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.