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4/21/04 - HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA - 2004-04-21

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has adopted a resolution criticizing abuses by the Cuban government. The vote was twenty-two in favor and twenty-one opposed, with ten abstentions. Among those who voted against the resolution were China, Russia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Zimbabwe, and Sudan -- all countries with their own human rights problems.

The U-N resolution was sponsored by Honduras with the support of countries in Latin America and elsewhere, says U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher:

“Many new democracies in Latin America took the lead on this issue. . . . This sends a strong message to courageous Cubans who struggle daily to defend their human rights, fundamental freedoms, as well as to the repressive Castro regime.”

In 2003, the Communist regime of Fidel Castro launched a crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Seventy-five people were subjected to unfair trials. Seventy-four are currently serving prison terms as long as twenty-eight years. This month, one prisoner was released for health reasons, but he remains under house arrest. The human rights group Amnesty International says, “it is clear that they are prisoners of conscience -- detained for peaceful expression of their beliefs.”

After the U-N commission’s vote, an appalling spectacle occurred at the Geneva site of the meeting. In plain view of dozens of witnesses, a Cuban diplomat viciously attacked the chief of a U.S.-based human rights group, striking him from behind and beating him unconscious. This unprovoked attack is evidence of Cuba's utter contempt for what the U-N stands for. As Ambassador Kevin Moley, the U.S. representative in Geneva, said, if regime officials engage in this kind of despicable conduct in the very seat of the U-N's Human Rights Commission, one can only imagine what abuses the regime’s thugs undertake in Cuba itself.

President George W. Bush has called for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners, estimated at more than three-hundred. Normalization of relations, says Mr. Bush, will only be possible when Cuba has a government that is democratic, when the rule of law is respected, and when the rights of Cubans are protected.