United Nations Watch Statement on Cuba’s UPR
September 23, 2013
UN Watch examined 28 recent UPR country reviews to count how many NGO submissions were made. We found 9 NGO submissions on Turkmenistan, 12 on Romania, 23 on Germany, 32 on Russia, and, the highest, 48 on Canada.
And then there was Cuba. Here the number suddenly soars and multiplies to the unbelievable amount of 454.
Now, one might assume that such an astonishing amount of NGO submissions would provide that much more of a robust critique.
Yet in the stakeholder summary, we found that out of 105 numbered paragraphs, 72 consist of robust praise of Cuba’s human rights record. In fact, the UN summary provides no less than 93 separate statements of praise of Cuba’s record.
Cuba (point of order): Thank you very much, Mr. President. It’s inconceivable for this NGO to here and now try to call into question the procedures, which were followed during the Cuba UPR. If I’m not mistaken, it was 6pm last Friday when the UPR of Cuba was adopted so I really don’t see the need for this NGO to refer to Cuba now. When one person claiming to be a representative of this NGO took the floor when my country’s report was being considered, so this is entirely not pursuant for the proceedings. All the more so when references being made to those NGOs which submitted written contributions in respect of our appearance before the UPR, it’s not up to an NGO to question other NGOs in respect of their submissions vis-à-vis one country. So President, could you please tell this representative that they cannot speak in respect of a country that has already undergone its UPR review and pursuant to the regulations could you please not allow them to take the floor again? Thank you.
President: I thank you. I consider that the statement made by the representative of this NGO has not much to do with Item 6 and I urge speaker to focus on human rights matters under discussion.
USA: We highlight that the United States firmly believes that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak in the council. The member states including may occasionally disagree with the content of NGO statements, it is essentially that civil society voices be heard here in an atmosphere of open expression. Without addressing the substance of the speaker’s statement we have the opinion that what we have heard of the interventions so far it is indeed addressed to the subject matter at hand at the council. Thank you.
President: Before I give the floor to distinguished ambassador of Pakistan I would like to tell that it was my intention to give back the floor to the speaker. Excellency, you have the floor.
Pakistan: Thank you, Mr. President. President, the reason I’ve taken the floor is to emphasize the relevance of the rules of procedure. We strongly believe that NGOs have every right to speak and that this right should not be curtailed in any manner. At the same time, we also strongly believe that there is a code of conduct. And that all of us, states parties, as well as NGOs need to observe the rules of procedure. The Cuban delegation has pointed out an important aspect of the breach of these rules of procedure. We do not challenge the NGO from saying what they want to say as long as it is in keeping with the rules of procedure and as you have rightly pointed out, Mr. President, that they should stick to the matter at hand, to the agenda item at hand, and not stray into areas which are not under consideration at this time. Therefore, I request you to advice this NGO to observe your ruling and if they do not do so then to deny them the use of this opportunity. Thank you.
Venezuela: Thank you very much, President. I take the floor simply to support this point of order raised by the delegate of Cuba. Also, I wish to speak in support of the statement that was made by the representative of Pakistan. We are not against representatives from civil society but such participation must be pursuant to the rules governing their contributions to this council. As you yourself have pointed out, President, in our view what the representative from this NGO was saying was not pursuant to the discussion that we’re having under agenda item 6. Thank you, sir.
China: Mr. President, China supports the point of order made by Cuba. China also supports the ruling by the President. China would like to suggest that Mr. President, that you should advise the nongovernmental organizations that when they take the floor they should abide by the rules of procedure by the Human Rights Council. Thank you, Mr. President.
UK: Thank you, Mr. President. UK support the point raised by our US colleagues. While we may not necessarily agree with everything NGOs says, we respect the right of NGOs, of accredited NGOs, to speak in the council. Thank you.
Egypt: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, we do indeed support the need to listen to the point of view of nongovernmental organizations that are accredited within this honorable council. However, we agree about the need for their statements and their activities within the council that they must be carried out in line with the rules and some of these organizations do not do things in a way that is in line with the Council’s rules. This is why we support the statement made by the ambassador of Pakistan, which was supported by Venezuela in light of the objections made by Cuba. We support these statements and your statement, Mr. President, and in the future we would like to have time to have a discussion about the degree of involvement of all with respect to the rules of the council and things should not work in a way that is not in line with these rules. Thank you.
Iran: Thank you Mr. President. Mr. President, we would like to support the point of order made by and also equate itself with the comments made by Venezuela, Pakistan and Egypt in this regard. Thank you.
UN Watch continues.
Cuba (point of order): Thank you, President. I am very sorry to have to interrupt the proceedings again, not something which I think is seemly, but let me start by saying to those delegations that defended the speaker, well then they should also defend those organizations that promote the rights of the Palestinian people. Because this NGO that’s taking the floor at the moment before this council everybody knows that they defend the violations committed by the Israeli people against the Palestinians. I really have no further comment on this specific NGO and I would ask you, President, to abide by your own ruling otherwise I’m going to have to be forced to continue these points of order as the NGO continues to refer to the Cuba UPR. I repeat, the NGO already took the floor when the Cuban UPR was being discussed on Friday afternoon and it’s not even 72 hours since that’s elapsed. So, I ask you to abide by your own decision. Thank you.
UN Watch: Thank you, Mr. President. We have concluded our statement.
The speech would have continued:
While genuine critiques and suggestions for improving human rights in Cuba do appear, they were overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of submissions that gave the Cuban government uncritical praise, inconsistent with the spirit of the UPR process.
One could fairly say that this turned the stakeholder summary into a propaganda sheet for the Cuban government, which is tainting the NGO process, and abusing the United Nations human rights system.
It has just been confirmed that the government of Cuba is once again running for membership on the UN Human Rights Council.
The official criteria for membership is to have a strong record on human rights.
Mr. President, does systematically abusing and circumventing the UN human rights system meet that standard?