Cuba Blocking Rights Defender from Addressing Monday’s Geneva Summit,
30 Rights Groups Join UN Watch, Urge World Body’s Rights Chief to Protest
GENEVA, Mar. 4, 2010 — Cuba created a stir at the UN Human Rights Council today when its envoy began banging his country name-plate on the table to interrupt a speech by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer in support of a former political prisoner blocked from attending a Geneva conference of dissidents, to be held by 30 NGOs this Monday.
In an interactive council debate with UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer asked her to respond to today’s appeal by 30 human rights groups from Morocco, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Venezuela, the U.S and other countries, calling on the UN rights chief to intervene on behalf of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, a former prisoner of consicence who was freed after five years in jail and a worldwide Amnesty International campaign.
Mr. Lobaina is currently being barred by the Cuban government from leaving the country to join other dissidents at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, taking place March 8-9, 2010.
The Cuban delegate accused Neuer of “throwing down a challenge to the work of the council,” of showing a “lack of respect” for the “very serious work” of the UN Human Rights Council, and of “undermining” the 47-nation body.
Although many of the speakers in the debate had also made references to specific country situtations, the president of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen of Belgium, sided with Cuba and upheld its objection, denying the UN Watch delegate the ability to complete his comments and request the High Commissioner to intervene.
See text of UN Watch speech below, followed by the text of today’s appeal by 30 NGOs on behalf of the Cuban rights advocate.
UN Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue with High Commissioner Navi Pillay
Delivered by Hillel Neuer, 4 March 2010
Thank you, Mr. President.
Madam High Commissioner, UN Watch welcomes your annual report and this opportunity to discuss it with you.
We wish to ask three questions.
First, your report addresses the importance of protecting human rights defenders. In this regard, we call your attention to the appeal submitted to you today by 30 NGOs from Morocco, Vietnam, Canada, Germany, Venezuela and the U.S., concerning the situation of human rights defender Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina, the former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.
Although Mr. Lobaina is a scheduled speaker this Monday, together with other internationally-renowned dissidents and activists, at the 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Cuba is denying him the right to leave…
[CUBAN DELEGATE BEGINS BANGING ON TABLE, INTERRUPTS WITH POINT OF ORDER]
[Following UN chair’s ruling in favor of Cuba, the following portion was left unspoken: “…in contravention of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 5 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Accordingly, Madam High Commissioner, will you be intervening on his behalf?”]
Second, we commend you for speaking out today against the grave violations committed by Sri Lanka, where an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed. In this regard, we recall that last May a group of democracies initiated a special session of this Council to hold Sri Lanka accountable.
We supported your call for an independent and credible international investigation into these violations, which you rightly echoed today.
Yet Sri Lanka and its allies, being a majority, reversed the proposed resolution. The council ended up celebrating Sri Lanka for its “promotion and protection of all human rights.”
Given this devastating result for victims, why on Monday did you praise the special sessions of this Council as being “notable”?
Third, given that the Council has only convened 9 special sessions to scrutinize countries, of which 6 targeted one single country (Israel)—and that urgent abuses in 188 other countries have gone ignored—would you not agree that we are in fact letting down the world’s victims?
In this session’s document HRC/13/NGO/117, 50 Iranian activists urge you to call for an immediate special session and investigation into the atrocities committed by Iran, violations that you referenced today.
According to a February 15, 2010 report of the New York Times, you said that you would be unable to visit Iran before 2011.
Given that innocent Iranians are being brutalized, arrested, raped and executed right now, can you please reconsider, and announce that you will visit Iran immediately?
Thank you, Mr. President.
Urgent NGO Appeal for Cuban Human Rights Defender Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina,
former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
4 March 2010
Dear Madam High Commissioner,
We urge you to intervene with the Cuban government to challenge its unlawful barring of human rights defender Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina from leaving the country and addressing this Monday’s 2nd Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.
As you know, Mr. Lobaina is president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, and one of the most recognized dissidents in Cuba. He was jailed for more than five years for the crimes of “disrespect,” “public disorder,” and “damage,” and became the object of a worldwide Amnesty International campaign to free him as a prisoner of conscience.
The global civil society organizers of the Geneva Summit invited Mr. Lobaina to be a distinguished panel speaker at their conference. He duly received all necessary approval from the Swiss authorities. However, the Cuban government has refused to grant Mr. Lobaina permission to exit, thereby preventing him from participating at this important gathering of human rights defenders.
Under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights similarly guarantees that “Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.” This right “shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.” In General Comment No. 27 (1999), the UN Human Rights Committee established that restrictions on the right to leave must be “provided by law, must be necessary in a democratic society for the protection of these purposes and must be consistent with all other rights recognized in the Covenant.” None of these conditions have been met by Cuba’s restrictions in the present case.
Article 5c of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, guarantees that “[f]or the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, at the national and international levels […] to communicate with nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations.”
Travel restrictions such as those imposed on Mr. Lobaina unfairly and arbitrarily impair his ability and the ability of his organization to address international forums about human rights concerns in Cuba.
For these reasons, we urge you to intervene with the Cuban authorities to see that they immediately lift these restrictions against Mr. Lobaina. We also urge you to demand that the Cuban authorities ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances.
We look to you and the United Nations to reverse this counter-productive decision to block a human rights defender from conducting his work. We hope this travel ban will be lifted so that Mr. Lobaina can join fellow dissidents this Monday at the Geneva Summit, and thereafter travel without restriction.
Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.
Paula Schriefer, Director of Advocacy, Freedom House
John Suarez, International Secretary, Directorio
Bart Woord, President, International Federation of Liberal Youth
Tashi Albertini, President, Associazione Ticino Tibet
Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch
Maran Turner, Executive Director, Freedom Now
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and Co-Founder Stop Child Executions
Ahmad Batebi, Founder, Human Rights Activists in Iran
Gabriel Salvia, Chairman, CADAL
Gibreil I. M. Hamid, President, Darfur Peace and Development Centre
Jacob Mchangama, Head of Legal Affairs, Center for Political Studies
Phil ya Nangoloh, Executive Director, National Society for Human Rights of Namibia
Harris Schoenberg, President, UN Reform Advocates
Carlos E. Tinoco, President, A.C. Socrates de Venezuela
A. P. Gautam, Member Secretary, Nepal International Consumers Union
Aixa Armas, Secretaria General, Espacio Civil
Omar Lopez, Executive Director, Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba
Theodor Rathgeber, German Forum Human Rights
Catherine Waters, Main Representative, Catholic International Education Office
Jaime Vintimilla, Executive Director, CIDES
Kok Ksor, President, Montagnard Foundation
Anne Shay, Justice Contact, Presentation Congregation
Margarita Lacabe, Executive Director, Derechos Human Rights
Joan Powers, Coordinator, Presentation Sisters Victoria Justice Ministry
Tanja Mirabile, INCOMINDIOS Switzerland
Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar, Chairman, Center for Youth and Democracy
Forum Maghrebin Pour L’environneùent et Le Développement Morocco
Ted Brooks, Jr., Executive Director, Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy
Nguyên Hoàng Bao Viêt, Delegate, Vietnamese Writers in Exile Centre
Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Delegate, Vietnamese League for Human Rights
Klaus Netter, Main Representative, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations
Jeff King, President, International Christian Concern