Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cuba blocks visit by UN torture investigator

Cuba blocks visit by UN torture investigator
Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Wednesday, 9 June 2010 20:01 UK

Relatives of dissident prisoners protest Human rights groups had hailed
the invitation as a breakthrough

Cuba has told the UN special rapporteur on torture he cannot visit the
island, despite an invitation issued last year.

The UN investigator Manfred Novak expressed deep disappointment after
being told he could not visit before his mandate ends in October.

His visit would have been the first by a UN expert to specifically
monitor torture and cruel treatment in Cuba.

Cuban officials said it did not need an "objective assessment" of its
Breakthrough hope

"I regret that, in spite of its clear invitation, the government of Cuba
has not allowed me to objectively assess the situation of torture and
ill-treatment in the country," Mr Novak wrote.

Cuba invited him to visit in February 2009, but despite several attempts
to propose mutually acceptable dates, no agreement was reached, he said.

The invitation had been seen as a major breakthrough, as the Cuban
authorities have never previously allowed outside observers into the
island's jails, the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says.

Cuban diplomats in Geneva denied the invitation had been withdrawn, and
said Cuba was still hoping to agree dates for a visit.

But they said there was no need for an independent assessment of the
human rights situation in the country.

"There has not been one case of extra-judicial execution or of forced
disappearance in Cuba," an official statement said.

"Few countries can boast of the results achieved in Cuba in the
treatment of people in prison and their full reinsertion into society,"
it added.

Cuba's communist government has become increasingly sensitive to
international criticism of its treatment of jailed dissidents since one
prisoner, Orlando Zapata, died on 23 February after a long hunger strike.

Last week the government began moving some of the 200 jailed dissidents
to prisons closer to their families, under an agreement reached with the
Roman Catholic church.

The authorities deny there are political prisoners, calling them
mercenaries in the pay of the US.

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