Confidence in the United Nations Human Rights Commission was badly shaken earlier this year by the election of Libya to the commission's chairmanship. Libya is a nation notorious for its human rights abuses. Now, a new outrage: Communist Cuba has been reelected to a seat on the commission. As White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, this decision further illustrates the human rights commission's precipitous decline:
"Cuba does not deserve a seat on the human rights commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the human rights commission. It is an inappropriate action that does not serve the cause of human rights in Cuba or at the United Nations."
In recent weeks, the regime of Fidel Castro has unleashed the worst political repression in decades. Scores of Cubans were thrown into prison for terms as long as twenty-eight years. Their only crimes were to speak their minds, hold discussions, and seek an alternative to forty-four years of repression and fear. The Castro regime also executed three men for hijacking a boat in order to reach freedom in the United States.
These appalling actions occurred while the human rights commission was in session. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called on other nations to hold Cuba to account:
"Long terms of imprisonment -- twelve, fifteen, twenty years -- for speaking out and trying to exercise basic human rights. This just once again illustrates the nature of that regime under this dictator. Fidel Castro's been doing this for many years. And so I hope the whole world will now see this regime for what it is: a regime which is one of the last of its kind on the face of the earth and really is an aberration in the Western hemisphere."
Secretary of State Powell said that the United States will review its policies toward Cuba in light of the deteriorating human rights situation there.