Over 80 Rights Groups Slam U.N. for Electing Cuba to Human Rights Council

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Cuba will return to the council for a sixth term in 2021 as one of eight representatives for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In an open letter addressed to the international body signed by 85 human rights groups and press organizations, signatories argue that Cuba’s position on the council undermines its mission as well as its ability to hold other authoritarian regimes accountable.

“We are deeply concerned about the decision to give Cuba a new opportunity to serve on the Human Rights Council,” the letter read. “This not only rewards Cuba’s poor human rights record but also undermines the integrity of the Council to hold accountable Cuba and other abusive governments for their actions in the region and around the world.”

It continues:

Nations that have the honor of serving on the Council must commit to international human rights law. Council members must ensure that Cuba does not shirk responsibility for its own conduct or use its seat to weaken these international norms. Organizations dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights will be vigilant, monitoring Cuba’s actions within the Council, certifying that human rights and fundamental freedoms are being respected and protected.

Cuba has also not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, nor the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

During its time on the council, Cuba has repeatedly attempted to impede the progress of global human rights investigations by voting only 66 times in favor of the 205 resolutions passed.

The letter also noted how Cuba has one of the world’s worst human rights records affecting practically every level of society, from the lack of an independent free press to a total lack of democracy within its system of government.

It explained:

In 2019, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that in Cuba “there is still a serious non-observance of the essential elements of freedom of expression, representative democracy and its institutions.”

The country continues to be, year after year, among the worst rated in terms of freedom of the press in Latin America, and ranks 171 out of 180 countries analyzed in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index 2020[[.] The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) includes Cuba in a list of the 10 countries with the highest level of censorship on the planet.

States including Russia, China, and Pakistan will also have representatives on the Council as of Tuesday’s election. Another human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia, lost out on a seat against China in the Asia-Pacific region.

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