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UN Calls on Cuba to Accept Human Rights Investigator - 2003-04-17

The top U.N. human rights forum has passed a resolution calling for Cuba to accept a visit by a rights investigator, but rejected an amendment condemning its recent clampdown on dissidents.

Following a second day of politically charged debate, the U.N. Human Rights Commission passed the resolution on Cuba by a 24 - 20 vote. It calls for Cuba to accept a U.N. special investigator to examine its rights situation.

Cuba has refused such visits in the past, claiming they could infringe on its sovereignty. It called the motion a gross and immoral maneuver.

An attempt by Costa Rica to toughen the resolution was rejected. Costa Rica had hoped to include in the motion criticism of Cuba's recent crackdown on dissidents and the execution of three hijackers. The commission also rejected a Cuban call for the immediate lifting of the economic embargo against the communist state.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Kevin Moley said he wished the resolution was stronger, to condemn recent actions.

"Since this commission began, nearly 80 representatives of Cuban civil society have been arrested, convicted, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms," said Mr. Moley. "In summary, sham proceedings. While we sat in this hall last Friday, the Cuban government tried and executed three hijackers with little more than a week between arrest and execution."

A resolution, submitted by the United States, and adopted by the commission with a vote of 23 to 14 condemned the former Soviet republic of Belarus for forced disappearances, summary executions and torture.

Resolutions criticizing the rights situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi were both adopted without a vote.

The Democratic Republic of Congo says it blames many of the rights abuses, particularly massacres and cannibalism in the east of the country, on armed rebel groups.

While recognizing some improvements made by Burundi's transitional government, the U.N. Human Rights Commission expressed concern about intensifying violence, including rape and the use of children as soldiers by all parties to the conflict.