General Assembly renews call for end to US embargo against Cuba

The resolution was adopted today by a vote of 167 in favour to 3 against – Israel, the Marshall Islands and the United States – with Latvia, Micronesia, and Nicaragua abstaining on the ballot. It reiterated the Assembly’s call on all States to refrain from applying laws and measures, such as the Helms-Burton Act, which have extraterritorial effects affecting the sovereignty of other States, the legitimate interests of entities or persons under their jurisdiction, and the freedom of trade and navigation. States continuing to apply such laws and measures were once again urged to “repeal or invalidate” them as soon as possible.In addition, the resolution requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to prepare a report on the text’s implementation for the Assembly’s next session, which will also consider an item on the “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.”Introducing the text to the Assembly, Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Felipe Perez Roque, said that following Hurricane Michelle’s devastation in Cuba earlier this month, Washington had declared its willingness to assess the country’s need for assistance. Nothing like this had happened during more than 40 years of tense Cuba-US relations, he noted. But although Havana had requested that Washington – on this exceptional occasion – allow Cuban State-run companies to purchase food, medicines and raw material from the US, arrangements could not be made.The Foreign Minister said the illegal blockade against Cuba violated the UN Charter as well as the Geneva Conventions, while depriving the Cuban people of access to food and medicine – an action prohibited by international law even in times of war. In addition, he said, the blockade did not enjoy majority support in the United States and had been rejected by the international community. Speaking for the US, Ambassador James Cunningham said the country’s embargo against the Government of Cuba was a matter of bilateral trade policy, and not an issue the Assembly should consider. “The goal of our policy is to foster a transition to a democratic form of government, to protect human rights, to help develop a civil society and to provide for the economic prosperity that the Cuban government’s retrograde economic policies are denying the Cuban people.” read more

Urging end to delaying tactics UN rights experts call for fairness in

“The delaying strategies, abusive use of judicial recourses and alleged threats and pressure against judges and prosecutors working on the case that have characterized the genocide trial, reveal significant flaws in the administration of justice in Guatemala,” said a joint statement by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff.This statement is endorsed by the President of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary, Ariel Dulitzky, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Juan Méndez and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Mónica Pinto.Their appeal comes as a Guatemalan court decided to restart, in January 2016, the trial against former de facto Head of State, José Efraín Ríos Montt, and former chief of intelligence José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez.According to the statement, the two men are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for human rights violations committed against the Mayan Ixil population between 1982 and 1983. Reports estimate that 200,000 persons were killed or disappeared during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala (1960-1996).“Time is critical,” the experts said. “The decision to schedule the new hearing for January 2016, does not reflect the decisive prioritization that the case merits. The defendants, witnesses and victims are all getting older. Two witnesses have passed away. Victims only ask to see that justice is served before they die.”The human rights experts raised questions about the court’s decision, based on Mr. Ríos Montt’s mental health condition, to order the application of special procedures, which includes representation by a legal guardian and hearings held behind closed doors. They said it is unclear why these procedures will apply to both defendants, while only Mr. Ríos Montt was found unfit. “Denying victims and their families the right to justice by further delays and postponement of the trial will perpetuate feelings of frustration and discrimination,” the statement said. “Guatemala still needs to transform a culture of impunity into a culture in which the truth is told and individuals are held accountable, whoever they are. Impunity destroys the social fabric and perpetuates mistrust. A fragmented society is a society that cannot live in peace.” read more