At the meeting to adopt the report on Cuban rights violations at the UN Human Rights Council today, of the ten slots allotted for NGO speeches, eight were awarded to GONGOs (“Government-backed NGOs,” i.e., front groups) that bestowed lavish praise on the Castro regime.
This is no surprise after yesterday’s various mishaps at the NGO speaker sign-up desk. With limited spots available for NGOs to speak, getting on the list required making it to the line first thing in the morning. Mysteriously, these GONGOs all made it there before 8 AM when NGOs are allowed onto the UN premises. The first legitimate NGO to speak on Cuba, Centrist Democrat International (CDI), came in eighth on the speaker’s list. A representative of that organization had flown in from abroad and was sure to be the first NGO delegate to enter the UN, but even he was barely lucky enough to make it onto the list. There are eye-witness reports from Geneva delegates that Cuban diplomats drove GONGO members into the Palais des Nations at early hours of the morning.
At the opening of this morning’s session, Germany on behalf of the European Union voiced its concern on this issue, saying a “group managed to start a queue long before NGOs can enter the premises.” UN Watch had released this story in yesterday’s blog.
The secretariat admitted that “yesterday, for some reasons we’re not entirely aware of, some NGO delegates could enter the building beforehand.”
In his testimony for CDI, former Cuban prisoner of conscience, Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo drew attention to the plight of hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba. He cited 21 deaths in prisons because of medical negligence or psychological harassment, more than 500 cases of arbitrary arrests and 26 imprisonments of human rights defenders. “On behalf of the thousands of Cubans who are repressed tortured and whose fundamental rights are violated, I ask this Council to bring justice, and that this document should explain the real situation of human rights in Cuba,” he said.
This and one other speech for Castro’s victims were too much for the Cuban delegation who, in its closing remarks, accused them of serving imperialist interests. “Just as a swallow doesn’t mean there’s a summer, the noisy voices of those not-NGOs, but mercenaries in pay of the empire and defeated voice of counter-revolution, we regret they felt the need to come here and make the clown act. At any rate, we will continue to be victorious,” Cuba said.