Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lies, damned lies and Cuban ‘diplomacy’

Posted on Sunday, 05.27.12
The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Lies, damned lies and Cuban 'diplomacy'

OUR OPINION: U.N. body's questions put Cuba in the dock
By The Miami Herald Editorial

Even by the standards of Cuban diplomacy — a web of deceit and cover for
espionage — the performance of the Castro representive before the
Geneva-based Convention on Torture last week has been a mind-lowing
exercise in hypocrisy and Orwellian double-talk.

• To the committee's questions about penalties against dissent, Cuban
representative Rafael Pino Becquer, deputy attorney general, said no one
declared "socially dangerous" by law has been sanctioned: "Rather, they
were influenced by education programs and thus re-educated." File that
under punishment by another name.

• How about Cubans detained without notice and held incommunicado?
According to the Convention's own report of the session, Pino said
incommunicado detention does not exist, and that "detention upon arrest
may not exceed 24 hours and that every detainee had access to a doctor."
Deny, deny, deny.

• Asked about harassment of human rights defenders and independent
journalists, Cuba's representatives simply declared that they "were not
genuine human rights defenders." An outright lie.

And so it went. The entire Cuban reply to the questions posed by members
of the U.N.-affiliated body consisted of a series of clumsy evasions and
pants-on-fire whoppers. ("The intelligence services did not [i.e., do
not] detain people." Or this one: "Any person who suffered damage or
prejudice caused by State officials acting within their official
function could claim reparation and compensation by law.") The trick
there is "by law" — not by practice. The reality of Cuba is that the law
on any given day is whatever the Castro brothers ordain.

To listen to Cuban officials, the island is a virtual civil liberties
utopia, with habeas corpus enshrined in law and rigorously enforced (as
if), and their prisons model venues of rehabilitation: "Cuba had a
progressive approach to detention."

If the latter is true, why does Cuba forbid the International Red Cross
to visit the island's prisons? Why has Manfred Nowak, the U.N.'s expert
on torture, repeatedly been denied access to those prisons, despite a
supposed "invitation" from Cuba back in 2009?

Maybe it's because conditions in those prisons are so horribly wretched,
as a video smuggled out of the prison and posted on The Miami Herald
website makes plain, that Mr. Nowak would be nauseated if Cuba allowed
him to conduct a genuine inspection.

The Convention on Torture's questions will lead to a report on Cuba
which, we hope, pulls no punches. Meanwhile, anyone interested in the
real Cuba can visit non-government websites online such as the Cuba
Archive Project, or read a letter signed by over 100 former inmates with
a total of 3,551 years in Cuban jails who can attest to prison conditions.

No matter what the Convention ultimately finds, of course, it's not
likely to alter Cuba's behavior, but at least it will be put on notice
that the regime is not fooling anyone.

The last report issued by the panel on Cuba, published in December of
2005, contained a host of recommendations that Cuba ignored. They
included investigating complaints of abuse, public inspection of
prisons, an independent judiciary and allowing independent NGOs to
monitor the protection of human rights.

We won't hold our breath, but for the moment, at least, it's refreshing
to see a U.N. agency sending a signal that Cuba is a routine violator of
human rights, instead of cozying up to the Castro dictatorship as too
many U.N. agencies have done for decades.

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