Human rights still under
Posted on Sun, Oct. 01,
2006 in The Miami Herald.
The Cuban government is nothing if not
consistent. Faced once again with a report
in the U.N. Human Rights Council condemning
the way Cuba treats its citizens, the government
responded by denouncing Christine Chanet,
the French lawyer who prepared the report.
This is a pathetic but typical response
by a regime that has once again had its
dirty laundry aired before the human-rights
The 13-page report prepared by Ms. Chanet
and presented for the first time to the
Human Rights Council in Geneva last week
describes a host of violations: Arbitrary
arrests; the suppression of free speech
and free association; restricting common
liberties, such as the freedom to travel.
None of this will come as news to anyone
familiar with life in Cuba, but it is important
for reports such as this to be presented
to international organizations that command
attention. It robs Cuba of any pretense
to claim good standing in the community
of nations that respect the basic rights
of their own citizens.
Just as important, it undermines the notion
that the people of Cuba really do support
their government and have any allegiance
to Fidel Castro. The practices described
in the report can have only one purpose,
and that is to maintain the citizenry in
a state of perpetual fear, the fundamental
objective of any police state.
It is not likely that the government will
take this report seriously. Not as long
as Fidel Castro is still around, anyway.
But if a post-Castro government should ever
want to signal that it is interested in
changing direction, it could implement at
least some of the recommendations offered
by Ms. Chanet.
The first and most important of these is
to halt the prosecution of citizens who
are exercising rights guaranteed under the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And,
while it's at it, the government should
release detained persons who, in the words
of the report, ''have not committed acts
of violence against individuals and property.''
Among them are the 60 jailed individuals
named in the report who were arrested in
March-April of 2003 in the crackdown on
Cuba's human-rights record has been the
target of condemnation for decades, and
the record includes previous reports by
official U.N. observers. ''The situation
doesn't seem today to be anything that could
be described as improved, and I'm putting
it mildly,'' Ms. Chanet said last week.
This may discourage those who would like
to believe that pressure from the world
community will oblige the government to
soften its grip on the people of Cuba. But
the report and others like it provide comfort
to the courageous dissidents inside Cuba.
They need to know that they are not alone
in condemning the injustice and lack of
freedom that prevail in Fidel Castro's Cuba.