UN human-rights team set to report on Cuba after 10-day visit. Findings likely to praise overall record, but rap Cuba on specifics
After a 10-day visit to observe human rights conditions in Cuba, a special delegation of the United Nations Human Rights Commission said it had been given ``all the facilities it needed to carry out its observer mission in the country.'' The six-person team is expected to present a full report to the 43-member commission at its next session in Geneva in February.
Although no conclusions will be published until that time, observers expect a fairly balanced report. They say it will most likely praise Cuba's overall human rights record, especially in terms of economic and social rights, while noting some failings, notably in the area of individual civil and political liberties.
The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) team's visit at the invitation of the Cuban government was prompted in large part by the Reagan administration's two-year effort to label Cuba a gross violator of human rights. The government of Fidel Castro has been denounced in the West for alleged human rights abuses, including lengthy detentions of political prisoners, poor treatment of inmates, arbitrary arrests, and restrictions on freedom of speech and movement.
The group's press spokesman, Roger Hans-Moeve, explained in the first press-briefing that the commission's interest - as an observer group rather than an investigating team - was to see the positive application of human rights in Cuba, as well as to question any possible violations.
During its Sept. 16-25 visit, the delegation met with prisoners in two prisons in Havana and Pinar del Rio Province. Most of its time was spent visiting institutions and agencies suggested by the commission or proposed by the Cuban government. The remainder was spent interviewing a representative sample of approximately 1,500 individuals who submitted written complaints to the UN office in Havana prior to the group's arrival.
Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and 52 Protestant religions were interviewed, as was the head of the government's office of religious affairs.
Church spokesmen generally agreed that progress had been made in recent years and expected the trend to continue.
The delegation - headed by Alioune Sene, Ambassador from Senegal and current HRC president - included the ambassadors from Ireland, Bulgaria, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
While sources close to the commission said there was as yet no consensus on conclusions about what they'd seen and heard, Mr. Sene did give an elaborate final statement before leaving. He said the delegation had full access to all sources concerned with human rights on the island, from government ministers and Communist Party leaders to students, intellectuals, nongovernmental organizations, and private citizens.
More than half the complaints, Mr. Hans-Moeve said, had to do with failure to receive visas to migrate to the US. (Only some of these, he said, were Havana's denials to grant exit visas. In other cases, where the US had not acted upon or had rejected an application, the delegation indicated it would raise the issue with Washington if there appeared to be sufficient humanitarian grounds.)
Others who testified alleged there was a lack of political, religious, or artistic freedom, inadequate legal safeguards and abuse of prisoners.
Mr. Sene characterized the visit as an example of ``multilateral cooperation for the benefit of human rights.''