again the so-called report by the Special Rapporteur on Belarus continued to use open distortions, false allegations and absurd conclusions. It openly contradicted dozens of reports by international organizations and United Nations bodies. The Expert was directly interested in creating a negative image for the country. There was no point in going through the falsifications contained in the report, and it would be better to assess the mandate as a whole in the context of institution building in the Council. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was imposed by a minority of Member States and was politically motivated.
Christine Chanet, the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Cuba, said she had not had any contact with the Cuban authorities during the term of her mandate, in spite of her requests. She had, however, ascertained certain findings. Since the unprecedented wave of repression in 2003 the situation had not really improved. There had been other arrests in 2007 and she was concerned with the physical and mental condition of the detainees. These had been regarded as cases of arbitrary detention. At the same time, the Cuban Government had made positive efforts in education and health notwithstanding a devastating embargo.
Speaking as a concerned country, Cuba said that the mandate of the so-called Personal Representative was a heavy burden from the past. The Cuba she was trying to convene was a picture concocted in the laboratories of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Cuba fought for a better world for all. The second year of the Human Rights Council should start by throwing overboard the heavy burden from the past. Cuba reaffirmed its commitment to the Human Rights Council and asked for an end to double standards.
During the interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Belarus and in Cuba, there were numerous calls for the Council to abolish all its country specific mandates. Speakers said the mandates of the Experts were politically biased, were a sign of the double standards and politicization of the defunct Human Rights Council, and had to be abolished. They expressed support for a proposal to create a code of conduct with regard to the work of the Special Procedures of the Council. Other speakers praised the Special Rapporteur and the Personal Representative for their work, expressing concern about the violations of human rights in Belarus and Cuba and urging the two countries to cooperate with the Special Procedures of the Council.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Belarus were Representatives of the Russian Federation, Algeria, Lithuania, Germany on behalf of the European Union, Sweden, Poland, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, South Africa, Canada, Pakistan, India, Iran, Venezuela, Czech Republic, United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Bangladesh, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Cuba were Representatives of China, Algeria, Ecuador, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Sudan, Russian Federation, Iran, Germany on behalf of the European Union, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Libya, India, South Africa, Bolivia, Canada, Angola, Nicaragua, Palestine, United States, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
The Council is meeting today non-stop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Following the midday meeting, the Council immediately continued with its afternoon meeting during which it will take up the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia.
Report on Situation of Human Rights of Belarus
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin (A/HRC/4/16). Regrettably, the Government of Belarus, in 2006, as in 2004 and 2005, did not respond favourably to the Special Rapporteur's request to visit, and in general did not cooperate with him in the fulfilment of his mandate. The report, which covers the period from September to December 2006, is therefore based on the Special Rapporteur’s mission to Russia in early 2006; discussions and consultations held in Geneva, Strasbourg and Brussels with representatives of permanent missions and international and non-governmental organizations; media reports; and various documentary sources. In section IV, the Special Rapporteur describes the situation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in Belarus, which steadily deteriorated in 2006. In the last section, he addresses a number of issues which over the years have been the subject of allegations formulated not only by Belarus, but also by several members of the Commission on Human Rights and later by members of the Human Rights Council, in particular the political motivation of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and of his assessments.
The Special Rapporteur firmly believes that the first responsibility for improving the dramatic situation of human rights in Belarus lies with the country’s authorities. Among other things, the Special Rapporteur calls once again on the international community to support civil society and democratic forces in Belarus; asks the Council to request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to immediately establish a group of legal experts to investigate the disappearance and murders of several politicians and journalists and to join the efforts of other international organizations to organize an international conference on the situation of human rights in Belarus; and calls for the establishment of an international fund for the promotion of human rights in Belarus. The Special Rapporteur also reiterates his recommendation to the Council to extend the Belarus mandate not only in time, but also in scope and means.
Presentation of Report on Situation of Human Rights in Belarus
ADRIAN SEVERIN, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, said this was his third report on the human rights situation in Belarus. He had encountered for the third consecutive year the refusal of the Government of Belarus to cooperate, and therefore he had visited some surrounding countries, namely the Russian Federation, and held meetings with various organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and media organizations. He had tried to double-check his information many times. The present report proved once again that Belarus encountered dramatic problems with regards to the respect of its international human rights obligations. The Government continued to ignore recommendations made by Special Procedures, and outstanding reports were not forwarded to Committees.
When submitting its candidacy to become a member of the Human Rights Council, the Government of Belarus committed itself to continue to engage constructively with the United Nations human rights mechanisms; however, all the Special Rapporteurs efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with the Government had been fruitless. The conclusions reached in his second report were fully confirmed during the third term of the mandate. The first responsibility for improving the dramatic situation of human rights in Belarus lay with the country authorities. Therefore, the previous recommendations remained valid, and the absence of any reaction implied that the Government accepted the findings, and could contemplate the possibility of enhancing the recommendations.
Mr. Severin said during 2006, the situation of human rights in Belarus had constantly deteriorated. Systematic violations of civil and political rights and the deprivation of the citizens’ right to effectively take part in the conduct of public efforts had continued to be observed. Human rights protection mechanisms remained extremely weak, and there was no national human rights institution. The judicial system was still subservient to the executive branch, and there was no genuine independent legislative branch. The mobilisation and action of the international community were of paramount importance for the destiny of Belarus and its people. An international fund for the promotion of human rights in Belarus should be established to finance in a coherent way comprehensive programmes for the development of civil society, for democratic public education, and assistance to human rights defenders. Considering the situation, the Special Rapporteur believed that the mandate should be extended not only in time, but in scope and means.
Statement by Concerned Country
SERGEI ALEINIK (Belarus), speaking as a concerned country, said once again the report by the so-called Special Rapporteur on Belarus continued to use open distortions, false allegations and absurd conclusions. It openly contradicted dozens of reports by international organizations and United Nations bodies. The Expert was directly interested in creating a negative image for the country. There was no point in going through the falsifications contained in the report, and it would be better to assess the mandate as a whole in the context of institution building in the Council. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was imposed by a minority of Member States and was politically motivated. The geography of the mandate holder’s trips around the world showed that he was receiving moral support to justify his mandate from certain quarters. The Special Rapporteur showed political bias, presenting distortions that were rejected by other bodies, and misused the human rights mandate to put forward a political model of interference in internal affairs of a county, as shown by the calls for change in government and society, financial and technical assistance for militant non-governmental organizations and a change in national self awareness. The Special Rapporteur tried single handedly to take upon himself the functions of the Security Council over trade restrictions. This was a dangerous precedent, characterized by flawed practices, and this was one of the reasons for the proposal for a code of conduct for mandate holders.
Interactive Dialogue on Situation of Human Rights in Belarus
OLEG MALGINOV (Russian Federation) said that cooperation between States and United Nations human rights monitoring mechanisms should be carried out on an equal and mutually respectful basis, and the investigators should be objective and impartial specialists. Their task was to promote the encouragement and protection of human rights. Unfortunately, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus had not been successful in his task, and rather than an objective and all-around analysis, he had produced a politically-biased document, and it was clear his task had nothing to do with human rights. The Special Rapporteur was unwilling to take into account the position of the State. There was no point in cooperating with a Special Rapporteur who wrote his report at the behest of political demands, and it was clear that there was a need to adopt a code of conduct for Special Rapporteurs. The mandate should be abolished as soon as possible.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that the author seemed to have difficulty to distinct himself from the subject matter, thus a conflict of interest could be arising in the Council. Concerning the second point, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur had limits. Extending this mandate therefore was not possible. In addition, concerning the ban on the sale of conventional arms, Algeria wanted to exercise its right to reply that there was no such ban. Algeria expected that mandate holders would tell the truth or when making a mistake, to correct themselves later on. Here, no correction could be seen despite the Algerian point of order. The mandate holder should tell the truth. In conclusion, there was no better advocate for the suppression of the mandate than the Special Rapporteur for Belarus.
DARIUS STANIULIS (Lithuania) said the Special Rapporteur deserved gratitude for his efforts with regards to his mandate. The lack of cooperation of Belarus limited the effectiveness of his work, and the Government of that country had also failed to cooperate with other human rights mechanisms, including the treaty bodies. Efforts to provide young Belarussians with opportunities to study abroad had given them opportunities to view human rights situations in other countries, and the Special Rapporteur should explain how he thought this would improve the situation in that country.
BIRGITTA SIEFKER-EBERLE (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed the appreciation of the European Union for the report on Belarus and remained concerned about the infringements on human rights in Belarus. The European Union had called upon the Government of Belarus to collaborate with the Special Rapporteur. The European Union had offered Belarus a closer cooperation on basis of shared values. The European Union had encouraged the Government of Belarus to move to more democratic values and wanted to know how the Special Rapporteur evaluated the situation and how the Government could change its course.
JAN NORDLANDER (Sweden) said Sweden strongly supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, and appreciated the update to the report. It was clear that the situation merited the further attention of the Council. Belarus was the last country in Europe to implement the death penalty. Last year, the Government had indicated it might consider abolishing the penalty, but there had been no move in this regard. There was also concern with regards to police brutality, and violence in prisons against inmates. Did the Special Rapporteur have any suggestions to the Council with regards to means that would encourage the Government of Belarus to abolish the death penalty.
ANDRZEJ MISZTAL (Poland) said Poland was disappointed about the lack of cooperation exhibited by the Government of Belarus towards the Special Rapporteur. Concerning the new report, human rights could best be achieved through young people. On the topic of free trade unions in Belarus, no real progress had been made concerning the ILO recommendations. Poland asked about the evaluations of the Special Rapporteur in this area as well as his evaluation on the view of the younger generation of the country. What could be done to access free information. The authorities in Minsk were violating human rights. The cause should not be confused with the consequences.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said the existence of Experts of this type confirmed how urgent it was for the Council to adopt a code of conduct for the Special Procedures. The mandate was one more example of the type of political motivation which led to the demise of the Commission on Human Rights. The mandate against Belarus should be discontinued if the Council hoped to be credible and to continue. It was essential to eliminate these remnants of the Commission, so the Council could move forward in a spirit of cooperation and genuine dialogue. On more than one occasion, Cuba had expressed its rejection of previous reports drawn up by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. No one was further away from being a United Nations Special Rapporteur and closer to being a political agitator from a particular party. The mandate undermined the Council and was no tool for the protection and promotion of human rights. The report was a true programme for regime change, and contained proposals which did not advance in any way the cause of human rights in the world.
CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was deeply concerned about the continued politization of the reports by the Special Procedures in the Council and opposed therefore the report on Belarus. It prevented a constructive dialogue between all parties. All country mandates must be removed, now that there was the new mechanism of the Human Rights Council.
GLAUDINE MTSHALI (South Africa) said since the inaugural session of the Council, the work of the body had mainly been on setting up the institutional mechanisms. The Council had also focussed on human rights issues, and should be congratulated on the substantive progress made. South Africa remained concerned about the issue of country mandates. Their role in contributing to the demise of the Commission was an established fact. Selectivity and double standards should not be allowed to influence the work of the Council. The Council’s work should be guided by the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity, and all should take a new approach and apply different strategies to the issue of particular countries.
CINDY NELSON (Canada) said that in 2006 the human rights situation in Belarus had steadily deteriorated. The Government refused to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur denying him access to its territory. Canada called on the Government of Belarus to live up to its commitment in the Human Rights Council and to respect human rights. An international conference on the situation of human rights in Belarus should be set up.
TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said the report once again appeared to tread into the world of the unreal, and reinforced the concern that some well-meaning initiatives to monitor the situation in one particular country could expand into unacceptable areas. The Special Rapporteur called on the Council to extend the mandate in scope and in means, as well as in time, and the Council should not do so for a Special Rapporteur that claimed that he should have no limits and should examine any situation which could touch on violations. This would lead to a chaotic situation. The Special Rapporteur had a very Euro-centric view of the world and the Council. His recommendations for a group of legal experts and an international fund raised concerns about their implementation. There was a need to ensure that the highest levels of objectivity and impartiality were maintained, especially when dealing with sensitive human rights situations.
RAJIV CHANDER (India) said with regard to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus, the recommendations seemed to lack exactitude. They went far beyond the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. The steps suggested by the Special Rapporteur would only further alienate the Government of Belarus. India wanted to reiterate its reservation about the report.
FOROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) said politically motivated resolutions had caused the downfall of the Commission on Human Rights, and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was a remnant of this. His criticism and his urging the Council to expand his mandate to a global scale was not acceptable. Country specific mandates and resolutions were politically mandated. The Council had a new opportunity for examining these issues. Iran called for the elimination of country specific mandates, including this one in particular.
GABRIEL SALAZAR (Venezuela) said that Venezuela had listened to the introduction of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. Country mandates should not be part of the agenda of the Council. Venezuela shared what had been said by many delegations that the Special Rapporteur had overstepped his mandate. The ideas for change that the Special Rapporteur presented could not be accepted. The objectiveness of his mandate was undermined and the mandate should be abolished. A code of conduct to ensure credibility of such Rapporteurs should be created.
ZUZANA STIBOROVA (Czech Republic) said the report of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus was comprehensive and detailed. The situation in Belarus had been and continued to be a cause for great concern. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was fully supported, and Belarus should extend full cooperation to him. The Special Rapporteur had stated that the situation of civil and political rights in Belarus had steadily worsened in recent years, and proposed measures to be taken by the international community to improve the situation. He should explain how individual States could support democratic forces and human rights defenders. Had there been any improvement with regards to the Government’s practices to limit public access to independent information, the Czech Republic asked.
JUDITH ANN (United States) welcomed this opportunity to engage with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. The United States regretted the tactics employed by the Lukaschenko Regime. The Human Rights Council should extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur so that he could report on all the abuses the Belarus people were suffering from. The human rights situation continued to deteriorate in Belarus. It was imperative that the international community support the work of the Special Rapporteur. The international community must speak with one voice and let the Government in Belarus know that this behaviour was unacceptable.
BENNY SIAHAAN (Indonesia) said the ideal goal of creating country specific mandates was to help the country concerned to protect and promote their human rights obligations with the spirit of engagement, dialogue and cooperation. However, past experience had shown differently. Today it had again been said that there had been wide gaps and opposite perspectives between the Special Rapporteur and the country of Belarus. A large contradiction of views and perspectives between two sides in sensitive issues such as human rights usually involved political positions. It was important to maintain dialogue and cooperation between relevant sides in a manner that was balanced, fair and transparent. WESTMORELAND PALON (Malaysia) noted that the report of the Special Rapporteur mirrored the one prepared last September. The message of a constructive dialogue had not duly been taken into account in this controversial and highly politicised mandate. Malaysia hoped that a positive engagement would find its place in the Council. The days of naming and shaming should be put behind. Otherwise, the credibility of the Council and its mechanisms would be undermined. Malaysia therefore underscored the importance of the draft code of conduct for Special Procedures.
DONG ZHIHUA (China) said throughout the report the Special Rapporteur criticised comprehensively the situation of human rights in Belarus. There was not a single word on progress, and therefore there was a clear lack of objectivity and fairness. There should be a dialectic approach, from both sides, giving encouragement where it was due. This would be a constructive approach, and conducive to the Special Rapporteur being able to fulfil his mandate fully. Some of the text was similar in tone to regime change, and this went beyond the mandate of protecting and promoting human rights, appearing to follow the old road of politicising human rights, as in the Commission on Human Rights. Considering that country specific mandates were the root cause of confrontation, the Council should consider various means for increasing the legality of the mandates.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said that Bangladesh had read the report of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. It was regrettable that despite strong criticism of his earlier report, the Special Rapporteur held on to his position and made statements that went beyond his mandate. From a Special Rapporteur one expected above all fairness, which was not reflected in his report. The mandate holder should carry out specific tasks. It distressed Bangladesh that the Special Rapporteur acted beyond his mandate. Bangladesh supported a code of conduct for Special Rapporteurs.
RAHMA ELOBIED (Sudan) said it was important not to politicise matters relating to human rights and to concentrate on the necessity of transparency in the choice of Special Rapporteurs appointed by the Council. The Special Rapporteur’s mandate must be in relation to the topics concerned. Sudan agreed with the calls for a code of conduct and for the Council not to extend the term of the Special Rapporteur.
BADRIDDIN OBIDOV (Uzbekistan) said Uzbekistan wanted to make some points on the report of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus. A resolution had been adopted concerning a fair dialogue on human rights. Uzbekistan had supported that resolution. The Human Rights Council should on the basis of an interactive dialogue carry out the Universal Periodic Review in such a way that universal coverage was regarded. The results of the work in the Human Rights Council would be decisive in determining the future of human rights. Double standards should be excluded and a constructive dialogue should be fostered.
OLEG MALGINOV (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation was surprised by appeals by the Special Rapporteur to interfere in the internal affairs in a State and bring about political pressure. The international community had tried to get rid of this politicization by abolishing the Commission for Human Rights. Double standards must be eliminated.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus
ADRIAN SEVERIN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, said that his mandate was about assessing the human rights situation in Belarus. Any Rapporteur who would have this task should assess all areas affecting this mandate. Human rights were absolute rights. A Special Rapporteur should have the absolute obligation to look at all areas. For the victims of human rights, only to assess the violation was not enough. The situation needed to be changed and improved. It was the common duty of the Special Rapporteur to take action and not only to describe the situation. From this point of view, the mandate had no limits.
But as he learned in this session, the bad face had no limits, too, Mr. Severin said. People who drew cartoons about their President in Belarus were legally and politically harassed, so the right to laugh seemed so far not yet to be a human right. Concerning the question about the absence of positive events, he wanted to correct the Representative of China because his report did include some of them. But they were not major. On the question on immediate steps, the Special Rapporteur had tried already for three years to recommend these kinds of steps. A very important step was to reach a common approach on the issue.
Concerning the statement from Indonesia saying the parties were so different in understanding human rights, the Special Rapporteur agreed. He recommended dialogue once again. One should continue to try engaging the country and the authorities in a dialogue. Prompt reactions to positive steps should be considered. Strong reactions had to be deployed to negative effects. Without education, there could not be optimist prospective for the future. Mr. Severin noted that he had neither created his mandate nor the violations in Belarus.
Report on Situation of Human Rights in Cuba
The Council has before it the report on the situation of human rights in Cuba (A/HRC/4/12), submitted by the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Christine Chanet. Despite attempts to contact the Cuban authorities to initiate a dialogue with them, the Personal Representative received no reply and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally repeated the Government’s refusal to recognize her mandate at a meeting of the Council on 26 September 2006. The Personal Representative's report is thus based on hearings of non-governmental organizations, documents made available by OHCHR and the Special Rapporteurs, and the 2005 report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Positive aspects must again be noted in the sphere of economic, social and cultural rights, especially in the areas of education and health, where the Cuban authorities are making major efforts, in particular as regards funding. However, the tension between Cuba and the United States has created a climate which is far from conducive to the development of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. United States laws and the funding provided for “building democracy in Cuba” make members of the political opposition on the island appear to be sympathetic to foreign influences and provide the Cuban authorities with an opportunity to tighten repression against them. An unprecedented wave of repression was unleashed in March-April 2003 in Cuba, the pretext being the active role played by the United States Interests Section in Havana vis-à-vis the political opposition. In 2005 and 2006, more people were arrested and given disproportionate sentences for expressing dissident political opinions. The appeal to the Cuban authorities made by the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner on 28 July 2005 has gone unanswered. In addition, nine urgent appeals were made in 2006, either separately or jointly, by UN Special Procedures. The report concludes with 10 recommendations intended to put an end to the current situation through restoration of the guaranteed fundamental rights of Cubans and international protection of those rights through Cuba’s accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introduction of Report on Situation of Human Rights in Cuba
CHRISTINE CHANET, Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, said she had not had any contact with the Cuban authorities during the term of her mandate, in spite of her requests. She had, however, ascertained certain findings through contact with academics, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and Special Procedures. Since the unprecedented wave of repression in 2003 the situation had not really improved. There had been other arrests in 2007 and she was concerned about the physical and mental condition of detainees. These had been regarded as cases of arbitrary detention. The Cuban Government had made positive efforts in education and health notwithstanding a devastating embargo. She added that the Cuban authorities had not withheld contact from other Special Rapporteurs, but because of the total refusal of cooperation with the Personal Representative on the part of the authorities, there was now an impasse. There was an opportunity provided by the transformation from Commission to Council, in the context of the Universal Periodic Review and other procedures, under which Cuba should be subject to periodic review. There was an opportunity to see the human rights situation in a different context when fostering dialogue and ensuring equal footing with other countries that would set aside charges of double standards. The system to be established should take into account all information gathered. That was why she now proposed a halt to the prosecution of citizens exercising rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, revision of laws and mechanisms on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, maintenance of the moratorium on the death penalty, penal reform, a permanent standing committee to study complaints from victims, revision of the rights to entry, exit and freedom of movement in Cuba and numerous other items which should be carried out by the Government of Cuba.
Statement by Concerned Country
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), speaking as a concerned country, said that the mandate of the so-called Personal Representative was a heavy burden from the past. The Cuba she was trying to convene was a picture concocted in the laboratories of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Cuba fought for a better world for all. The Personal Representative of the High Commissioner could help to close down the concentration camp of Guantanamo. She could join the campaign of the Cuban people to uphold the cause of the five courageous Cubans who were fighting against terrorism. This practice represented the past. Cuba had submitted its candidacy to the Council and had undertaken several commitments related to it. The second year of the Human Rights Council should start by throwing overboard the heavy burden from the past. Cuba reaffirmed its commitment to the Human Rights Council. Cuba asked for an end to double standards.
Interactive Dialogue on Situation of Human Rights in Cuba
CHENG JINGYE (China) said China regretted the so-called report on the human rights situation in Cuba, which was a continuation of the policies of the politically motivated former Commission on Human Rights. Cubans were steadfastly following their own path and had made great achievements in the pursuit of citizens’ rights. The report mentioned the serious impact on the human rights of Cubans caused by the international sanctions, yet there was no mention of the need for the removal of the sanctions. It had been decided that country-specific human rights mandates were against the principle of the Human Rights Council and should be disregarded. This was true in the case of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate on Cuba and this mandate could only poison the work of the Council.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that country mandates adopted without the consent of the country gave rise to problems. Selectivity and double standards were also a problem. A significant change in the situation in Cuba could be noted, including in education among other areas.
JUAN HOLGUIN (Ecuador) said Ecuador had heard with interest the statement by the Personal Representative on the situation of human rights in Cuba. Ecuador had been campaigning in the Human Rights Council to stress the need for Special Procedures in the field of human rights to be legitimate, impartial and objective with the aim of reviewing human rights violations around the world. The mandate for Cuba was established during the former Commission and the situation should therefore be approached in the new institutional structure being developed for the Council. Ecuador would support the non-renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate as it existed.
CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea opposed the mandate of the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Cuba and her report. It was part of the politicised manoeuvres to change the political situation in Cuba. Politicised country mandates had no relevance with human rights. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea strongly rejected country mandates, including the one on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. All the country mandates should be terminated.
ABDULNOMEN ANNAN (Syria) said the majority of United Nations members were in favour of terminating most or all the country mandates by 2008 because many were politically motivated. The Cuban case clearly illustrated this. There was widespread expectation that the Council would eliminate the shortcomings of the Commission on Human Rights that were aimed at achieving foreign utilitarian objectives. The main problem in Cuba was the sanctions which had serious impacts on the economic and social rights of the Cuban people. The Human Rights Council should terminate the mandate of the Personal Representative with immediate effect.
RAHMA ELOBIED (Sudan) said that the delegation of Sudan had read the report on Cuba. It wanted to congratulate Cuba for the progress it had achieved in different areas despite the embargo. The continuation of the mandate of the Personal Representative would not be useful and would not serve human rights in the world. Double standards and selectivity must be disavowed. Sudan rejected country mandates where information was gathered from outside sources without consulting the concerned country. Sudan wanted to commend the contribution of Cuba for its support for developing countries.
GRIGORY LUKIYANTZE (Russian Federation) said dialogue with any State should be based on principles of equality and respect, otherwise there would be a spiral of confrontation and politicization within the Council. In light of this, the Russian Federation expressed appreciation to the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in Cuba for the pragmatic suggestion that her mandate be discontinued. Even when the mandate was created several countries said this mandate had nothing to do with a real concern for human rights. It was hoped that the Council would heed Ms. Christine Chanet’s proposition.
FOROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) said that Iran had called for the rationalisation of the system of Special Procedures. The Council approach should send a clear message of dialogue in a non-selective manner. Iran called on the Human Rights Council to end the unfair and politicised mandate of the Personal Representative on the situation of human rights in Cuba.
BIRGITTA SIEFKER-EBERLE (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it appeared that the substance of the report was not being debated, but rather the institutional issues. The European Union encouraged the Cuban Government to extend cooperation to the Personal Representative. There was concern over freedom of expression in Cuba. There had been numerous detentions of journalists, writers and opposition trade unionists. Some had been released. Did the Personal Representative expect other releases in the future? Was there potential improvement in trial procedures? Had there been improvements in the condition of certain detainees? What measures had been taken by the Cuban Government to achieve and maintain the well known high standards of literacy.
GABRIEL SALAZAR (Venezuela) said Venezuela was not a stooge in this sad spectacle. It would not put questions to the Personal Representative and denounced the biased mandate against Cuba. How Cuba was treated was representative of how the Council would deal with the situation of politicisation, bias and selectivity. The Commission had been established under the shadow of the Cold War to carry out an inquisition against developing countries. The imposition of universal models on countries of the south was based on geopolitical interests. Cuba had been used to set an example. From beginning to end, this issue had been dominated by political blackmail and distortion in the media by a power with the goal of total global control. There had been no genuine international cooperation in the field of human rights.
DAYAN JAYATILLAKE (Sri Lanka) said that in the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was a letter by Fidel Castro, seeking the assistance of the ICRC. That was an unprecedented attempt by any fighting force to introduce humanitarian law in the midst of a combat. Cuba had 300,000 volunteers fighting in Angola from 1986 to 1988. There was not a single allegation concerning a single atrocity committed by the Cubans. When Nelson Mandela spoke in 1991, he said he would not be a free man if the Cuban forces had not been there in 1988. This report sought to condemn one of the most moral States one could see in the world today.
NGO QUANG XUAN (Viet Nam) said the role of protection and upholding of human rights was the responsibility of the State, and should be on the basis of non-interference. A Vietnamese high-level delegation had just concluded a visit to Cuba and was deeply impressed by the achievement of Cuba in education, healthcare, and protection and promotion of human rights. It was hoped the mistakes of double standards and selectivity would not be repeated by the Council. The mandate of the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner on the human rights situation in Cuba should be terminated.
WESTMORELAND PALON (Malaysia) said the Government of Cuba continued to put in major efforts to improve the lives of all Cuban citizens. This was a reflection of the goal of the Government to ensure that citizens could enjoy the fruits of development and of the economy whilst their rights as a people were fully respected. Who bore the responsibilities for the violations that were mentioned in the report, the speaker asked, saying that these were due to the illegal economic and other embargoes on Cuba. It was unjust for Cuba to be subjected to scrutiny in the Council, which was due to manoeuvres by certain parties for means of political selectivity. The Council should work in a true spirit of cooperation and dialogue as was its mandate.
MUSNIA MARKUS (Libya) said that Libya had exerted many efforts to help create the Human Rights Council. Libya was against the country mandates. They were established during the time of the Commission on Human Rights for purely political reasons. If a country wished to propose a resolution on a specific country, it may do so but needed a majority of 2/3 to be approved. Libya wanted to reaffirm its appeal for the end of the mandate to be kept into consideration. MUNU MAHAWAR (India) thanked the Personal Representative for her report on Cuba, which once again raised the question on the wisdom of country specific resolutions. These failed to impact on the situation on the ground and led to acrimony and discord, and were contrary to the spirit of dialogue that should inform the work of the Council. It was hoped the new instrument, the Universal Periodic Review would enable country situations to be reviewed in a positive manner.
SAMUEL KOTANE (South Africa) said South Africa had called earlier in the day for the Council to terminate all country mandates. It was ready however to support the consideration of country situations in the work of the Council subject to approval of a two-thirds majority. Country mandates were divisive, and led to double standards, politicisation and selectivity. The Council should not be guided by these principles. The Universal Periodic Review mechanism should ensure the Council monitored the observance of human rights by its members.
ANGELICA NAVARRO (Bolivia) strongly supported the statement of Cuba. In the former Commission on Human Rights, countries were discredited by other countries that did not share their ideas and positions. The human rights system had turned into a system that promoted the rights of certain countries through selectivity. Some cases of human rights violations were ignored. Objective data for a serious discussion became the use of double standards. Thus the defence of human rights was not well served. It was those who abused the systems who had the greatest responsibility in proceeding with the reform.
ROBERT SINCLAIR (Canada) noted the continued lack of cooperation by Cuba over the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. Canada encouraged Cuba to cooperate and welcome a follow-up visit, and called on Cuba to meet its human rights obligations. Canada supported the request for Cuba to accede to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and was interested to hear how to engage Cuba effectively.
JOSE MARIA CAPON DUARTE E SILVA (Angola) said Angola was against the maintaining of country-specific mandates. The principles of objectivity and non-selectivity with regards to human rights should be ensured, and double standards and politicisation should be eliminated. The protection of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and dialogue with a view to allowing States to improve their ability to resolve human rights problems, in a context of international cooperation, with a view to strengthening the protection and promotion of all human rights. The mandate had not been correctly set up - it was difficult therefore to engage in a constructive dialogue to ensure that there was greater objectivity with regards to the situation in Cuba.
ALICIA MARTIN GALLEGOS (Nicaragua) said that the Human Rights Council emerged from the determination of Member States to put an end to politization. During the first year, the Council had worked with old working methods. Nicaragua believed that the Human Rights Council should put an end to the mandate it was dealing with now. There was no doubt that the mandate was unfair and unjust and Cuba had given proof of its will to cooperate.
Cuba had been subjected to an economic blockade. The report of the Secretary-General on the repercussions of the blockade from 2004 had denounced the disaster of the consequences of the blockade. Cuba had exceeded its goals in the area of gender equality, health and education. The Council would contribute to its own strengthening if it put an end to this mandate.
MOHAMMED ABU-KOASH (Palestine) said all country rapporteurs should be dropped as they were the product of arm twisting for political reasons that had nothing to do with human rights. Ending these mandates was the wish of the majority. The blockade on Cuba should not be tolerated. A similar blockade had been imposed on Palestine as the Palestinians exercised their free choice in a democratic manner. Cuba and Palestine stood tall in their worldwide stature. Within a few days the end of the mandate on Cuba would be celebrated.
JUDITH CHAMMAS (United States) said the United States shared the Special Representative’s concern on the situation of human rights in Cuba, and urged that Government to allow the Representative to visit the country in order to build a dialogue that would determine the situation of human rights in Cuba. Cuba had banned the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States believed that Cuba should immediately release all political prisoners. There was concern for the conditions under which the latter were held. Cuba should allow non-governmental organizations entry into the country, and promote pluralism, trade unions, associations, the press and other entities throughout Cuba. The reason for the political and economic woes was the ineptitude of its own Government.
ENOS MAFEMBA (Zimbabwe) said that the credibility of the Human Rights Council continued to be put to a test. This was true with the anti-Cuban initiatives, which were highly politically motivated. Those terrorising Cuba should have been subject to a report on their terror attempts against the Cuban people. Those who visited Cuba were proud of the achievements. Zimbabwe called for the adoption of a code of conduct to avoid the demonization of countries.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said the mandate on Cuba was not helping human rights but was being used for political purposes. Constant dialogue and cooperation were needed and the country mandates mostly did not foster this. It was necessary to review the effectiveness of country mandates in view of the new institutional procedures.
EVGENY LAZAREV (Belarus) said today the holders of the most politicised mandates of the Council were before the Council. Comparing the issue of unilateral sanctions, the Special Rapporteur on Belarus kept on calling for economic sanctions on Belarus, and the Special Representative on Cuba politely refused to comment on these. It was under the guise of protecting citizens that these mandates had been established. Not all holders of country mandates had the courage to recognise that their mandates had no viable future. Some countries required the prolongation of country mandates and their revision - but it was the Council’s approach to human rights which needed to be revised. The people of Cuba had chosen their path, and would not waver from this.
HARI PRABOWO (Indonesia) thanked the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for her report on Cuba. Indonesia noted the wide opposition of views between the delegation of Cuba and the Special Representative on universally accepted human rights principles. The breakdown in communication between the Special Representative and the Government of Cuba was regretted in this regard. The practical recommendation concerning the Universal Periodic Review was heard with interest.
BLANKA SOUSKOVA (Czech Republic) said the Czech Republic supported the Special Procedures and reiterated the importance of full cooperation between States and Special Procedures. The Czech Republic urged Cuba to cooperate with the Personal Representative, and though it welcomed progress in economic and social rights in Cuba, civil and political rights were still being violated. What could be done to improve access to information, notably via the Internet, among Cubans?
TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/251 said the work of the Council should be guided by the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity, with the aim of promoting and protecting all human rights, and avoiding the shortcomings of the Commission. Selective targeting and politicisation were the bane of the Commission, and all had agreed to leave this behind. There was scepticism with regards to country mandates, and it was hoped they would not become another weak link in the work of the Council. The work of the Council should be started with the politicisation and acrimony of the past left behind.
BADRIDDIN OBIDOV (Uzbekistan) said that Uzbekistan wished to note on the report on Cuba that a resolution had been adopted on a multidimensional dialogue on human rights. The resolution aimed to move away from the negative legacy. The Human Rights Council should work on the basis of an interactive dialogue. The examination of human rights should take place as a whole. The Council had the future in its hands and should be based on a constructive dialogue.
Concluding Remarks by Personal Representative on Cuba
CHRISTINE CHANET, Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Cuba, responding, said that notwithstanding the problems encountered, she had done her best to fulfill the mandate objectively, focusing mainly on facts. She noted that the facts of her report were not questioned. She said it was not up to her to decide whether her mandate should be terminated. It was up to the Council to modify the mandate as it was clearly no longer viable in its present form. Accountability was an important issue. She could not take up a position on the embargo as this was not within her purview, but the report mentioned the impact of the embargo on human rights in Cuba. However, civil and political rights, when violated, were not necessarily being violated because of the embargo. Regarding the detainee mentioned by the German delegation, she had information that he had not been arrested. Regarding development, she relied on UNESCO figures. She had no specific recommendations concerning the access to information via the Internet except that freedom of access was the key thing, regardless of the medium being used.
For use of the information media; not an official record