The Guardian 20 April, 2005

Cuba stands firm in Geneva

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque flatly rejected as scandalous and discriminatory a US drafted resolution approved on April 14 in Geneva that censured the island at the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR). In a 21-17 vote with 15 abstentions, the 53-member UN body wants the commission's special investigator to continue putting a magnifying glass on Cuba, something the Caribbean Island considers outrageous.

Speaking at a press conference in Havana, Perez Roque challenged the legitimacy of the commission vote on the resolution presented by the US with European Union co-sponsorship. He also announced that the island had presented a motion at the UN body on Thursday asking for an impartial investigation of abuses committed by US soldiers at its Guantánamo naval base and offshore prison. The facility, widely known as "Gitmo", is maintained on Cuban territory against the will of the Caribbean island.

After noting the Bush administration's lack of moral authority to judge anybody on human rights, Perez Roque said, "No-one should expect Cuba will move a millimetre from its stance nor yield its principles."

The foreign minister also said that Cuba will not allow French jurist Christine Chanet, personal representative of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, to enter the country.

Perez Roque detailed the relentless pressure exerted by high level officials of the Bush administration, particularly on the African member-nations of the UN commission, as well as on Asian and the Middle Eastern countries.

Israel, Australia, Canada, Japan and various Eastern European governments were amongst the co-sponsors.

Although pressures were brought to bear on some of the African delegations, none of them joined Washington's proposal. Kenya, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe voted against it and a number of others abstained.

China, Cuba, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Egypt were amongst those opposing the resolution.

After highlighting that the White House essentially failed to "Latino Americanise" the vote against Havana (most abstaining), Perez Roque noted that the action of the European Union — by cosponsoring and supporting the anti-Cuban document — showed its lack of independence from Washington.

Perez Roque went on to explain the text submitted by Cuba that calls on the US government to authorise the observers of the UN Commission on Human Rights a visit to its Gitmo detention centres and said that the resolution only wants to investigate the events in situ.

He challenged the European Union to co-sponsor the resolution, saying that it was an opportunity for that block to prove its ethical coherence.

The minister said that the role played by the European Union against a small country like Cuba was pathetic, and he considered their attitude as capitulating and hypocritical.

Perez Roque described the EU as having become a "bootlicker" of the United States, which diminishes its political influence.

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