From: Karen Lee Wald
t : Wednesday, March 24, 2004 8:37 AM

It is extraordinarily arrogant for an editor sitting in
south Florida to presume to know more about
human rights than the people sitting on the
Commission in Geneva...

Some comments in blue below.

Divisiveness Hurts U.S. Case

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

March 24, 2004

"Here we go again" should be the slogan of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights -- at least as it pertains to calls for a justified and necessary rebuke of human-rights violations in
Cuba .

The Geneva-based group is again balkanizing into with-us and against-us camps siding with the
United States or Cuba . The trash talking last week has Washington cajoling Argentina , and Cuba calling Costa Rica a U.S. "pawn." The strong-arming and name-calling only make consensus-building impossible.

Part of the problem is the
United States hurts its own case outside Geneva with misguided policies such as closing U.S. doors to Cuban musicians and enforcing a counterproductive ban on travel to Cuba .

All of this true and well-said up to this point.

Still, the U.N. Commission seemingly goes out of its way to politicize itself year after year. [In fact, many countries have bemoaned the fact that the
United States has politicized these proceedings year after year for the past 15 years, by having a unifocus on criticizing Cuba , to the exclusion of all the really horrendous human rights violations going on in the world. The US has consistently voted AGAINST the overwhelming majority of members year after year, on issues of flagrant human rights abuse, for pure political purposes.]  

It's even more disheartening today because the divisiveness overshadows the first anniversary of the worst civil rights setback in Cuba in decades.[75 people are in prison for provably collaborating with their country's worst enemy. Compare this to our country's abysmal history of failing to condemn REAL human rights violations:

the US delegation at the Human Rights Commission did NOT see fit to condemn the Pinochet dictatorship that "disappeared" and murdered thousands; refused to join in the condemnation of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan dictatorships when their death squads were murdering tens of thousands; voted against all other countries on the commission on issues ranging from condemning Israel's abuses of Palestinian rights to declaring the right to development as a human right. It is this hypocrisy that got the US voted off the HRC a few years ago, and only its financial bullying --"We won't pay our dues anymore until we are back on" -- that secured it a seat.

Last March, the Cuban government rounded up 75 dissidents on trumped-up subversion charges. They were sentenced to a collective 1,400 years in prison after lightning-quick, closed-door trials.[75 people were arrested after the Cuban government gathered evidence over a period of more than 5 years of their collaboration with the US government in its efforts to economically strangle that country -- in violation of a law passed on the heels of the US' Helms-Burton act. That evidence was presented in a court of law. The courtroom was not closed -- it was filled, just as the small courtroom that heard the appeal of the five Cuban prisoners in the
US was filled. The sentences given these 75 were far shorter than those given to a number of US "dissidents" -- African Americans, American Indians, anti-war activists (including priests and nuns) and Puerto Rican independence fighters. Most of the sentences were shorter than the 25 year sentence given Ana Belen Montes, the Puerto Rican (American) woman whose "crime" of working with the Cuban government -- unlike that of the 75 Cubans -- was not to bring harm to her own country but to prevent the US from doing harm to Cuba. A big difference.

The trials and sentences sparked [US-manipulated] global outrage. The anniversary of the crackdown was marked in many countries across the world last week with calls for their release and statements of solidarity.

Yes, there is global consensus on the injustice of
Cuba 's actions -- just not at the U.N. panel.

That's why the
United States should pursue a more doable goal. Efforts to obtain a public condemnation of Cuba are rarely successful, and would be meaningless because Havana would simply thumb its nose at whatever the commission said anyway.[They are rarely successful because the members of the Human Rights Commission know that their mission is to single out and publically condemn the worst violators, those governments which systematically carry out massive, gross violations. And despite Washington 's' insistence, and whatever Cuba 's failings to live up to certain standards of individual civil and political liberties, Cuba simply does not come close to this standard.]

Instead, the Bush administration should build a coalition to require International Red Cross visits to dissidents. That might garner support from reluctant countries, making it harder for
Cuba to stonewall. [The International Red Cross was set up to handle wartime situations and national emergencies. It is not designed to inspect prisons in countries not at war, and cannot be required to do so by the HRC or the USA ].

The dissidents are wrongly imprisoned. No person on Earth should ever be jailed for disagreeing with his or her government. [No matter how many times Otto Reich's disciples and unwitting advocates repeat this phrase, the fact remains that these people were NOT imprisoned for simply "disagreeing" with their government, but for actively collaborating with the foreign government --ours -- that is trying to overthrow it. And that is punishable in every country on earth.]

Red Cross visits would be a half-measure. However, there are worrisome reports that many dissidents are being held in inhumane conditions. Red Cross involvement might ameliorate their plight. [The reports of poor conditions in Cuban prisons -- which may well reflect the poor conditions imposed on the entire Cuban population by the mean-spirited US blockade of that island -- don't come near the verified reports of poor conditions and outright abuse in US prisons and juvenile detention facilities. The Sun-Sentinel shook look in its own back yard if it wants the Red Cross to see some conditions that we could actually do something about. If the editors want documentation it is abundantly available from any internet search, or I would be happy to send them some.]

A global body like the Human Rights Commission should speak up for the victims of injustice, not its perpetrators. The commission has proven it is not up to the task.
[On the contrary, that's exactly what the HRC has been doing, and that the US doesn't like. Because sadly, our government usually IS or SUPPORTS the perpetrators of injustice, and anyone with eyes and ears knows that the Cuban people are the victims of our injustice. That's why there is so little sympathy for those inside Cuba who would assist the US in that effort/]

Rather than forcing what it can't, Washington should focus on what could be, knowing that hope for relief might do more for the dissidents than empty saber-rattling. [Exactly: rather than forcing what it can't, Washington should focus on what could be done HERE. Set a good example for the rest of the world by cleaning up our own prison system, which sorely needs it, and which certainly could be done.

Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel