Cuba rejects calls to free political prisoners

February 10th, 2009 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, Feb 10 (IANS) Cuba has rejected the call by the international community to free all political prisoners, saying such demands were violation of its sovereign rights, EFE reported Tuesday.

The UN Human Rights Council concluded Monday its evaluation of Cuba’s human rights situation during its Universal Periodic Review mechanism in Geneva, where several western countries called for the release of all dissidents of the communist regime.

But Cuban Justice Minister Maria Esther Reus said the demand was not acceptable to her country because of “their incompatible nature with the exercise of the right to the free determination of the Cuban people, and we will not put at risk our sovereignty or the ideals of the Revolution”.

More than 200 people have been serving jail terms in Cuba for criticising the government which considers the dissidents as “mercenaries” of the US trying to undermine the 50-year-old revolution and the island’s independence.

However, Reus said the review of Cuba in the council was “very positive because there was a respectful exchange, we were permitted to discuss our experiences and hear the criticism of other delegations”.

The Cuban delegation also confirmed that Havana would study and reply before next June several recommendations, including the ratifying and implementing of the UN pacts on political and civil rights.

Other recommendations Havana said it would study included reducing the number of crimes that carry the death penalty, considering abolishing capital punishment altogether and establishing a system of review of the island’s prisons by the UN, among others.

The delegate for Amnesty International in Geneva, Peter Splinter, said that the “real test” for Cuba will be the manner in which it responds to that group of recommendations that for the moment it has neither accepted nor rejected.

He said it was “unfortunate” that Cuba was maintaining its position rejecting freeing its political prisoners and the calls “to respect basic human rights”, including the rights to freedom of conscience, expression and association.

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