Like it has done in the past, Cuba’s communist Castro dictatorship will hide its human rights atrocities from the UN, and once again, the UN is fine with that. The upcoming periodic review of human rights in Cuba by the UN will be another perfunctory review, where Cuba will pretend it doesn’t systematically violate human rights and the UN pretends it doesn’t see anything serious.
What is the UN Universal Periodic Review and how will the Cuban regime fare?
The Review is a process that allows states to improve their human rights records, but the island’s regime is covering up Cuban realities and evading the review’s requirements.
The Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) aims to review the state of human rights in the countries that make up the United Nations (UN). The fourth cycle of the review began in November 2022 and, over a period of four and a half years, will assess each UN member state’s record in this area. The 44th meeting of the Council, which will be held from Monday, November 6 to 17, will evaluate 14 countries, including Canada, Colombia, Germany, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Cuba.
This is a process through which each of these countries could improve their human rights records. Some of them will make real efforts to do so. There will be governments that will undergo the review with few prospects for change; others, such as the Cuban regime, will try to portray themselves as defenders of human rights when the reality is that they systematically commit widespread violations of them.
The UPR is based on three documents: the national report on the State under review; the compilation of information by the UN, containing the reports of the treaties’ bodies, special procedures, as well as the written submissions of the UN entities’ national teams; and, finally, a summary of the written submissions of other stakeholders, containing information from national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, and regional human rights mechanisms.
In every case submissions are to contain credible and reliable information on the human rights situation in the state under review, highlighting key human rights concerns, best practices and recommendations in this regard, and covering the period since the last review; since 2018, in the case of Cuba.
The Cuban regime usually brings to the table endorsements by dozens of organizations that it controls and puts forth as part of civil society, but there are also independent groups in the UPR that expose the official propaganda’s lies.
In 2020, Havana underwent a UPR mid-term evaluation. At that time, it had not complied with at least seven of the commitments undertaken with the HRC in 2018, as pointed out at the time by the Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information and the Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH).
In a report sent to the representatives of states with delegations at the United Nations in Geneva, the groups indicated that the Cuban Government continues to violate the rights of access to information, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, among others.
In the UPR’s second cycle (2013) Havana received 292 recommendations and accepted 226 of them. In 2018 it was presented with 339 recommendations and also accepted 226. While the number of recommendations has been rising, the percentage of acceptance by the Cuban State has been dropping. From 79% acceptance of recommendations received in 2013, it dipped to 67% in 2018.
Havana comes to this new review with more deficiencies. There are many recommendations from the previous process that it has failed to comply with, or has directly evaded, several of which are central to human rights. Havana’s justification is that some are harmful to its sovereignty. It claims to be complying with others, but not strictly.
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