Cuba Gripes Over Use of UN Facilities For US Event Highlighting Political Prisoners

By Patrick Goodenough | October 16, 2018 | 5:00am EDT
Cuban Ambassador to the U.N. Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo addresses a General Assembly meeting in March 2017. (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

( – Cuba is demanding that the United Nations secretariat cancel an event planned by the U.S. Mission in New York on Tuesday focusing on political prisoners in the communist-ruled nation, charging that the U.S. should not be able to use U.N. facilities to “attack” another member-state.

A leading observer of the U.N. human rights system said an event highlighting political prisoners was “exactly what the U.N. founded for,” and that Cuba’s argument that U.N. premises should not be used in this way was “nothing but sound and fury from a broken and failing regime.”

The event, launching a U.S. campaign entitled “Jailed for What?” is being held in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chamber and will be livestreamed on the U.N. webcast system.

U.S. representative to ECOSOC, Ambassador Kelley Currie, is scheduled to speak on “the continuing plight of Cuba’s political prisoners,” before a discussion that will feature a former Cuban political prisoner, Alejandro Gonzalez Raga and Organization of American States secretary-general Luis Almagro.

(Image: U.S. Mission to the U.N.)

They and others will discuss Havana’s “continued use of arbitrary detention and specious charges to silence the Cuban people,” according to a State Department press release.

“The estimated 130 political prisoners held by the Cuban government are an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support,” it says.

The regime condemned the move as a misuse of U.N. facilities.

“Cuba denounces the perverse intention to hold this event using the name and premises of the United Nations to attack one of its member-states,” Cuban Ambassador Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo said during a General Assembly third committee meeting on Monday.

“Holding the event would constitute a clear violation of the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter and international law, and of the rules of this organization for the conduct of meetings,” she complained.

Rodriguez called Tuesday’s event and the “Jailed for What?” campaign “an affront to the sovereignty of the Cuban people.”


She said the U.S. has “no moral authority” to give human rights lessons to Cuba – “and much less under the new administration, with an agenda that promotes supremacist, racist and xenophobic ideas.”

Rodriguez said Cuba hopes the U.N. secretariat will not allow “such aggression” against a member-state. (Bolivia’s delegate later also called for the U.N. to cancel the event.)

Speaking a few minutes after Rodriguez, Currie thanked the Cuban delegate for drawing attention to Tuesday’s event, and said she hoped all would attend.

In a separate letter to U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres, the Cuban mission urged him to “enforce the established rules, act in line with the U.N. Charter and consequently cancel the realization of this event at the organization's facilities.”

Guterres’ spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told a briefing the secretariat would be in touch with the Cuban delegation to answer concerns raised, but that such events are the responsibility of the permanent mission hosting them.

In an email later Monday Dujarric said that as far as he was aware the planned event is going ahead. Queries sent to the U.S. mission brought no response by press time.

Dujarric also provided a copy of a U.N. “administrative instruction” that lays out parameters for meetings and events at U.N. premises.

It says that when U.N. premises are used, “due respect must be maintained for the dignity of the Organization. Proposed meetings and events must be consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, and must be non-commercial in nature.”

“The sponsoring Mission will be fully responsible for the program content of the meeting or event,” the document adds.


Hillel Neuer, executive director of the non-governmental organization UN Watch, dismissed Cuba’s argument.

“This event spotlighting the plight of Cuba’s political prisoners is exactly what the U.N. was founded for,” he said on Monday. “Cuba may sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, where it enjoys impunity, but Ambassador Nikki Haley and her team in New York are showing that they can find powerful tools to hold the communist police state accountable.”

“The U.S. has every right to hold events in the ECOSOC chamber, and Cuba’s frivolous attempts to argue otherwise are nothing but sound and fury from a broken and failing regime,” said Neuer.

Last July, UN Watch filed a legal petition with the U.N. Working Group for Arbitrary Detention, a panel of independent jurists, on behalf of one of the Cuban political prisoners, Christian Liberation Movement leader Eduardo Carded, who has been incarcerated since November 2016.

Neuer said Monday Carded “has been jailed illegally now by Cuba for over 680 days for the crime of speaking out against the regime.”

“We hope this timely and important event [in New York on Tuesday] will shine light on Cadet’s serious situation.”

The ECOSOC chamber and other U.N. premises, in New York and elsewhere, have for years been used for events that condemn another U.N. member-state, Israel. Cuba, one of the most activist member-states in the U.N. system, frequently takes a leading role in such events.

Next month the U.N. holds its annual “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” with multiple events – mostly anti-Israel in tone – planned in numerous venues.

Previous years’ events in the ECOSOC chamber have included meetings, debates, documentary screenings and concerts, many of them broadcast live on the U.N. Webcast system.

Last year’s solidarity day events included a “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” in the U.N. Trusteeship Chamber, a debate in the General Assembly, and a photo exhibit in the U.N. headquarters’ visitor’s lobby.

Events were also held at U.N. offices elsewhere, including Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, and the U.N. secretariat’s “Division for Palestinian Rights” published a special bulletin.

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